/Rebecca Long Bailey defends Corbyns legacy as she launches Labour leadership bid

Rebecca Long Bailey defends Corbyns legacy as she launches Labour leadership bid

Rebecca Long Bailey has kicked off her campaign to become Labour leader by defending Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy despite conceding that the party was not trusted at the polls on Brexit, antisemitism or economic credibility.

The shadow business secretary said Corbyn would ultimately bear responsibility for one of Labour’s worst general election defeats but she said he would “go down in history” as having set out a radical raft of policies.

Long Bailey’s defence came after Corbyn faced mounting criticism over his leadership, including his handling of claims of antisemitism in the party and perceived lack of clarity over Brexit strategy.

Jess Phillips

The MP for Birmingham Yardley is a strong media performer who has built up a significant public profile from the backbenches. Her fiery speeches and witty barbs aimed at the Conservatives  frequently go viral online.

Pitch Prepared to argue for Britain to re-enter the European Union and address challenge of bringing back working-class voters.

Keir Starmer

Ambitious former director of public prosecutions has led the charge for remain in the shadow cabinet. He was instrumental in shifting Labour’s position towards backing a second referendum

Pitch Launched his campaign by highlighting how he has stood up for leftwing causes as a campaigning lawyer, and unveiled the slogan “Another Future is Possible”.

Long Bailey, who is the sixth candidate to declare for the leadership and considered a frontrunner alongside the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, indicated she would be willing to launch a nuclear strike as prime minister. She also outlined a pro-immigration stance, dismissing claims that workers from abroad who come to the UK depress wages.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the 40-year-old lawyer said: “We’ve just suffered one of our worst electoral defeats on record and I don’t think we can underestimate the impact that has on the party and the amount of work that needs to be done.

“It’s quite clear that we can’t carry on as we were before but we need to recognise the reasons for that defeat. There were a number of reasons as to why we lost trust in our communities.

“Brexit was one. We weren’t trusted on Brexit. We weren’t trusted as a party to tackle the crisis of antisemitism, we weren’t trusted on our policies, no matter how radical or detailed they were, they simply didn’t hit the ground running in many of our communities in terms of demonstrating that economic credibility. And we struggled to get out what I term as a coherent narrative and a real strategy throughout that campaign.

“Many of the very positive elements of the manifesto which we knew had scored very highly in polling before, such as industrial strategy, a green industrial revolution, they really weren’t pushed to the extent they should have been.”

Asked about criticism on the doorstep of Corbyn’s leadership, Long Bailey said: “Jeremy had suffered unprecedented levels of criticism and attack against his own personal character and he was very resilient throughout. I supported Jeremy, I still support Jeremy because I felt that he was the right man with the right moral integrity to lead the party.”

When pointed out that he lost the election “catastrophically”, she replied: “Any leader who leads us into a general election defeat needs to take responsibility. But he also set out a radical platform for policy development which involved the grassroots and our trade unions, and developed some of the most exciting, innovative policies that we’ve seen in a generation. And I think he’ll go down in history as the leader that has done that.”

Pressed on whether Corbyn had got it wrong on anything specifically, including antisemitism, she replied: “We weren’t strong enough on antisemitism and I’ve been quite clear about that before.”

Pressed on whether Corbyn made mistakes, she said: “Ultimately, he has to take responsibility as the leader of the party. He has to lead and I think he has apologised and there are things that should have happened far quicker. We should have sped up our processes, we should have listened to Jewish communal organisations and involved them. And now we’re in a situation where trust has been completely broken.”

Long Bailey signalled the launch of her campaign on Monday by penning an article for Tribune, the historic publication of the Labour left, in which she pledged to “go to war with the political establishment”.

In the piece, Long Bailey said under her leadership Labour would never “throw migrants or BAME communities under the bus”.

“I think we need to have a fair immigration system but we can’t nod towards quite dangerous politics,” she said during her BBC interview on Tuesday, adding: “We do need as a party to make a stronger argument. Because I don’t think we have ever set out the case why immigration is a positive force.”

She claimed not to have seen “any economic evidence to suggest that the influx of workers from any country across the world at the moment has depressed wages in any way”.

Meanwhile, the deputy leadership contender Rosena Allin-Khan claimed no one trusted Labour on either side of the Brexit debate and voters did not believe the party was credible to govern.

The A&E doctor, who has been MP for Tooting, south London, since 2016, said Labour made strategic errors during the election that left voters confused. The 43-year-old shadow minister for sport argued the party was too slow to come to articulate its Brexit policy, which was to negotiate a deal with Brussels and then have a second referendum.

Rosena Allin-Khan

Rosena Allin-Khan has joined the race for Labour’s deputy leadership. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Speaking on the Today programme, she said: “I believe we lost the last election for a number of reasons. First of all, on one of the biggest issues of our time [Brexit], we took far too long to come to a policy. I don’t believe our policy in of itself was a problem … but we took far too long to come there.

“And no one trusted on us on either side, whether they voted leave or remain. But I’ve been to the north of England just last weekend and spoke to activists and I spoke to people in communities and they said that for every one door they knocked on where Brexit was raised, multiple doors said actually they didn’t believe that the Labour party was credible to govern.”

Though she said she supported Labour’s high-spending manifesto pledges, she felt they were spread to the public in a “scattergun approach”.

The MP, who failed her A-levels but went on to study medicine at Cambridge University, explained: “We had a radical manifesto but we were putting our messages out there in quite a scattergun approach every day and voters were confused. They didn’t know what our policies were.”

Scotland’s only Labour MP, Ian Murray, has also announced he is throwing his hat into the ring for the deputy leadership. The 43-year-old outlined his bid in a piece for the Daily Mirror, writing: “To win again we will need to beat the odds and I know how to win by building broad coalitions of support.”

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