Sunderland City Council leader says Labour Party may consider all-women list for leadership race

An all-woman shortlist could determine the next Labour leader, a senior leader in the party in Sunderland has suggested.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 1:02 pm
The General Election count in Sunderland.

As the dust began to settle on what turned out to be a disastrous election night for most of those in red rosettes, thoughts were already turning to how to avoid a fifth successive term in opposition.

But for Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council, hard choices need to be made over who is selected to take charge as well as key questions over policy, especially Brexit.

“The new leader will come down to the party determining whether it wants to have a woman leader of the party, since we’ve never had one,” he said.

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Coun Graeme Miller.

“That may preclude candidates like [shadow Brexit Secretary] Keir Starmer and others who might, in an open selection process, have a chance.

“I’m not strongly minded on anyone to be honest, it’s far too early to think about it and we need to see what the outcome is and then the party needs to determine if there is to be a new leader how we go about getting it.

“But if we do that, we need to do it quickly.”

Coun Miller was speaking after voting had confirmed Labour would keep all three of its Wearside MPs, but each saw their majorities cut.

Gains were made by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Sunderland’s constituencies, with votes also drawn to the Brexit Party.

Houghton and Sunderland South’s Bridget Phillipson said it was ‘hard to believe’ Jeremy Corbyn would be able to continue following the result.

Corby himself later confirmed he would be stepping down as party leader.

But Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, went a step further, declaring ‘the entire [Labour Party] leadership team needs to resign’ as she left the Silksworth Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre where ballots had been counted.

“Politics requires success,” Coun Miller said, “and if we’ve lost tonight and lost big, which is what the polls suggest, I think [Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as party leader] will have to be an accepted consequence.”

He added: “We’ve never had a woman leader of the party, the press and the media and the opposition give us a hard time about the fact that the Conservatives have had two female leaders of the party, both Prime Ministers, and the Liberal Democrats’ current leader is Jo Swinson.

“We may have to consider whether [an all-woman shortlist] is something that it meritable.

“My view has always been that the best candidate should be the leader, but I’m only one member of a party with half a million members and it will come down to what the party wants.”