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Damian McBride: My 50/1 outside bet to be next Labour leader if Ed Miliband gets the bullet

The notorious former spin doctor and totally unbiased political insider runs the rule over the next potential Labour leader in the first of a series of columns for the Paddy Power Blog.

by Damian McBride | March 30, 2015

If Labour wins the election on 7 May, Britain will of course enjoy 20 years of unbridled happiness and prosperity that historians will come to call the Golden Age of Miliband.

In that event, you’re as well having your money on Ed Miliband’s (below) eldest son Daniel to succeed him as Labour leader. Or his younger brother Samuel, come to that. You know what that family’s like.


But if Labour loses, Miliband will be chucked out on his ear quicker than he can say ‘Hell, yes!’ and we can expect a fascinating race to succeed him this summer.

Here are the main contenders in my opinion with the latest Paddy Power odds attached…

5/2 – Andy Burnham: The long-term favourite, thanks to his popularity among every group within Labour’s Electoral College. The only nagging doubt is his failure on this stage in 2010, when he struggled to convince as a leader. He needs to show that, since then, he’s added some intellectual heft to his raw public appeal.

4/1 – Yvette Cooper: Will she or won’t she? The shadow home secretary ducked the 2010 contest, and never looks like she’s gearing up for a challenge, despite very strong prospects. My hunch says she may decide to stand this time, simply because she couldn’t imagine playing second fiddle to any of these opponents, even her friend Burnham.

6/1 – Dan Jarvis: The Barnsley MP has a ‘back story’ most politicians would kill for, coming into Parliament in 2011 after a 17-year army career, culminating in two tours of Afghanistan. He needs to show he can match his military feats with some political prowess, but plenty of people rate his chances, not least Jarvis himself.

7/1 – Chuka Umunna: Given Labour’s London-dominated membership, his natural charisma and his media darling status, Umunna is arguably the man to beat. But he suffers from the same arrogant streak that did for David Miliband, and his appeal has been dented by several underwhelming performances at Labour fundraising dinners.

12/1 – Liz Kendall: I like the shadow health minister because her favourite album is Dr Dre’s The Chronic. Then I remember that came out 23 years ago, and while she’s done enough since then to be tipped as Labour’s leader, I’m trying to remember whether it’s Chicken Club day at Wetherspoon’s. So vote for Liz: she’ll make you feel old and sad.

40/1 – Gloria De Piero: There is lots of smart money on the working class Bradford lass, but her greatest strength is also her biggest weakness: she cares passionately about the issues and policies that affect her constituents in Ashfield, but that’s about it. Can she show the same interest in foreign policy or constitutional reform?


16/1 – Tristram Hunt: Once hotly-tipped, the sneering shadow education secretary has spectacularly blown up his chances by alienating every teacher in the country during his short time in the job.

20/1 – Rachel Reeves: Despite being constantly linked with a run for the Labour leadership, Reeves is adamant that she doesn’t want the job any time soon, and seems to mean it. One to watch next time round.

33/1 – Michael Dugher: The shadow transport secretary, who gets under David Cameron’s skin as much as Ed Balls, looks the part, but – as a canny punter himself – he’ll see more value in backing Chuka Umunna.


25/1 – Lisa Nandy:  The Wigan MP – one of Labour’s most passionate campaigners – is definitely one to watch, but this contest may come at the wrong time, with her first baby due next month.

25/1 – Jonathan Ashworth: This race might come too soon for the young colt, but if he doesn’t run, every other candidate will want him running their campaign.


50/1 – Owen Smith (above): An accomplished media performer, he would flourish in hustings among the candidates. But, after Neil Kinnock, is Labour ready for another Welsh leader?

100/1 – Alison McGovern: The rising star from the Wirral has caught the eye with her Commons performances; a strong option if Labour wants an entirely fresh start.


If Labour loses in May, I believe the party will look to draw a definitive line under the Blair-Brown era, and pick an MP from its 2010 intake. It’s spoiled for choice with that group, and we could see six or seven candidates standing.

As favourites, Chuka Umunna and Dan Jarvis are there to be shot at, never a good idea in the case of the latter, and over the course of the lengthy hustings process, we could see a dark horse emerging. To that end, my value bet in this field is shadow Welsh secretary, Owen Smith.


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