British Parties Seek New Leaders After Vote to Leave EU

Read our live commentary on another busy in British politics as both parties seem headed for leadership contests.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech to supporters in London, England, June 29
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech to supporters in London, England, June 29 (Steve Eason)
  • The contest to replace David Cameron as Conservative Party leader and prime minister starts today. Candidates can put their name into contention from 6 PM local time tonight.
  • Stephen Crabb, the up-and-coming work and pensions secretary, has declared he will stand. So have John Baron and Liam Fox, both Euroskeptics.
  • Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, and Theresa May, the home secretary, are expected to enter the race later as frontrunners.
  • Labour will probably have to call a leadership election of its own after Jeremy Corbyn lost the support of 172 out of 229 lawmakers in a confidence vote.
  • Former leader Ed Miliband and former interim leader Harriet Harman both urged Corbyn to stand down for the sake of the party.
Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201610:24 AM

Nicholas Soames, a Conservative Party lawmaker who became something of a Twitter sensation during the referendum campaign with his witty takedowns of the arguments from the leave side, has thrown his support behind Boris Johnson, writing that he will be a great prime minister.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201611:06 AM

Britain’s decision to leave the EU has provoked a “revolt of the millennials,” argues Adam Lent. The choice before Britain now is whether it will be a nation shaped by “open minds, a spirit of solidarity and a love of diversity and free choice” or one shaped by “willful ignorance, division and narrowness.”

Is this the country of the sour bigot Katie Hopkins and that toy-town Trump, Nigel Farage, or a land fit for the big-hearted and generous-spirited?

Chris Revell June 29, 201611:14 AM

The Conservative Home website polled 1,315 party members to gather their thoughts on the leadership race.

Theresa May finished top with 29 percent against 28 percent for Boris Johnson. The impressive Andrea Leadsom was in joint third place with Liam Fox (both 13 percent). Steven Crabb got 9 percent support.

Interestingly, this is in contrast to the odds offered by bookmakers, where Johnson leads May with Crabb considered third favorite and Andrea Leadsom considered a more likely winner than Fox.

George Osborne, the chancellor and one-time favorite to succeed David Cameron, is favored by only 2 percent of Conservative members polled while he has fallen to eleventh in the betting odds.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201611:20 AM

European leaders are meeting for the first time without David Cameron in Brussels today to plot Britain’s exit from the EU.

The Financial Times reports that while there are divisions between the big member states over the future direction of the EU (Italy and Spain want “more Europe”, Germany and the Netherlands the opposite, France seems unsure), diplomats say there is more unity over how to deal with Cameron’s successor.

A joint statement is expected to make clear that there will be no negotiations with Britain until it formally notifies the EU that it intends to leave the bloc, triggering the so-called Article 50 procedure.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201611:22 AM

As for Scotland, the Financial Times notes that the line from European officials so far is that it would need to reapply for membership as an independent state.

While some lawyers have raised the idea of a “reverse takeover” — with Scotland inheriting the UK’s status — senior officials in Brussels are skeptical, with one pointing out that such a move would require “huge constitutional changes.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201611:30 AM

Open Europe’s Stephen Booth argues there are three views in Europe for how to handle Britain’s exit.

The EU institutions in Brussels and the southern member states, led by France, want Britain to make haste so Europe can get on with closer integration.

The Baltic and Central European member states are worried about losing the bloc’s most Atlanticist, most committed NATO state. They see no need to rush this at all and would rather find a way for the United Kingdom to somehow stay involved.

In the middle are Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavians. They share Britain’s liberal trading instincts and are wary of Brexit being used as a pretext for greater centralization. However, they are also keen to avoid it becoming an attractive precedent others might wish to follow.

Ireland is a special, writes Booth. “Its close economic and political links to the UK means it has the most to lose from a botched negotiation and it has urged calm on all sides.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201611:39 AM

Pat Glass is stepping down as Labour’s shadow education minister. She was only appointed to the post on Monday, after the resignation of Lucy Powell.

Emma Lewell-Buck writes on Twitter she is resigning her shadow cabinet position as well.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201611:53 AM
Harriet Harman attends a panel discussion in Manchester, England, September 20, 2014
Harriet Harman attends a panel discussion in Manchester, England, September 20, 2014 (Home Mcr/Chris Payne)

Harriet Harman, who served as interim leader in the months after Ed Miliband’s resignation, argues that Corbyn “has no right or mandate to stay in office” and “take the party down with him.”

Herman had so far stayed neutral. The fact that she’s weighing in is significant and suggests Corbyn’s days really are numbered.

The one big name who hasn’t come out against Corbyn yet is weaselly Andy Burnham. A spokesman told the BBC’s Arif Ansari he is not resigning from the shadow cabinet. I’m sure he’s waiting to see which side prevails and will then claim to have been with them from the start.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 201612:21 PM

Not much interesting coming out of Prime Minister’s Questions so far, except David Cameron has also advised Jeremy Corbyn to resign and says that if the Labour leader indeed “put his back” into the referendum campaign, “I’d hate to see him when he’s not trying.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20161:48 PM

Corbyn’s predecessor, Ed Miliband, has now also called on him to resign.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20162:07 PM

Julia Gray, Christian Jensen and Jonathan Slapin, three academics, argue in The Washington Post that the United Kingdom is unlikely to get a good deal from the rest of the EU. “Any organization seeking to promote deeper cooperation would be wise to make the high cost of leaving very clear to all members,” they write.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20162:53 PM

A delightful take on Britain’s divorce from the EU by Frank Bruni in The New York Times today.

“Britain on its own is unfathomable,” he writes.

Think of its relationship history: epic transatlantic romances, audacious transpacific affairs, flings in this jungle, hookups on that dune. It was usually dominant, occasionally submissive but always coupled — if not tripled, quadrupled or quintupled. It had a lust for entanglement if no talent for fidelity.

