The Labour Leadership Contest 2020: Rebecca Long-Bailey
Long before Labour’s defeat in the General Election last year, Rebecca Long-Bailey was being touted by some parts of the left as a potential sucessor to Jeremy Corbyn, receiving the backing of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. When her main rival on the left, Laura Pidcock, lost her safe seat on 12 December, Long-Bailey emerged as the sole heir-apparent of the Corbyn mantle.
Calls for her to run for the leadership increased after the election and she is currently the main challenger to front-runner Keir Starmer. Due to her unswerving loyalty to Corbyn, she is widely seen as the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate – though it is a label she rejects.
Though trailing far behind Keir Starmer in nominations from other MPs, Long-Bailey is likely to receive widespread support from the left of the Labour membership, with the help of the Corbynite campaign group Momentum. But it remains to be seen whether all of Corbyn’s support will fall in behind Long-Bailey. Crucially, it is expected that she will win the backing of the UK’s second largest trade union, Unite, whose General Secretary Len McCluskey has aggressively supported Jeremy Corbyn. However, it is no secret that McCluskey and Corbyn’s own top advisors would have preferred Pidcock as a candidate, and there are doubts among sections of the hard-left that Long-Bailey is the right candidate to beat soft-left Keir Starmer and carry the Corbynite flame.
In any case, in the wake of Labour’s election defeat and questions surrounding just how much the leadership was to blame for the outcome, Long-Bailey will still have to wrestle with the title of being the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate, having been a key ally on Corbyn’s frontbench as Shadow Business Secretary and featuring prominently in the party’s campaign last year.
Prior to becoming an MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey had a career as a solicitor, specialising in NHS estates and contracts prior to her political career. The daughter of a Salford docker, she prides herself on her working class background and credits the various jobs she held for “[teaching her] more about the struggles of life than any degree or qualification ever could.” On her website, she writes that her interest in politics came from seeing her parents struggle and she used her maiden speech in Parliament to speak about the history of Salford under a Conservative Government.
Long-Bailey only joined the Labour Party in 2011, but was selected to replace the formidable Blairite former minister Hazel Blears in Salford and Eccles only three years later. After her election to Parliament in 2015, Long-Bailey was one of 36 MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 leadership contest. After he won the leadership, her loyalty was quickly rewarded with a meteoric rise through the ranks of Corbyn’s shadow frontbench. She was appointed Shadow Minister for the Treasury in 2015 and was appointed by Corbyn to the frontbench as well as the party’s ruling National Executive Committee. She was promoted as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury following the failed Parliamentary ‘coup’ against Corbyn in 2016, and was again promoted to Shadow Business Secretary in 2017.
Long-Bailey was the main architect of Labour’s ‘Green New Deal’, a key plank in the 2019 manifesto which included a number of proposals on housing including the idea of ‘municipal ownership’ where local enterprises would be owned by local communities as well as plans for the construction and provision of green housing and retrofitting existing homes.
In Parliament, she has been supportive of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon Project and called on the Government to make it viable. She has repeatedly criticised the Conservative Government for underfunding local councils, particularly in the North.
Long-Bailey confirmed she was running for the Labour leadership after most other candidates, in an article for the niche left-wing magazine Tribune, where she signalled that she intends to stand by Corbyn’s policy and agenda with a promise to “go to war with the political establishment” and create a “winning vision of a socialist future”.
Since her campaign launch, she has rowed back from Labour’s Brexit policy, saying that the party focused too much on the ‘parliamentary process’ and not enough on the concerns of voters in Leave-voting constituencies.
10 January 2020 | Emily MacPherson-Smith