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There Is No Outstanding Labour Leadership Candidate, Yet There Are Plenty of Bad Choices

The Labour leadership contest is well underway, with MPs beginning to declare their candidacy and make their pitches for the future direction of the Party. What, however, is becoming readily apparent is that there is no one leading candidate for the role.

The failure to secure open selection has ensured that neoliberal centrists have remained at the core of the Parliamentary Labour Party, despite an overwhelming socialist membership. This failure has left a barren field of left-wing candidates.

The next leader must be a socialist. They must be a reformer, willing to bring in open selection. They must be anti-imperialist and condemn the wars in Iraq, Syria and Libya. They must be a strong character who is willing to face down the press, Boris Johnson and the Blairites alike. They must be unmoving in their support for Palestine and have not backed the Zionist smears against Jeremy Corbyn. They must not have pushed for a second EU referendum, a political disaster that caused so much damage to the party.

No one candidate stands out and some would undoubtedly consign Labour to the dustbin of history.

Clive Lewis

Clive Lewis giving his Shadow Secretary of State for Defence speech at the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. | Rwendland

Clive Lewis’ promise to push for open selection is to be welcomed, the push for proportional representation is not.

Proportional representation sounds like a fine idea on paper and one that would allow Labour a much greater chance at entering government, but it is a backdoor to permanent neoliberalism by forcing a socialist party into coalition with a centrist one, the Lib Dems. The system would also allow the likes of The Brexit Party into the halls of power as a kingmaker.

Lewis has only been an MP since 2015 and has a working-class background, growing up on a council estate in Northampton. His service in the British Army will give him some measure of credibility amongst the “patriot” crowd and his former vice-Presidency of the NUS will give him a knowledge of the youth movement.

Lewis has previously declared New Labour “dead and buried”, was one of the 36 MPs to back Jeremy Corbyn and is pro-immigration, anti-trident and voted against the war in Syria. He is however pro-NATO and an advocate of a second referendum, his strong remain credentials undoubtedly there to be weaponised by the press and far-right who will portray him as out of touch.

At 48 and with a younger man’s energy, Lewis would bring vitality and charisma to the role. His loose tongue, making gaffes about bestiality and his “bitch” is a concern, yet can also be portrayed as maverick and against the much-derided cancel culture. He can be branded against the establishment.  

Lewis recognised that the “antisemitism” smears were being used against Labour telling The Canary in July that “it’s possible that there is antisemitism and racism in our party. And it’s also possible that there are some people who will utilise that for their own ends… That is, I think, a given.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey

Rebecca Long-Bailey giving her Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury speech at the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. | Rwendland

Rebecca Long-Bailey ticks the socialist boxes and has been a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn since day one, having been one of the 36 Labour MPs to nominate him as a candidate. She is from Manchester, has a northern pedigree and at the age of 40 adds a youthful 21st-century outlook to the party going forward.

However, like Clive Lewis, RLB has only been an MP since 2015 and has consistently voted for remaining in the EU, which would be used against her. There are also questions over her strength of character and perhaps her solidarity, telling the Jewish Labour Movement that Jeremy Corbyn had “lost the trust of the community”, the JLM being one of the chief proponents of the false “antisemitism” smears against socialists in the party.

In July, Long-Bailey declined to answer when JLM told her “the best way to build bridges was for the Labour leader to resign”, she also played a part in throwing Chris Williamson under the bus, stating that Williamson shouldn’t have been a member of the Party and that she didn’t know why he was still in. She also refused to stand in solidarity with The Canary after coming under fire for an interview she gave to the website.

The signs that Long-Bailey will capitulate to the threats of Labour Friends of Israel, the press and the Blairites are very clear, meaning that any socialist program will, in the end, be rendered pointless and weakened.

The Guardian has also quietly spoken against her as they did with Corbyn, describing her as a “Len McCluskey stooge”. The Guardian’s opposition, however, should be seen as a good sign.

Angela Rayner

Angela Rayner giving her Shadow Secretary of State for Education speech at the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. | Rwendland

Very popular amongst the grassroots, Rayner has an undisputed working-class pedigree and has a background story that will resonate amongst many voters. She wished to remain in the EU but has also spoken of respecting the referendum result. Again, she has only been an MP since 2015.

The force behind the key National Education Service policy, Rayner describes herself as “soft left” but also a pragmatist. There is a concern that Rayner may drift to the centre.

