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Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith are going head-to-head in the Labour Party leadership contest. Here's a guide to the timetable and rules of the race, and what sparked it. Labour leadership election timetable 18 July: Registration to sign up as a registered supporter to vote in the election opened at 17:00 BST 19-20 July: The number of MP nominations for each candidate to be published 20 July: Deadline for people to sign up as a registered supporter closes at 17:00 BST 22 August: Ballot papers start to be sent out in the post (Labour Party members only) and by email 21 September: Deadline for ballot papers to be returned closes at midday 24 September: The result will be announced at a special conference in Liverpool
Jeremy Corbyn has always had relatively little support among the party's 232 MPs. In last year's leadership contest candidates had to be nominated by 35 Labour MPs to go through to the wider vote of party members. Mr Corbyn only managed to get the backing of that many after some Labour MPs - including London mayor Sadiq Khan - decided to nominate him to "widen the debate" by ensuring there was a left-wing Labour voice in the contest. Although he was seen as the outsider in the contest, when it moved to the wider vote of party members and the new "£3 supporters", he surprised commentators and the party's top brass as he surged through to be elected Labour leader, with 59.5% of the vote. That victory included overwhelming support from all the groups who voted in the contest - party members, affiliated supporters - including trade unionists - and registered supporters who rallied behind his anti-austerity message and promise of a new politics. Under Mr Corbyn, Labour has won the by-elections in seats it has defended. But it has also had what was judged to be a disappointing set of results in May's elections around the UK. The trigger for the move against him was the UK's vote to leave the EU. Labour rebels say they felt Mr Corbyn - the most Eurosceptic Labour leader for 30 years - had not shown enough enthusiasm and leadership during the campaign, despite arguing for a Remain vote. Dozens of his frontbench team have walked out since Hilary Benn was sacked on 26 June, saying Mr Corbyn cannot win a general election. The Labour leader has said he will carry on, replacing them with colleagues who are more sympathetic to his political views.
Watching Labour in opposition calls to mind the old joke about the drunken man on his hands and knees under a street lamp. A passing policeman asks what he is doing. “Looking for my keys,” comes the slurred reply. “Are you sure this is where you dropped them?” the copper asks. “No,” says the man. “I lost them in the park.” “So why are you crawling here?” asks the constable. The drunk says: “This is where the light is.” It is 11 years since Labour won a general election, and history has not waited. A generation of MPs has risen and fallen. Coalition government has been and gone. Nationalists have a near monopoly in Scotland. In the 10 months since Jeremy Corbyn was elected to lead his party David Cameron has resigned and Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Yet Labour crawls in the familiar sodium haze, debating who is to blame for dropping the keys to power, not where to search for them.