Starmer praises ‘unity’ in Labour leadership race as voting closes
Sir Keir is up against Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy to replace Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader.
Front-runner in the Labour leadership contest Sir Keir Starmer has thanked his rivals for showing “positivity and unity” as voting closed in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn.
Those eligible to vote had until midday on Thursday to make their choice before the new leader is revealed on Saturday.
Mr Corbyn announced he was quitting after leading the party to its worst election showing since the 1930s in the December snap general election.
Shadow cabinet member Sir Keir has held a steady lead over rival candidates Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy in polls during the contest.
Sir Keir said: “I just want to say a massive thank you to each and every one of our supporters who have been with us in this leadership campaign.
“It’s been a long campaign and it’s ending in circumstances that none of us could have predicted.
“But we have kept it positive. We have demonstrated unity, and people have gone over and beyond, and I am genuinely so thankful for everything you have put in.
“With the campaigns that Rebecca and Lisa have run, and we have run, I think we have demonstrated to our party, to our movement, and, hopefully, to the country, that real good can come out of this election.”
The latter stage of the leadership race was overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The campaign saw shadow business secretary Ms Long-Bailey dubbed the “continuity Corbyn” candidate, while Sir Keir struck a more centrist approach, but also tried to appeal to the left of the party.
The winner of the contest to become Labour’s deputy leader will also be unveiled on Saturday.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has been seen as the favourite to take the post of deputy leader.
Ms Rayner is in a race against Dawn Butler, Ian Murray, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and Richard Burgon.
On February 21 the ballot opened, with voting papers sent out to party members, members of affiliated trade unions and groups and 14,700 “registered supporters” who paid £25 to take part on a one-off basis.
Because of the coronavirus emergency the winners of the two contests will no longer be unveiled at a “special conference” as originally planned.
Instead, the winners will be announced at a scaled-back event with candidates having pre-recorded victory speeches.
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