Angela Rayner 'will endorse' Long-Bailey for Labour leadership

Source close to Rayner dismisses speculation she will launch own leadership bid

Angela Rayner is expected to endorse Rebecca Long-Bailey for the Labour leadership in the new year, contrary to intense speculation that she might instead pursue a leadership bid of her own.

A source close to the shadow education secretary told the Guardian that she had only discussed a possible deputy leadership bid with colleagues, including Long-Bailey. The source dismissed suggestions that Rayner would ever stand against or refuse to back her close friend and flatmate.

There had been reports that allies were urging Rayner not to back Long Bailey’s bid to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The source said: “This speculation should be dismissed. Angela has been discussing with other Labour MPs a potential deputy leadership and is expected to make a decision early in the new year.”

In an article in the Guardian, Long-Bailey said she was considering running to become leader and would back a deputy leadership bid by Rayner.

A report in the Times claimed that allies of Rayner had warned her not to endorse Long-Bailey. One source told the newspaper: “It’s clear what Rebecca gets out of Angela’s support but not clear what Angela gets out of it. She’ll walk deputy either way.”

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, and the shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis have confirmed they will stand to become party leader.

Another eight MPs say they are considering standing, including Long-Bailey, Ian Lavery, the party chairman, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, and the Wigan MP Lisa Nandy.

The woman who many saw as Corbyn’s strongest loyalist candidate, Laura Pidcock, lost her seat in the 12 December election.

Some Corbyn supporters have expressed concern that the possibility of three leftwing candidates – Long-Bailey, Lavery and Lewis – could split the left vote and allow a centrist MP to win.

But Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, suggested that the left was in fact acting together to smooth Long-Bailey’s path to the leadership. “Don’t be fooled by this,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s purely an attempt to convince us all that [Long-Bailey] is not a far-left choice. He [Lavery] won’t really stand, she will.”

Corbyn has said he will stand down as leader early next year in the wake of the election defeat, in which many of the party’s traditional northern English strongholds fell to the Conservatives.

In a new year message released on Tuesday night, Corbyn did not mention the election defeat or his departure but instead said Labour would be “the resistance” against Boris Johnson.

“Now we are not just entering a new year but a new decade. And the period ahead could not be more important,” he said.

“It won’t be easy. But we have built a movement. We are the resistance to Boris Johnson.

“We will be campaigning every day. We will be on the frontline, both in parliament and on the streets.”

While the timetable for the contest has yet to been announced, it is expected to begin next month, with a new leader to be in place by the spring.

To be a candidate on the ballot paper, each potential leader will need the backing of 10% of Labour MPs and MEPs. Because there are 203 MPs and 10 MEPs, they will need 22 votes.

They will then have to win support from either 5% of constituency Labour parties or “at least three affiliates (at least two of which shall be trade union affiliates) comprising 5% of affiliated membership”.

This has given both trade union general secretaries and grassroots organisations such as Jon Lansman’s Momentum considerable say in who will become the next leader.

Momentum has proved itself to be adept at rallying its supporters at key internal elections.

There are only 12 unions affiliated to the Labour party, of which only five are big enough to take a candidate across the 5% threshold: Unite, Unison, the GMB, Usdaw and the CWU. Some in the centre of the party say that rule changes introduced in 2016 have vastly improved the odds of a leftwing successor to Corbyn.

Once the ballot paper is finalised, every MP, party member and affiliated supporter – or member of a trade union or socialist society – will have one vote via post or online. Registered supporters, who paid a one-off fee to participate in a leadership election, can also vote.

The contest has to take at least five weeks, according to party rules, but the actual timetable will be decided by a meeting of the party’s national executive committee on 6 January.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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