Bruni rules out a British reunion with the United States. “It simply lacks the requisite prevalence of gun ownership.”

But Canada is a different matter. It is saner, “except about ice hockey.”

It’s Britain’s obvious match: comparably affluent, sufficiently English-speaking. Together Britain and Canada can laugh at the crudeness of us Americans, a favorite shared pastime and an understandable one.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20163:12 PM

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, writes in the New Statesman that Corbyn, his ally, will not stand down.

There was an election held and a decision made and 172 people cannot outweigh a quarter of a million others.

Of course, those 172 represent millions of voters between them, but no matter.

According to McDonnell “our membership understands that we can’t keep going on doing the same thing electorally and getting the same results.”

Which is exactly why Corbyn needs to go.

McDonnell considers him a sort of “new politics,” but the reality is that many voters see Corbyn as a worse version of Ed Miliband, who was a worse version of Gordon Brown.

The only times Labour has won general elections in the last half century was when it positioned itself in the political center. The further it has drifted to the left, the more supporters it has lost.

Corbyn is a dead end. If the party is to learn anything, it must replace him with a leader voters can imagine becoming their next prime minister.

Chris Revell June 29, 20163:54 PM

Boris Johnson is currently leading the public nominations with the support of 33 lawmakers,

Shaun Riordan Shaun Riordan June 29, 20164:26 PM

The general assumption among commentators was that if “leave” prevailed, Cameron would have to resign and Boris Johnson would become prime minister. Indeed, that is why Johnson joined the leave campaign (in which he seems not really to have believed).

Cameron’s decision to “pre-announce” his resignation, with a two-month period to find a successor, seems designed to thwart Johnson. It may be that he is determined none of his rivals in the Brexit campaign shall benefit from his political immolation.

The main beneficiary of Cameron’s tactics is — and was probably intended to be — Theresa May. She backed the remain campaign but kept a low profile and avoided spats with the Brexiteers. She enjoys broad support in the parliamentary party, where Johnson has few loyalists and is widely regarded as a buffoon.

Johnson’s best hope is to place in the top two and then get support from the party rank and file. But even there he may find that his popularity as a “performer” does not translate into votes for party leader, especially at this uncertain time in British history.

Shaun Riordan Shaun Riordan June 29, 20164:30 PM

Like Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn must rely on ordinary party members to make up for his lack of support from lawmakers. And he too may be disappointed.

While Corbyn has his diehard fans, even many who voted for him last year are unhappy with his performance. They will be looking for a more convincing and heavyweight leader, especially with the possibility of a “Brexit election” in the autumn.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20164:55 PM
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy meets with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, June 28
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy meets with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, June 28 (EPP)

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has poured cold water on hopes Scotland may have of staying in the EU without leaving the United Kingdom.

“The United Kingdom leaves and with it all those who make up the United Kingdom,” he maintained. “I want to be very clear — Scotland does not have the competence to negotiate with the European Union.”

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20166:10 PM

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, agrees Corbyn can’t lead the party like this and expects there will be a leadership election soon.

Watson, however, told the BBC he will not challenge Corbyn himself.

For what it’s worth, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras still supports Corbyn. Which only lends credence to the impression that he’s an out-of-touch neo-Marxist who, if elected, would push Britain over the brink of financial catastrophe.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20166:14 PM
British Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron
British Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron (Shutterstock/Finbarr Webster)

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron looks to take advantage of the Labour split, saying, “There needs to be a realignment, otherwise we will be left with a Tory government forever.”

As David reported a few days ago, there are rumors that the center of the Labour Party might split off and join with the Liberal Democrats to create a party for the 48 percent of Britons who voted to remain in the European Union last week.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20168:02 PM

The BBC has been told that Angela Eagle will challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party tomorrow.

I argued yesterday that Eagle, who is from the soft left of the party, could be a unifying figure. But if Labour is to repudiate the Corbyn experiment and make itself electable again, it would be better off with someone like Yvette Cooper or Dan Jarvis as leader.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20168:25 PM

The New Statesman reports that Labour’s members of the European Parliament are also calling on Corbyn to step down.

“It is with a heavy heart that we urge you, for the sake of the Labour Party and for the people in our country who need a Labour government, to reconsider your position as Labour leader,” they write.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20168:29 PM

Jeremy Corbyn is not backing down.

In remarks to supporters in London, he talked about the 1970s, Reaganomics, Margaret Thatcher. As I wrote earlier, this is a man living in the past. His mission is to overturn the market consensus and that comes before everything else, including — evidently — the unity and the survival of the Labour Party.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20169:41 PM

JPMorgan predicts Scotland will break away from the United Kingdom in 2019.

“Our base case is that Scotland will vote for independence and institute a new currency at that point,” a memo from the investment bank’s European analysts reads.

The bank isn’t optimistic that Britain will retain its single-market access without accepting the free movement of people. “We doubt this will be successful,” the memo says.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 29, 20169:51 PM
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany observe an honor guard in Berlin, February 18
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany observe an honor guard in Berlin, February 18 (Bundesregierung)

Poland mourns the British decision to leave the EU, Politico reports. The nation that most shares Warsaw’s pro-American and market-oriented vision for the bloc is now on its way out.

As a result, the balance in Europe could shift in favor of the eurozone core, where some countries believe the answer must be deeper integration.

“This is not the appropriate solution,” argues Konrad Szymański, Poland’s Europe minister. “Such scenarios only bring closer the further disintegration of the EU.”

He’s right. But Poland isn’t in a strong position to block such centralization proposals today because his conservative Law and Justice party has burned the bridges its liberal, Civic Platform predecessor built with Berlin.

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