Despite her early entry, Liz Kendall’s leadership campaign is failing to keep up with rivals when it comes to noise and backers. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham have emerged as the early favourites, while some are wondering if Kendall can persuade the necessary 35 MPs to back her — particularly if Tristram Hunt runs and splits the moderate vote. But I understand her campaign remains confident they will make the cut.
‘The current direction of travel is that the final ballot will be Burnham, Kendall and Cooper,’ says a Labour source. ‘But, in the PLP nothing is set in stone — not even Ed stone’. The official nominating process does not begin until June 9, so there is plenty of time for people to change their minds.
While Andy Burnham has been buoyed by the endorsement of Dan Jarvis, Kendall has received a new campaign aide in the form of Mark Ferguson, who was until yesterday the editor of the LabourList blog. A well-known face in Westminster circles with connections across the party, Ferguson says Kendall won't be shying away from the challenges Labour face:
‘I believe Liz Kendall can not only be the person to take the Labour Party back in the direction of the British people who had fallen out of love with us ... this is no time for half measures, and in the weeks and months ahead you’re going to see Liz making some big arguments about the future of our country. I hope you’ll do what I did, and listen to what she has to say.’
Ferguson has a point about the need for a proper, thoughtful contest. The race is looking alarmingly like a done deal, with already familiar names dominating the discussion of who is going to win. Kendall could still become the surprise victor — if she makes the final cut. September 12 is a long time away and there is a whole summer of discussion and debate to come.