The Guardian highlighted in 2017 that she didn’t immediately back Corbyn and she seems to indicate the malleability of her beliefs.

“Rayner has been loyal to Corbyn, but she does not define herself as a Corbynista and backed Andy Burnham in the 2015 leadership election: ‘I’m Labour through and through, and I wouldn’t define myself by a particular leader.’ She is a socialist, but less ideological one than some of her colleagues. ‘Ideology never put food on my table,’ she says.”

Angela Rayner, interviewed in The Guardian

Keir Starmer

Official portrait of Keir Starmer | Chris McAndrew

Starmer would be portrayed as out of touch from day one. How exactly does Labour make a stand against the establishment and against austerity when it would be led by a millionaire with a knighthood?

Starmer has been eager to place himself at the front of the leadership race, calling for a “radical Labour government” and rejecting calls for the party to swing to the right, placing no blame on Jeremy Corbyn for the election defeat. It is easy to believe, however, that this talk is merely an effort to make himself attractive to the socialist grassroots as he also stated that Labour didn’t do enough to tackle “antisemitism” despite the conspiracy theory being long debunked, called for a return of the “broad church” nonsense that has allowed years of infighting by neoliberal denialists and called for Labour to take further Brexit remain positions.

Starmer backed Andy Burnham in 2015 and despite Corbyn placing faith in him and appointing Starmer as a shadow Home Office minister, he resigned in protest over the leadership of the Labour Party and backed Owen Smith in his challenge to Corbyn in 2016.

An arch remainer, Starmer played a huge role in Labour accepting the second referendum policy and is one of the choices of the FBPE crowd. Seen as “ambitious” (political codeword for disloyal), his background in human rights and knowledge of constitutional law are plus points, but not enough to make him a serious leadership candidate.

A disloyal, politically naive member of the establishment, Starmer is another Blair in the making.

Yvette Cooper

Yvette Cooper before speaking at the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. | Rwendland

Yvette Cooper has already been soundly rejected by The Labour Party once, losing spectacularly to Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 when she came third with a measly 17.0% of the vote in the first round. Her politics have been firmly rejected by the membership.

Cooper supported Owen Smith’s challenge against Corbyn in 2015.

She has long excused Tony Blair, stating that he merely “made mistakes” and is still beholden to his neoliberalism, wanting to see the business world “unite” with Labour. A member of Labour Friends of Israel.

Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry on the conference platform at the 2016 Labour Party Conference. | Rwendland

Thornberry’s “white van man” gaff killed any aspirations she had for leadership, opening herself up to constant accusations of being part of an out-of-touch liberal elite. The incident not only damaged her but damaged the party.

A member of Labour Friends of Israel, Thornberry has zero solidarity with the people of Palestine and is seen as an arch-remainer. Despite being loyal to Corbyn, she voted for Yvette Cooper in 2015 and isn’t popular amongst the grassroots. Loathed amongst floating working-class voters, Thornberry would be a major mistake and likely has little chance of winning.

Lisa Nandy

Lisa Nandy at the 2016 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, speaking at the Sustainability Hub Reception organised by the Socialist Environment and Resources Association (SERA). | Rwendland

The Blue Labour candidate. There really needs to be little more explanation than that.

Nandy’s partially shared ideology with the group pushing for Labour to take a socially conservative stance should be alarming enough to anyone who would think of backing her and immediately rule her out of the race. 

Blue Labour has advocated for admitting members of the EDL into the party.

She backed Andy Burnham in 2015, is seen as “soft left” and has compared Jeremy Corbyn supporters to the far-right.

A Nandy leadership would be a disaster.

Jess Phillips

Official portrait of Jess Philips | Chris McAndrew

Many middle-class Labour members seem to be under the impression Phillips would make a great leader as she’d connect with the working-class base, seemingly for little reason beyond the fact she has the general manner of a fishwife. Jess Phillips would, in fact, be a party destroying choice as leader.

Widely seen as a racist by many black and Muslim members, Phillips dedication to radical feminism has led to accusations of TERFdom by the trans community. Friendly with Jacob Rees-Mogg, Phillips doesn’t have a socialist bone in her body and is beholden to neoliberal centrism. She has been the choice of Labour’s opponents for some time and likely to be the subject of entryist voting. She is yet another member of Labour Friends of Israel.

Profoundly offensive and prone to acting in a manner reminiscent of a Twitter troll, Phillips seemingly found Labour’s election defeat hilarious. She would be the end of the Party.



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