Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 14:12 UK

New Labour leader to be elected at September conference

Labour leader to be elected in September

The result of Labour's leadership election will be announced at its annual conference on 25 September, party officials have said.

The ruling National Executive Committee decided on the timetable on Tuesday.

Some party figures were thought to want an early decision but most decided that a longer period for debate was needed after Labour's election defeat.

David and Ed Miliband are the only candidates to declare so far but others are considering their options.

Former cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Andy Burnham and backbench MP John McDonnell are thought to be weighing up their options amid calls for the contest to be as competitive as possible.

This follows Mr Brown's victory in 2007, in which not enough MPs nominated Mr McDonnell, the only would-be challenger, to trigger a vote by the wider membership.

'Dynamic'

A host of senior Labour figures have ruled themselves out of this year's contest, including acting leader Harriet Harman, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson and prominent backbencher Jon Cruddas.

Speaking after Tuesday's meeting, acting leader Ms Harman said she hoped the contest would be a "dynamic" one.

Asked why she was not standing - amid some concerns at the lack of women candidates - she told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "I think that the leadership election is of great importance for the future of the party as well as the country.

This is a very important opportunity to reflect on the result of the general election, to renew the Labour Party and to re-engage with the British people
Acting leader Harriet Harman on the contest

"And therefore to have an experienced person such as myself as acting leader whilst this leadership election goes on I think that's the best way I can help the party."

She said a woman might yet "throw her hat into the ring" and as she would go back to being deputy leader once a new leader was chosen, "there will still be a woman in Labour's top leadership team".

Nominations for the contest will open on 24 May and close three days later. Candidates have to get 33 MPs to back them to be able to stand.

The ballot will take between 16 August and 22 September, with the result being announced on the first day of the party's conference in Manchester.

Hustings will take place in June and July with some backbench MPs pressing for the candidates to square up in a TV debate.

The BBC's Deputy Political Editor James Landale said the NEC - responsible for drawing up the rules and timetable for the contest - decided on the schedule without a vote because most of its members supported the idea of a long contest.

Long contest

The new leader will be elected by a ballot of Labour MPs, MEPs, party members and members of affiliated organisations such as trade unions and socialist societies.

STATE OF LABOUR RACE
Declared: David Miliband, Ed Miliband
Undecided: Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, John McDonnell
Ruled out: Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper, Alistair Darling, Jon Cruddas

After Mr Brown resigned, party sources suggested his successor could be in place by the end of July at the earliest but this would have required a costly special conference of the party to be convened.

Former Europe minister Chris Bryant said he was one of those who favoured an early election, telling Daily Politics it would be "better" to have a new leadership team in place by the end of the summer.

And Alan Johnson told the BBC: "We have a coalition government dealing with a very difficult global financial situation and I don't think we should be spending months and months examining our navels."

But most Labour figures argued they should not be "bounced" into a decision as the prospect of a second election this year - thought likely if a minority government had been formed - has receded and makes a quick result less urgent.

Labour MP Ian Davidson said: "If it's a short campaign there will be an impression given that perhaps some people have been bounced into something, that those plotting the leadership campaign before the election got a jump on everybody else and that they got it unfairly."

Both David and Ed Miliband have said Labour needs to learn the lessons of its election defeat, re-think key policies and re-organise the party at grass-roots level.



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