Jess Phillips Quits Race to Replace Corbyn as U.K. Labour Leader

Jessica Shankleman

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Jess Phillips quit the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the U.K. Labour Party, saying she was unable to unite the divided movement.

Phillips failed to win the necessary backing from trade unions and local parties to get on the final ballot. There are now four candidates left in the contest to succeed Corbyn, who last month led the party to its worst election defeat since the 1930s.

Life After Corbyn? The Politicians Vying to Become Labour Leader

“The Labour Party will need to select a candidate that can unite all parts of our movement -- the union movement, the members and elected representatives,” Phillips said in a video on YouTube Tuesday. “I have to be honest that at this time, that person isn’t me.”

The new leader will have the task of reviving the U.K.’s main opposition party. Under Corbyn, the party became bitterly divided over his socialist policies, accusations of antisemitism, and an ambiguous policy on Brexit.

Corbyn Critic

Phillips, 38, was a vocal critic of Corbyn, making her a divisive candidate unpopular with his supporters, who saw her as undermining his efforts. She didn’t say which of the four remaining candidates she would support.

The backbench member of Parliament had already said her campaign was not going well, and on Monday she failed to gain the support of retail trade union Usdaw, which instead backed front-runner Keir Starmer. As Labour’s fourth-largest affiliate, Usdaw would have helped get Phillips over the line, but instead assured Starmer of a place in the final ballot.

Under the complex rules of the contest, candidates need to secure the backing of either 33 constituency Labour parties, or three affiliates, two of which must be unions and make up at least 5% of affiliated membership.

Starmer’s main rival, Rebecca Long-Bailey, hopes to win the support of Unite or the Communication Workers Union. On Wednesday, the GMB union backed Lisa Nandy, calling her “a breath of fresh air in the debate over Labour’s future.”

Four Remain

The fourth candidate remaining is Emily Thornberry. Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman just scraped through the first phase of the contest, which required candidates to secure the backing of 22 MPs and Members of the European Parliament.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Phillips said her first hustings had been “awful” and it was highly unlikely anyone except Starmer or Long-Bailey would win the race.

“I was awful because I was trying to hit a million different lines and messages in 40 seconds,” she wrote. “Some were my lines, some were other people’s and it fell flat.”

--With assistance from Thomas Penny.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Alex Morales, Stuart Biggs

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