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Think twice before backing Hilary Benn for next Labour leader

| 06.12.2015

Having been a 25/1 no-hoper for next Labour leader just over a fortnight ago, Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn is now 5/2 favourite to follow Jeremy Corbyn after a barnstorming summing-up speech for the Opposition front bench in the House of Commons vote on Syria.

Bettors should take caution, however, before diving into Benn at that price, as the very particular nature of the current Labour party suggests the odds on his success are slim.

Remember, ultra-left-wing Corbyn was elected with a massive majority just three months ago, and Labour’s voting make-up is unlikely to change before an attempt to succeed the 66-year-old is launched.

There has been talk of a coup attempt at the next Labour Party Conference, with the leadership rules stating a challenge will be allowed in September, though they say little about whether the current incumbent would make the ballot.

Amid such ambiguity, there’s little chance of the Parliamentary usurpers forcing a contest without Corbyn, as the rank-and-file party members, who number at least 250,000, are extremely unlikely to stand for such a race.

If Corbyn does get on the ballot he’ll surely win again, and Benn is hardly the impossibly-unifying figure the party needs to heal 35 years (at least) of old wounds.

The Leeds West MP not only voted against his leader on Syria, he also voted for Iraq and Afghanistan in the early noughties under the Labour leadership of Tony Blair – a man many on the Corbyn wing of the party see as a crazed, right-wing, war-mongering incubus.

Labour’s decisive victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election (paradoxically thanks to a centrist candidate) will keep the wolves from the accidental leader’s door for some time yet, and Ladbrokes still see Corbyn lasting until 2020 as the 6/4 co-favourite in their ‘when will he go?’ market.

Next year is also 6/4, having been 5/2 until recently, which indicates the pressure he’ll never stop facing in this job, but Corbyn’s replacement looks much more likely to come from the left of the party, or a relative unknown without the kind of voting record tainting Benn.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, fits both those bills and is a worthy fourth-favourite at 8/1.

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Iain Houten

Iain has been contributing pieces to various websites on an array of subjects, including sports, politics and art, for over four years. Despite blue being his favourite colour, the teams he supports all wear red.