Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips tell Labour: we must change to survive

Pair praised by colleagues at hustings event in front of parliamentary party

Labour leadership candidates Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips won applause from MPs at a hustings for warning that a serious change of course is needed for the party.

The two hopefuls were praised by colleagues on Tuesday after the six candidates set out their pitches to the parliamentary Labour party, with MPs saying they had been the most honest about reasons for the party’s defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson.

Nandy told the hustings that “if we do not change course we will die and we will deserve to” and warned that “never again can we let factions and friends of the leader determine where resources go”.

Phillips said: “We run the risk of being completely irrelevant for the next four years. All over the country people have busy lives, with lots of noise from one way or another. We have got to get them to hear us in the little time they give us.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey

A close ally of the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, the Salford MP and shadow business secretary has been groomed as a potential leftwing contender for the top job.

Pitch Promising to champion “progressive patriotism”.

Lisa Nandy

The Wigan MP has built a reputation as a campaigner for her constituency and others like it, many of which have fallen to the Tories. A soft-left candidate, she resigned from the shadow cabinet in 2016 over Corbyn’s leadership and handling of the EU referendum.

Pitch Wants to “bring Labour home” to voters that have abandoned the party in its traditional strongholds.

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”, arguing "Labour can win again if we make the moral case for socialism"

Others said Keir Starmer – one of the frontrunners, who has the highest number of declared endorsements from MPs – also went down well, after saying the party needed to “focus relentlessly on the future and not on the past” and giving a firm answer on kicking out antisemites.

He told the hustings: “We need to win back our heartlands. 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 of seats. So, we have got a mountain to climb.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the other leading candidate who is backed by John McDonnell and others on the party’s left, received more lukewarm support from the room of MPs, many of whom are wary about the idea of a new leader perceived as the “continuity” candidate after the election result.

She told the MPs: “In losing the election we let down the people who rely on us. Our No 1 duty as Labour MPs is to learn the lessons of defeat and make sure we don’t repeat them.

“We lost because our compromise position on Brexit was seen by leavers as an attempt to undo the referendum result, without satisfying remainers,” she said.

“We lost because too few voters thought Labour spoke for them, and because they didn’t trust us to deal with antisemitism.

“And we lost because we didn’t do a good enough job at convincing voters that our popular policies were credible and deliverable, or come up with a framing and slogan that could match Johnson’s simple pledge to ‘Get Brexit Done’.”

She said the key to winning again was a “clear and attractive offer based on the new green deal that she helped to negotiate.

One MP from the left of the party, who was leaving the meeting said they had not been impressed, because they worried she was “boring; it was like watching paint dry”. Another MP from the soft left said Long-Bailey would not be her first choice but all the candidates were “flattered by comparison with Corbyn” and “any of them would be a vast improvement on what we’ve had”.

Earlier, Long-Bailey told ITV that she thought Corbyn scored “10 out of 10” as leader of the Labour party as she kicked off her campaign to succeed him.

The shadow business secretary defended Corbyn’s record and blamed the election defeat on the party’s failure to issue strong enough rebuttals when he was “savaged by the press”.

Asked by ITV News how should would rate Corbyn as a leader, Long-Bailey said: “I thought Corbyn was one of most honest, kind, principled politicians I’ve ever met … I’d give him 10 out of 10, because I respect him and I supported him all the way through.

“What we can’t ignore was that Jeremy was savaged from day one by the press … We have a role as a 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.”

Some have questioned whether Nandy, Emily Thornberry, the pro-remain shadow foreign secretary, and Clive Lewis, the leftwinger who is campaigning for more party democracy, will get the 22 required nominations to make the ballot paper.


Several MPs said Nandy was impressive in her diagnosis of what went wrong but they were concerned that her criticism of the party’s position in favour of a second referendum would not go down well with the membership.

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 articulate its Brexit policy, which was to negotiate a deal with Brussels and then have a second referendum.

In one of the more light-hearted moments of the contest, she later said in an interview on ITV’s Acting Prime Minister feature that she would like to create a ministry of fabulosity and have dance-offs between MPs.

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.”

Shadow minister Khalid Mahmood told the Guardian he too was planning to run for the deputy job, pledging to “redefine what it means to represent all equally with a comprehensive inclusivity and diversity strategy”. He said he wanted to consult “all our minority communities and those who live on forgotten council estates”.

The leading candidate for the deputy job is Angela Rayner. Richard Burgon, an ally of Corbyn, and Dawn Butler, the shadow women’s secretary are also running.


Rowena Mason and Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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