Jess Phillips quits Labour leadership race

Birmingham Yardley MP says she is not the person to unite party after election defeat

Jess Phillips has pulled out of the Labour leadership contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn, saying she is not the person to unite the party.

Her decision, two weeks into the campaign, came as she failed to secure any union or affiliate backing, although she secured 23 nominations from MPs to put her into the latest phase of the contest.

Earlier on Tuesday, Phillips did not attend a hustings organised by the GMB union, leading to speculation her campaign was faltering.

In a message to supporters, the MP for Birmingham Yardley said: “The Labour party will need to select a candidate who can unite all parts of our movement, the union movement, members and elected representatives. And I have to also be honest with myself, as I said I always would be throughout this campaign.

The first stage of the contest was for potential contenders to get the backing of 22 fellow MPs by 13 January. Five MPs passed this threshold: Keir Starmer (88 nominations),  Rebecca Long-Bailey (33), Lisa Nandy (31), Jess Phillips (23) and Emily Thornberry (23).

The second stage required each contender to win the support either of 33 constituency Labour parties (CLPs); or of three affiliates, two of which had to be unions, and which between them accounted for at least 5% of the affiliated membership. This had to be achieved before 14 February. Jess Phillips withdrew from the contest on 21 January. Emily Thornberry failed to attract the required number of members.

The ballot of members and registered supporters was due to open on 21 February, and closes at noon on 2 April. To be eligible to vote you must have been a Labour member on 20 January, or have applied to have become a £25 registered supporter by 16 January.

Corbyn’s successor - Starmer, Long-Bailey or Nandy - will be announced at a special conference in London on 4 April.

“At this time, that person is not me. In order to win the country, we are going to have to find a candidate, in this race, who can do all of that, and then take that message out to the country.”

She thanked her supporters and said the tens of thousands of people who had signed up to vote in the election should get a say in the race.

She said: “I want to say to those people: this is not the end. It’s the beginning.”

Her rival Keir Starmer is expected to pick up a share of party members’ votes that would have gone to Phillips had she ended up on the final ballot paper.

She did not say who she would back in the leadership race.

Another rival for the leadership, Rebecca Long-Bailey, told an upbeat rally in Hackney, east London, on Tuesday night that she was “quite sad” that Phillips had dropped out, because despite their policy differences, all the candidates “get on all right”.

She promised to banish “machine politics,” and stamp out abuse within the party, saying it was “not acceptable” to tell fellow Labour members to “eff off and join the Tories”.

Long-Bailey was introduced by Labour chair Ian Lavery, who was enthusiastically cheered when he insisted Labour needed a female leader, saying: “Stand aside Keir!”

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"

Lavery praised what he called “Baileyism,” as the next stage in the “socialist revolution,” telling the audience: “Comrades, there is no going back!”

A source told the Guardian that when Phillips spoke at a campaign event at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London on Monday night, they sensed there were problems with the campaign.

“It felt like she was giving her own elegy. It was the sort of speech that Liz Kendall was giving in month three of the last leadership campaign but it’s week three,” the source said.

“I did wonder if something was up. She was saying the important thing was to go through it, so that people like me and people who sound like me can go for leader.”

Phillips scraped over the line to get the nominations needed to get to the second phase of the leadership debate with the backing of 23 MPs, including herself. She has been described as being on the right of the party by opponents.

Among those who backed her were Wes Streeting, who was running her campaign, Liz Kendall, Margaret Hodge, Neil Coyle and Chris Bryant. Early polling had put her in third place behind Starmer and Long-Bailey.


Kate Proctor and Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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