66 days of Labour: All these major historical events were quicker than Labour's leadership election?

Mark Sands
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"There! In the distance! It's the finishing line!" (Source: Getty)

Labour may have won a court battle to prevent 130,000 new members from voting in its leadership election, but the battle between Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn will still rage for a healthy 66 days.

Had the party lost in the court of appeal today, Smith would have pushed for an extension to the Labour contest, delaying a final verdict on his battle with Jeremy Corbyn to 80 days from the formal beginning of the contest.

In the grand scheme of Labour leadership contests, a 66 day leadership contest is comparatively brief – the 2015 and 2010 elections took 89 days and 108 days, respectively – but with the Tories selecting Theresa May in a brutal 11 days, what else is shorter than a Labour leadership contest?

The life of a country

A grand total of 53 sovereign states have flickered in and out of existence in less time than it has taken Labour to choose a leader.

That includes a handful of US states, which declared independence before joining the Confederacy in the American Civil War, but also the likes of the never internationally recognised Albona Republic, which lasted for just 37 days after being established within Italy by anti-fascist miners in the 1920s.

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Labour might feel like it's at war, but in reality, it's more of a tiff compared to the actual combat that troops have seen over similar timescales.

Entire nations have fought over much bigger issues in a much quicker time, and it's not just the obvious ones like the Six Day War.

In fact, the Falklands War was just 74 days long, making it slightly longer than Labour's 66 day election, while Honduras and El Salvador spent just 100 hours at war after rioting began during a play-off in the 1970 World Cup.

Disappointingly, it took William the Conquerer 88 days to be crowned after invading England, putting him just outside of even Owen Smith's extended 80-day timeframe. I bet he would feel ridiculous if he knew.

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Edward VIII spent about 10 months in charge before stepping down just before World War II, so he doesn't make the cut - but if you go back three Edwards, you'll find Edward V spent just 2 months and 16 days on the throne in 1483 until parliament declared his reign invalid, and Richard III took over. Heartbreakingly close, but still slower than Labour.

But Russia's Emperor Constantine spent 24 days in charge before abdicating and letting his younger brother Nicholas I take over, sparking revolt in 1825, and Napoleon II led France for just over two weeks before he was deposed in favour of Louis XVIII in 1815.

And it takes some going to beat Lady Jane Grey, who claimed the English throne for just nine days in 1553 before being removed and executed.

So what?

This might seem like a stroll through historical anecdote, but the point is that world-changing events happen inside these kinds of time-frames.

In 2015 and 2016, though, Labour will spend a grand total of 155 days selecting its leader.

That's just over five months. In 2015 and 2016, Her Majesty's Official Opposition will have spent more than one in five days - more than 20 per cent of its time - not on opposing, but choosing a leader.

And then, in all likelihood, choosing the same person again.

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