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Who will be new chair of Labour in Parliament?

As Tony Lloyd has decided to stand to be Labour’s candidate for Manchester Police Commissioner, the position of chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will shortly be up for grabs. Tony Lloyd has said he’ll resign as PLP chair to campaign for the selection though he will also have to resign his seat once elected. So far, two candidates have emerged and another is suggested as a possible: John Cryer, MP forLeyton and Wanstead, and Dave Watts, MP for St Helens, have already written to MPs and Valerie Vaz, newly elected MP for Walsall South, is rumoured to be considering her position.

The position of Chair of the Parliamentary Party isn’t as important as it once was — from 1921 to 1970, they were was also the leader of the party as a whole. And for most of the New Labour years, the PLP Chair was, like almost everyone else at Westminster, entirely acquiescent to the Leadership. Tony Lloyd, however, was a welcome change.

After being dismissed from the front-bench in 1999, he rebelled on a number of key issues including the Iraq war, tuition fees, 90 days detention and the renewal of Trident. He succeeded in challenging Ann Clwyd for the Chair of the PLP in 2006 — a rare victory for the Left.

John Cryer, first elected in 1997, is known as a very good constituency MP and did well to hold Hornchurch for a second term, returning for his current seat five years later in 2010. He will get the backing of the Left but, like Tony Lloyd, is liked right across the party and has especially  strong support amongst MPs from a trade union background. He is also the only one of the three to have given his first Leadership preference to Ed Miliband. It will do him no harm that his parter is NEC member Ellie Reeves, sister of the Shadow Chief Secretary, Rachel Reeves.

Dave Watts was also first elected in 1997, and was firstly PPS to John Prescott and then a whip from 2005 to 2010. Unsurprisingly, he has always been a leadership loyalist. Nevertheless, his leadership preferences will not endear him to many on the Right since his initial support for Andy Burnham transferred to Ed Miliband rather than his brother who was, in fact, his 5th preference.

Valerie Vaz, if she stands,could well win more votes on the Right and some from amongst the 2010 intake, plus there will also be some support for a woman chair.

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