Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

‘The longest suicide vote in history’: the Labour Party leadership election of 2015

Dorey, Peter; Denham, Andrew

‘The longest suicide vote in history’: the Labour Party leadership election of 2015 Thumbnail


Peter Dorey


The Labour leadership contest of 2015 resulted in the election of the veteran Left-wing backbencher, Jeremy Corbyn, who clearly defeated the early favourite, Andy Burnham. Yet Corbyn enjoyed very little support among Labour MPs, and his victory plunged the PLP into turmoil, particularly as he was widely viewed as incapable of leading the Party to victory in the 2020 general election. Given that, much of the established academic literature on Party leadership contests emphasises the ability to foster unity, and thereby render a party electable, as two of the key criteria for electing a new leader, coupled with overall competence, important questions are raised about how and why the Labour Party chose someone to lead them who clearly does not meet these criteria. We will argue that whilst these are the natural priorities of MPs when electing a new leader, in Corbyn’s case, much of the extra-parliamentary Labour Party was more concerned about ideological conviction and purity of principles, regardless of how far these diverged from public opinion. This was especially true of those who signed-up to the Labour Party following the 2015 general election defeat. Indeed, many of these only did so after Corbyn had become a candidate. This clearly suggests a serious tension between maximising intra-party democracy and ensuring the electability of the parliamentary party itself.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 21, 2016
Online Publication Date Jun 30, 2016
Deposit Date Jul 7, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 7, 2016
Journal British Politics
Print ISSN 1746-918X
Electronic ISSN 1746-9198
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 3
Keywords Labour Party, Party leadership elections, Party members, Jeremy Corbyn, Electoral college, One member one vote, New Labour
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in British Politics. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Dorey, P. and Denham, A. (2016) 'The longest suicide vote in history' : the Labour Party leadership election of 2015. British Politics, Vol. 11, issue 3 pp. 259-282. doi:10.1057/s41293-016-0001-0 is available online at:


You might also like

Downloadable Citations