Labour’s new elections coordinator, Ian Lavery, has said the party has plenty of leadership candidates to choose from if Jeremy Corbyn steps down before the next general election.
Lavery, who was appointed to the new role on Friday, jointly with another Labour MP, Andrew Gwynne, was asked on Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live about leaked polling that showed the party testing the appeal of leftwing members of the shadow cabinet.
Labour sources have denied that the focus groups, in which voters were shown clips of the rising stars Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner, had anything to do with “succession planning”.
Lavery said: “I think they are fantastic candidates. I think we have got lots of quality in the Labour party and it’s not just the two that’s been mentioned.” Asked if that meant there were plenty of potential leaders to choose from, he said: “There’s plenty of leaders to pick from if and when Jeremy decides, of his own volition, that it’s not for him at the election. That isn’t the case at this point in time.”
His wording appeared to hold out the possibility that Corbyn could yet decide to step down before 2020, which Labour has previously denied.
Lavery also talked about two forthcoming byelections, in Stoke-on-Trent and Copeland, Cumbria, both taking place next week, and appeared to play down the significance of Labour losing either.
“We obviously want to win, that goes without saying; but if there’s any hiccups in the next…