Socialist Worker

Right wingers lead as Labour leadership race enters final stage

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2691

Rebecca Long-Bailey at a Labour election rally in Manchester in November last year

Rebecca Long-Bailey at a Labour election rally in Manchester in November last year (Pic: Jeremy Corbyn/Flickr)


Right wing Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer looked set to enter the final round of the contest with the most nominations by far.

Starmer had won backing from 280 Constituency Labour Parties—local party organisations—as Socialist Worker went to press.

His nominations surpassed the left’s candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey, who had the backing of 131 CLPs, and the two other candidates Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry.

Among those nominating him last week was Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency Islington North—prompting gloating from the Labour right and barely concealed joy from political pundits.

The deadline for nominations was Friday this week. The final stage of the contest—a ballot of individual members and affiliated supporters—was set to run from Friday of next week until Thursday 2 April.

Yet the scale of the nominations for Starmer is an indication that the mass support that sustained Corbyn’s leadership may not become backing for Long-Bailey.

Starmer says Labour has to move right to be electable—and activists worry that this is swaying members.

He has tried to cultivate an image as ­someone who supported workers as a campaigning lawyer.

Respectable

Yet he also relies on his image as a “respectable” politician due to his background as Labour’s shadow Brexit ­minister and as Director of Public Prosecutions.

Starmer was one of those responsible for Labour’s slide towards backing a second referendum—which was central to the disastrous 2019 general election result.

He also ­publicly backed ­remaining in the European Union. Yet demoralisation among Labour members mean some are pulled by the idea that Labour needs a leader more acceptable to the right and the media.

Meanwhile, Long-Bailey was attacked for promising to ban bosses from forcing workers to answer emails out of working hours, and to ­support “every” strike.

Yet her campaign has also made concessions to the right—including ­backing MP Angela Rayner over the left wing Richard Burgon for deputy leader. She’s also backed rules that would allow left wing activists to be purged from Labour for anything more than the ­mildest criticism of Israel.

Labour lost the general election partly because its leadership under Corbyn consistently conceded to right wing arguments, allowing them to take hold and undermine him.

Now the pressures of “unity” and “electability” look set to drag the party even ­further to the right.


Long-Bailey plays to the left

Rebecca Long-Bailey promised last week that as Labour leader she would support “every” strike.

She said she would be a party leader “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box,” and would fight to increase trade union membership.

Long-Bailey’s promise raises the question of what she would do if workers struck against a Labour-run council.

It comes as Labour councils are likely to implement yet more austerity.

Long-Bailey was booed and heckled at a hustings in front of Labour councillors last Friday. Supporting striking workers at a Labour council would mean confronting right wing council leaders.


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