Labour leadership contest: profiles of the candidates

Possible leadership contenders

Possible Labour leadership contenders Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt, Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna. Image: YouTube/ smtm: Entertainment/ BBC Newsnight

These are the Labour MPs who have officially launched their party leadership bids so far.

Chuka Umunna 

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[Update 15/05/15: Chuka Umunna has now withdrawn from the leadership contest]


Chuka was born in London to a Nigerian father and an English-Irish mother. He went to school in south London, first attending state school and then moving to the independent St Dunstan’s College.

Chuka did a Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Manchester, and later completed a postgraduate degree at Nottingham Law School.

He then trained as a solicitor at a London law firm and later specialised in employment law. He’s 36 years old.

MP Overview:

Chuka was elected as MP for Streatham in the 2010 general election. He received over 20,000 votes.

In June of that year he was chosen to serve on the Treasury Select Committee, and in October became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ed Miliband.

In 2011 Chuka was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet to act as the Shadow Business Secretary.

He stood again as the Labour candidate for Streatham in the 2015 general election and increased his vote share: he received over 26,000 votes, which was more than double the number of his Conservative rival.


The former Shadow Business Secretary said after Labour’s election defeat that the party needs to focus more on ‘aspirational, middle-class’ voters.

This is not dissimilar to what Tony Blair said recently about Labour needing to be the party of ‘ambition and aspiration.’

He’s also talked about the importance of focusing on the ‘wealth-creators’, suggesting that he felt the Labour party were perceived as too anti-business.

According to website ‘TheyWorkForYou‘ which lists how MPs have voted in parliament, Chuka has voted very strongly for equal gay rights and gay marriage.

He’s voted very strongly for replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system, and moderately against an EU membership referendum.


Chuka is widely considered to be one of the frontrunners. At the time of writing, bookmaker Paddy Power is offering odds of 5/4 that he’ll become the new Labour leader.

Liz Kendall

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Liz grew up in a Hertfordshire village and went to Watford Grammar School for Girls. She studied history at the University of Cambridge, graduating with a first class degree.

She’s worked as director of the Ambulance Services Network and as director for a charity that promotes parental rights.

Her work history also includes two think-tanks: a stint at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and at the King’s Fund.

Liz is 43 years old, and her partner is the comedian and actor Greg Davies, most famous for playing the headmaster in TV show The Inbetweeners.

MP Overview:

In the 2010 general election Liz was elected as the MP for Leicester West. She received 38.4% of the vote.

In the same year she was appointed as Shadow Health Minister.

She’s been re-elected for Leicester West in this year’s elections with an increased number of votes: over 16,000, compared to the Conservative candidate who received less than 9,000.


Liz has also spoken of ‘aspiration and ambition’ in reference to what Labour needs to do to appeal to the electorate after their defeat.

On her website, Liz says that for her ‘politics has always been about helping make life easier and fairer for ordinary people.’

Website TheyWorkForYou says that Liz voted strongly against ‘the bedroom tax’ and the rise in university tuition fees.

She voted moderately against an EU referendum and strongly in favour of a ‘mansion tax.’


At the time of writing, bookmaker Paddy Power is offering odds of 6/1 that Liz’s leadership bid will succeed.

You can hear Liz Kendall on Woman’s Hour here.

Andy Burnham 

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Andy was born in Liverpool and went to school locally. He studied English at the University of Cambridge.

He’s been a member of the Labour Party since the age of 14.

In the nineties he worked as a researcher for Labour politician Tessa Jowell, and in 1998 he became special adviser to Culture Secretary Chris Smith. 

He’s married to marketing professional Marie France van-Heel, and they have three children.

MP Overview:  

Andy first stood as the Labour candidate for Leigh, a constituency in Greater Manchester, in the 2001 general election.

This is a traditionally Labour-held seat and he won with over 64% of the vote. 

In May 2006 he was promoted to Minister of State at the Department of Health. 

Under Gordon Brown he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Culture Secretary, and then Secretary of State for Health. 

In opposition, he’s been Shadow Health Secretary and Shadow Education Secretary.  

He entered the Labour leadership contest in 2010 after Gordon Brown resigned. He finished fourth. 

In the 2015 election he won the Leigh seat for the fourth time, with over 24,000 votes. 


Making his leadership declaration, Andy says that Labour must appeal to ‘the aspirations of everyone’, which means ‘giving every single person the dream of a better life’.

