Six Labour leadership candidates make pitches to parliamentary party

7 January 2020, 22:00

(left to right) Rebecca Long Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer and Jess Phillips
(left to right) Rebecca Long Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer and Jess Phillips. Picture: PA

The six MPs in the running to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader have made their pitches to the parliamentary party.

Rebecca Long Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Clive Lewis set out their stalls in Parliament on Tuesday evening.

Sir Keir is the frontrunner for the top job, while Ms Long Bailey is the current leadership’s favoured replacement.

The new Labour leader and deputy will be announced at a conference on April 4.

Addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), shadow business secretary Ms Long Bailey said that in losing the election, Labour "let down the people who rely on us".

"Our number one duty as Labour MPs is to learn the lessons of defeat and make sure we don't repeat them," she told the private meeting.

Earlier, the frontbencher insisted that she was not the "continuity candidate" to replace Mr Corbyn, but gave him a "10 out of 10 rating" - describing him as "one of the most honest, kind, principled politicians I've ever met".

She told ITV: "What we can't ignore was that Jeremy was savaged from day one by the press ... We have a role as party to develop the image of our leader and to put them forward in the most positive way, but we also have a duty to rebut criticism and attacks.

"As a party we needed to have a rebuttal unit, a clear structure in place to rebut the attacks against him."

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir told the hustings that the party needs to "win back our heartlands".

He said: "We need to understand and to address each and every reason we lost at this election, but we also need to win back Scotland, we need to win back seats in Wales, and if you draw a line from London to Bristol and look south we only have a handful seats.

"So, we have got a mountain to climb."

Ms Nandy, the MP for Wigan, said the leadership debate was "possibly the most important in our history.”

She added: "Now is not the time to steady the ship. If we do not change course we will die and we will deserve to.”

Ms Phillips told the hustings she does not want to be the next leader of the opposition, but rather "the next Labour prime minister - I want the people here to be in government".

"I have dedicated my life to trying to change the lives of others, but I am sick of just shifting the dial, I want to smash it," the Birmingham Yardley MP said.

In the race for the deputy post triggered by Tom Watson's decision to quit, shadow sport minister Rosena Allin-Khan and Labour's only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, became the latest candidates to launch their bids.