When Jeremy Corbyn announced his Labour leadership candidacy in 2015, many believed he would fail to get the support of 35 MPs needed to stand for leader.

Currently, a significant portion of the Parliamentary Labour Party are trying to force Corbyn to step down. Supporters point out he still has popular support among party members, and would easily win another leadership election.

Clearly, there is a wide discrepancy in the preferences of the Labour party base, and the preferences of its MPs. Would Corbyn as the incumbent need the support of 35 MPs, if he were to run again for leader, should there be a new election?


2 Answers 2


Under the current rules a new candidate for the Labour leadership requires the support of 20% of Labour MPs and MEPs (members of the European parliament). This would equate to 50 signatures from 230 MPs and 20 MEPs. There appears to be some uncertainty as to whether this is also true for an incumbent. The difficulty apparently comes down to rule Rule 4.2.ii of the Labour party rule book which states that when a party leader faces a challenge “any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void” but doesn't make clear whether this applies only to the challenger(s) or not.


As origimbo noted in their answer, in the 2016 leadership challenge there was uncertainty as to whether Jeremy Corbyn would be required to obtain the requisite nominations, or whether he would be entitled to a place on the ballot due to his position as the incumbent.

The Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved this issue in their meeting on July 12th, 2016, and allowed Corbyn access to the ballot. A description of the meeting was posted by NEC member Ann Black OBE on her website; the relevant section is below:

After three hours we moved onto the agenda, with the first decision as to whether Jeremy Corbyn as the incumbent would automatically be on the ballot. We heard from James Goudie QC who said he would need to be nominated by 20% of MPs and MEPs, the same as challengers, and had copies of conflicting legal advice which said he wouldn’t. The rulebook is frankly a mess. There are anomalies: because candidates only need nominations from 15% of MPs / MEPs where there is a vacancy, Jeremy Corbyn would face a lower threshold if he resigned and stood again than if he stayed put, which seemed silly. Others said the rulebook never envisaged a situation where a leader did not have the confidence of 20% of his colleagues. My feedback seemed typical in splitting 50 / 50, with some members saying that regardless of their personal preference the winner would not be seen as legitimate if Jeremy Corbyn was excluded.

The discussion was lengthy and wide-ranging. There were calls for Michael Mansfield to address the NEC, but a vote to hear from more lawyers was lost 13 – 19. I voted against, as I doubted whether any minds would be changed by further representations. Some NEC members then proposed letting Jeremy Corbyn back in for the vote. This was carried 16-15. I voted against, because of precedent and because of concerns about legitimacy if he only got on the ballot through his own vote. This was in fact not necessary as the meeting voted 18-14 that he should automatically be on the ballot. I voted with the majority, as promised: doing otherwise would be seen, rightly, as a stitch-up, and he could probably have gained the 51 nominations anyway. And this decision now frees MPs to nominate according to conscience.

The Labour Party rules have now been amended to clearly state that in the event of a leadership challenge, the incumbent Leader/Deputy Leader are not required to satisfy the nomination requirement:

Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of Party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void. The sitting Leader or Deputy Leader shall not be required to seek nominations in the event of a challenge under this rule.

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