Long-Bailey Makes Socialist Pitch to Lead U.K. Labour Party

Robert Hutton and Thomas Penny
Long-Bailey Makes Socialist Pitch to Lead U.K. Labour Party

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Rebecca Long-Bailey pledged to “fight the establishment” and declared her unswerving commitment to socialism as she announced she’ll run to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party.

The party’s National Executive Committee said Monday there will be a three-month contest with the result to be announced April 4. Nominations will open Tuesday, and stay open until 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 13.

On Monday evening Long-Bailey, the party’s business spokeswoman and Corbyn’s favored successor, added her name to the list of five other MPs who’ve said they want to run: Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Clive Lewis.

“We need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda. A leader who is totally committed to the policies and has the political backbone to defend them,” Long-Bailey wrote in an article for Tribune magazine. “I’m a lifelong socialist, dedicated to our movement and determined to do my bit. You’re as likely to see me on a picket line as you are at the dispatch box, and you can trust me to fight the establishment tooth and nail.”

The threshold for nominations has been lowered, so that to get on the ballot paper, a candidate needs to be nominated of 10% of members of Parliament and members of the European Parliament -- 22 people. But a new hurdle requires a candidate to get the support of 5% of local party groups, or some Labour-supporting trade unions, by Feb. 14. Voting will run from Feb. 21 to April 2.

Whether that second hurdle is too high for some of the candidates remains to be seen. One of the unknowns in the contest is how the party membership, which has been supportive of Corbyn until now, responds to December’s election defeat. Corbyn has tried to push Long-Bailey to the fore in recent months, but the value of that endorsement is unclear.

The current favorite is Starmer, whose role as Brexit spokesman and long-standing opposition to leaving the European Union at times put him at odds with Corbyn. A YouGov poll of Labour members published Jan. 2 had the 57-year-old lawyer on 36%, comfortably ahead of Long-Bailey on 23%.

Still, Starmer has warned the party not to “oversteer” after the election defeat, arguing Labour should “build on” Corbyn’s anti-austerity message and radical agenda.

Nandy, who resigned as Labour’s energy spokeswoman in 2016 to lead an attempt to overthrow Corbyn, described YouGov’s as a “name recognition poll,” and the campaign could see another candidate break clear of the pack -- just as Corbyn did last time.

In an interview with Sky News, Nandy -- member of Parliament for the northwest town of Wigan since 2010 -- said “there is definitely a disconnect between the hierarchy of the Labour Party and the people of the country and towns like mine.”

Meanwhile, Phillips’s campaign is pitching the MP for Birmingham Yardley as the “Heineken candidate,” referring to a long-running ad campaign claiming the beer “refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach.” That used to be how Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s supporters described him to Conservatives.

Known for her blunt and witty speeches, Phillips told the BBC on Sunday the contest now “has got to be about whether the Labour party can speak and connect and be trusted by the public.”

Long-Bailey, who used her article to highlight her credentials as an environmentalist and her part in drawing up Labour’s Green New Deal, also took a swipe at her opponents, suggesting they had been jockeying for the leadership rather than concentrating on last month’s election campaign.

“I didn’t emerge from the election with a ready-made leadership campaign because my every effort during the election went into campaigning for a Labour victory,” she wrote. “I’m not driven by personal ambition, but by my principles and an unwavering desire to change our country and our world for the better.”

Ian Lavery, the party chairman, and Yvette Cooper, it’s former home affairs spokeswoman, said late Monday they won’t be putting their names forward.

(Updates with Cooper and Lavery in final paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

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

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