He says that the party must speak to the public like they did in 1997, when Tony Blair won the election with a landslide victory. 

He also emphasises the importance of appealing to all parts of the United Kingdom, saying that the party needs a leader with a voice that can carry ‘into all the nations and regions of the UK’.  

Andy has previously been critical of the coalition government’s spending cuts and NHS reforms. 

According to TheyWorkForYou, he’s voted strongly against ‘the bedroom tax’ and against reductions in benefits. 


At the time of writing, Paddy Power has odds of 9/4 on Andy becoming the next Labour leader. 

Yvette Cooper

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Yvette was born in Inverness in Scotland. 

As an undergraduate she studied Politics Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford, graduating with a first class degree. She also studied as a postgraduate at Harvard and the London School of Economics (LSE).

Early in her career she was an economic policy researcher for Labour politician John Smith, and also spent a short period working for Bill Clinton in the US.

In 1992 she became a policy adviser to Harriet Harman, and then a research associate at the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP).

She moved into journalism in the mid-nineties, becoming The Independent’s chief economics correspondent.

Yvette is married to fellow Labour figure Ed Balls, who was Shadow Chancellor until his recent election defeat. The couple have three children.

MP Overview: 

Yvette was first elected as MP for the Yorkshire seat of Pontefract and Castleford in 1997, with over 75% of the vote. 

She was reelected in 2001 and 2005, and became a Minister of State after the 2005 election.

Under Gordon Brown, Yvette became Minister for Housing in 2007, and attended cabinet meetings.

In 2008 she became Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then she was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions the following year.

In 2010 Yvette was elected MP for the newly-created constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford.

She became Shadow Foreign Secretary and then Shadow Home Secretary under Ed Miliband.

In the 2015 election she won her seat again with almost 55% of the vote. The UKIP candidate came second in the constituency, pushing the Conservative candidate into third place.


Unlike some of the other candidates, Yvette has explicitly said that she doesn’t want to return to the ‘remedies of the past’.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, she said:

Labour needs to be bigger in our appeal, bolder in our ambitions and brighter about the future.

Going back to the remedies of the past, of Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, won’t keep up with the way the world has changed.

In her constituency she’s campaigned against healthcare cuts and the ‘bedroom tax’. According to TheyWorkForYou she’s voted strongly in favour of a stricter asylum system, and moderately against an EU membership referendum. 


At the time of writing, Paddy Power has odds of 7/2 on Yvette becoming the next Labour leader. 

Mary Creagh

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Mary was born in Coventry to Irish parents. She went to a local comprehensive school and then went on to the University of Oxford to study modern languages.

Early in her career, she worked in Brussels for the European Parliament and the European Youth Forum. 

After studying as a postgraduate at LSE she taught entrepreneurship at Cranfield for seven years.

She is 47 and has two children. Her son Clement is named after Labour prime minister Clement Attlee.   

MP Overview: 

Mary was first elected to the West Yorkshire seat of Wakefield seat in 2005 with a majority of just over 5,000 votes. 

As an MP she was a member of the Human Rights Select Committee and became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham in 2006.

In 2007 she became Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe. 

In 2010 she won the Wakefield seat again with a slender majority of 1,613 votes. She was appointed Shadow Environment Secretary.

Mary then became Shadow Transport Secretary, until being made Shadow International Development Secretary last year. 

In this year’s general election she was returned to the Wakefield seat with a slightly increased majority of over 2,600 votes.


Announcing her leadership bid, Mary said that Labour had forgotten that ‘to win elections a party needs to offer hope’.

Like most of the other leadership candidates, she’s emphasised the importance of being the party of ambition and aspiration: 

Labour lost the General Election because people did not trust us with the economy. Our campaign message focused almost exclusively on the NHS, an emotive issue for many of us, but in the end, not people’s main motivation for voting.

People felt that Labour didn’t understand their aspiration to earn money and provide a better life for their family.

She’s spoken about the need to win back the support of middle England and the ‘industrial heartlands’, and to gain the trust of businesses. 

As an MP she’s campaigned on issues including healthy school food and domestic scalding accidents.

She’s also campaigned against train fare rises and called for the banning of wild animals in circuses. 


Mary’s seen as an unlikely winner. Paddy Power is currently offering odds of 20/1 that she’ll win the leadership contest. 

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