Follow us inside Rebecca Long Bailey and Angela Rayner’s flat share, where something’s certainly brewing | Catherine Bennett

It’s no ordinary domestic drama as secret tapes reveal all about the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn

Afternoon. A kitchen-sitting room in Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey’s London flatshare. Angela and Keir Starmer are having a private chat about the Labour leadership contest.

Angela Well I don’t know, I’d hate to upset Rebecca. Even if she did use up all the dry shampoo she’s my friend. I’ve all but promised.

Keir Your choice, Angela, but we could be an even better team. You know my er – old man – was a toolmaker? (A phone pings) That yours or mine?

Angela (checking) Oh bloomin ’eck she’s only back early, quick, hide in my bedroom, and when she locks the bathroom, run. (She gestures down a corridor) First on the right.

Exit Starmer. Angela fills a kettle, is belting out “Close the coalhouse door, lad. There’s blood inside” as Rebecca Long-Bailey enters, leaving the front door ajar.

Rebecca ’Ow do Ange, flippin’ ’eck, me vision’s in’t Guardian, there’s nowt can stop me now! (Spots the teapot). Ooh mint I’m gagging for a brew (the Northern accent is wearing off) – if it’s really not too much trouble Angela dear.

Angela Put wood in’t ’ole. (Rebecca is motionless) Shut the door. I’d have thought you’d know that. Now pack it in. Or do I tell everyone about your aubergine habit? Not many ’effing aubergines where I were raised, any road.

Rebecca (Closing the door) Come on Ange, don’t you want to hear about my – our – leadership bid? Actually, aubergines aren’t bourgeois. I checked with Jon Lansmann.

Angela And prosecco?

Rebecca Seumas always says nothing’s too good for the workers – look Ange, if this is about your dry shampoo, I’m sorry (she takes an aubergine and holds it erect). Remind you of anything?

Angela Ooh Bex.

Rebecca See, 100% genuine earthy humour! I have to act super-Northern, Seumas says, now Thornberry has bought herself a white van. She’d no choice, to be fair, not after Lisa Nandy got Wigan Athletic tattooed on her face. Artful cow. So I’ve ordered a kestrel. Typical feisty Northerner, me, spend spend spend!

Angela What happens when they find out you were a solicitor?

Rebecca I still didn’t taste hummus till I were evacuated. Just wait till you hear my vision, Ange, took me and Seumas a whole hour, he said it was literally his most immersively Northern experience since the last Alan Bennett, but – I can trust you?

Angela Go on then, what’s new?

Rebecca Progressive patriotism!

Angela Oh my God Bex, how long, what do the doctors say?

Rebecca I’m fine you daft ’aporth, but it won’t happen without you, what do you say Ange? First woman leader, woman deputy, and Northern with it. Jeremy and John say we’ll walk it, dream ticket.

Angela Right, listen to bloody Bill and Ben, what if they’re wrong again?

Rebecca Careful now Ange, walls have ears.

Angela (shouting) Flamin’ hope so – if it’s genuine Northerners they’re after it’s me should stand.

Rebecca What – because you had a kid at 16?

Angela What of it?

Rebecca Listen, any of us girls could have, we just weren’t ambitious like your ladyship, quietly building a political career while we were doing To Kill a Mockingbird. Well you forgot something…

Angela What?

Jeremy Corbyn and RebeccaLong Bailey
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Rebecca Long-Bailey MP in Worsley, Salford, in May 2019. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

(The doorbell. Rebecca answers. Enter John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Seumas Milne.)

Rebecca Men. Powerful male powerful men. There’s more to winning than regional accents.

Angela (quietly) Oh shit.

John (talking over everyone): Lapsang for me, Becky, dash of milk; weak ginger infusion for Jeremy, with manuka, and – what do you want Seumas? He’s been in one of his moods since he heard about Starmer’s ferret, go on make it an Americano, has she (indicates Angela) signed yet?

Angela Think I might be a bit too posh for you John, now Rebecca’s remembered her scabies. Mind at least I wasn’t raised in a manor, eh Jeremy?

Rebecca How could you Ange? You’re all right Jeremy, she’s just kidding.

Jeremy (advancing, arms out) Come on friends, group hug, we’ll only win our heroic fight against the wickedly vile Conservatives if we come together, North and South, young and old, men and women…

John Shut it. Where’s my Becky with that tea, haven’t got all night.

Angela Grand, before you lads bugger off, question: why d’you lose, big-time?

Rebecca It’s OK everybody, she knows it’s all the media’s fault, it’s more your role play, for if someone asks, am I right Ange?

John Don’t you start. You wouldn’t expect me to anticipate the findings of a democratically constituted NEC sub-committee which will produce a full report following a timely period of reflection. Thoughts, Seumas?

Seumas May I borrow your bathroom, sorry ladies, “toilet”? My hair feels wrong.

Exit Seumas.

The doorbell. Rebecca answers. Emily Thornberry pushes past. She has a kestrel.

Emily Angela? Darling, there’s literally no one else I can ask – how do you work one of these?

Enter Starmer.

Keir Angela, I heard every word, they’re not really feminist at all, they’re using you!

Angela Says the 97th male heir to the all-misogynist Labour party.

John Bloody women.

Jeremy Will someone kindly explain?

Enter Seumas

Seumas So Starmer, you traitor, you’re too late. Angela is ours now. And you, Thornberry – out.

Emily Come on Kes, we’re leaving.

Exit Thornberry, with Kes, and Starmer.

Seumas Again I have proved, comrade girls, that our system – the Corbynist system – is stronger and more resilient than ever. Oppose it at your peril. And be assured that as leader I offer you eternal vigilance, nothing is more precious than the honour and safety of the party’s womenfolk. Northern ones especially.

Rebecca I will still win, won’t I? Seumas? John? Jeremy? Progressive patriotism wasn’t too – patriotic?

All look expectantly at Angela.

Angela I’ll let you know after me tea. Yorkshire, three sugars Seumas petal, and make it snappy.

• Catherine Bennett is an Observer columinist


Catherine Bennett

The GuardianTramp

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