Labour leadership: Rebecca Long-Bailey enters race

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Media captionRebecca Long-Bailey joins Labour leadership contest

Rebecca Long-Bailey has become the sixth candidate to join the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

In an article for the Tribune magazine, she said Labour needs a “socialist leader who can work with our movement, rebuild our communities and fight for the policies we believe in”.

She joins Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips in the contest.

The result of the contest will be announced on 4 April.

Meanwhile, party chairman Ian Lavery has said he will not be standing, but will throw his full support behind Ms Long-Bailey – “who has the intellect, drive and determination to take forward and develop the popular, common sense socialist policies that Jeremy Corbyn has championed”.

Elsewhere, Ian Murray, Scotland’s only remaining Labour MP, and Labour MP for Tooting Rosena Allin-Khan have become the latest candidates to announce they are running for deputy leader.

The three-month contest will officially get under way on Tuesday when nominations open and candidates face questions from MPs at the first hustings in Parliament.

Ms Long-Bailey, who has been shadow business secretary since 2016, is also believed to have the support of key figures within Mr Corbyn’s inner circle, including shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

She also has the backing of shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who is standing for the deputy leadership.

Confirming her candidacy, the MP for Salford and Eccles said Labour had a “mountain to climb” to get back to power but there was a “path to victory” if the party stayed true to its socialist values.

Rebecca Long-Bailey is pitching herself as the “carry on Corbyn” candidate.

It’s no big surprise – she has long been a stalwart of camp Corbyn. She’s been ultra loyal to Jeremy Corbyn in the shadow cabinet and in the NEC (the party’s ruling body).

In her launch article in the Tribune newspaper she makes absolutely clear that she stands by the Corbyn policies that the party put before the electorate.

She says not only does she truly believe in them, she helped to write many of them.

Interestingly, though, in a subsequent interview with the BBC, she adopts a slightly more nuanced approach.

She acknowledges that Brexit harmed the party in the election. She also concedes on anti-Semitism – she says that behind the scenes she was pressing for tougher action on this.

But it is clear she is pitching herself to those Labour Party members who want to carry on with the Corbyn project.

She said Labour’s election defeat last month, its fourth in a row, was due to a failure of campaign strategy and the “lack of a coherent narrative” rather than a repudiation of its policies.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that many of the “positive elements” of the party’s manifesto “really weren’t pushed to the extent that they should have been” during December’s election campaign.

If elected leader, she said there would be no return to the “Tory lite” agenda which she said had held the party back for many years.

“We need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda,” Ms Long-Bailey said.

“A leader who is totally committed to the policies and has the political backbone to defend them. We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime.”

How will the leadership race unfold?

  • 7-13 January: Nomination period for MPs and MEPs
  • 14-16 January: Application period for registered supporters
  • 15 January – 14 February: Second stage of nominations from Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) and affiliates, including unions
  • 20 January: Freeze date for voting eligibility for new members and affiliated supporters
  • 21 February: Ballot opens
  • 2 April: Ballot closes
  • 4 April: Special conference to announce results

Making her pitch for the top job, Ms Long-Bailey said she was “not your typical politician” and could be trusted to “fight the establishment tooth and nail”.

She told Today that Mr Corbyn had “suffered unprecedented levels of attack on his character” during the election campaign and she continues to support him.

“He also set out a radical platform for policy development…. and developed some of the most exciting and innovative policies that we have seen in a generation,” she said.

Ms Long-Bailey said she attacked the party’s Brexit policy during her time in the shadow cabinet.

“Those who were in Leave communities like myself repeatedly stated that we were concerned about veering away from focusing on getting a good deal and moving towards a ‘people’s vote’ or a second referendum,” she said.

“We ended up with a compromise solution quite frankly and it was very clear in the election campaign it did not satisfy.”

Labour had proposed to renegotiate a withdrawal deal with Brussels and then put it to another public vote with Remain as an option.

‘Learn from mistakes’

Announcing his candidature for the position of deputy leader, Mr Murray, a long-time critic of Jeremy Corbyn said the architects of the party’s ”catastrophic failure” in 2019 could not be allowed to lead the response.

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Labour MP for Tooting Rosena Allin-Khan has announced she will run for deputy leader

And Dr Allin-Khan, in her pitch, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the party had to “learn from mistakes from the past” and “listen to those who have lost faith”.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon and shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Dawn Butler have already said they are standing for deputy leader.

Under the timetable agreed by Labour’s ruling body on Monday, the contenders have until 13 January to show they have the support of the 22 MPs and MEPs required to get on the ballot paper.

They must also demonstrate they have the backing of 5% of local Labour parties and three affiliated bodies – two of which must be trade unions.