Jess Phillips bowed out of the Labour leadership race this afternoon after accepting that she could not unite the bitterly fractured party in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous election humiliation.
The Birmingham Yardley MP announced she was calling time on her attempt to replace him after her campaign ground to a halt while vital trade union backing went to her rivals.
In a candid video message to supporters the 38-year-old, who has been subjected to horrific abuse from Corbynistas online over the past year or more, admitted that she could not bring the various wings of the party together.
It came as the centrist GMB union threw its weight behind Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, boosting her hopes of making the final cut.
In her message Ms Phillips, said: ‘I truly believe that unless we talk to the country on their terms, not just on ours, that we won’t be able to make the gains we need to win an election – and [to] do what everyone in the Labour movement wants to do, and that is make people’s lives better.
‘In order to do that, the Labour Party will need to select a candidate that can unite all parts of our movement – the union movement, the members and elected representatives – I have to be honest that at this time, that person isn’t me.’
She did not lend her support to any of the remaining four candidates directly but her call for a unity candidate would seem to rule out future backing for Corbynista candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Emily Thornberry paid tribute to her bid, saying: ‘We need to broaden our debate, not narrow it, and force the two favourites to prove they’re up to the fight by pitting them against some real strength.
‘Jess is a sad loss in that effort, but we will keep going.’
Emily Thornberry told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme today that she believes Boris Johnson has a ‘woman problem’
In a candid video message to supporters she admitted that she could not bring the various wings of the party together after a disastrous election result in December.
YouGov said that based on its poll of Labour members, Ms Phillips decision to pull out means that Sir Keir Starmer could win the leadership vote in April in the first round.
Who is Jess Phillips?
- She has been Birmingham Yardley MP since 2015
- Before that she worked with victims of domestic abuse for Women’s Aid
- The 38-year-old is married to Tom and they have two sons
- Her father was a teacher and her mother a senior NHS manager
- Has long faced opposition from hardline left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn
- The 38-year-old’s willingness to criticise the leader has won her few friends among Corbynistas, with a groundswell of opposition to her taking over
- Last year she told how she got 600 rape threats online in a single night, including from Corbynistas
- Confident performer in the media and the House of Commons chamber
- Had a tricky start to her campaign, backtracking after she suggested she would campaign to take the UK back into the European Union if she takes over from Jeremy Corbyn
- In March she said she would ‘be a good prime minister’.
- At a time when several moderate MPs had quit Labour she added: ‘I feel like I can’t leave the Labour Party without rolling the dice one more time. I owe it that. But it doesn’t own me. It’s nothing more than a logo if it doesn’t stand for something that I actually care about – it’s just a f***ing rose’.
Candidates need backing from three affiliates including unions to get through to the final ballot of members to avoid taking the harder route of picking up nominations from at least 33 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).
With Sir Keir picking up Unison and Usdaw, and Rebecca Long-Bailey expected to with Unite support later this week, she was relying on picking up the GMB today.
She acknowledged on Monday that it would be a ‘bold roll of the dice’ for Labour members to elect her as leader.
But announcing support for Ms Nandy this afternoon, union secretary general Tim Roache said: ‘The more members see of Lisa in this contest the more impressed they will be by her ambition, optimism and decisive leadership. GMB is proud to nominate her.’
This morning Ms Phillips had insisted immigration to the UK was not ‘too high’ as she desperately tried to kick start her faltering campaign.
She launched an appeal to moderate members of the party as she said Labour needed to tell voters that ‘immigration is great’.
Meanwhile, Emily Thornberry today tried to salvage her campaign as she argued having a woman at the top of the party would be an ‘advantage’ because Boris Johnson has a ‘woman problem’.
Ms Phillips, Ms Thornberry and Lisa Nandy are all at risk of being left behind in the race to take over from Jeremy Corbyn.
Sir Keir Starmer, the favourite in the contest, yesterday became the first candidate to make it onto the final ballot paper after securing the backing of another union.
He is expected to be joined on the ballot by fellow front runner Rebecca Long-Bailey who is likely to be endorsed by the powerful Unite union on Friday.
YouGov said that based on its poll of Labour members, Jess Phillips decision to pull out means that Sir Keir Starmer could win the leadership vote in April in the first round
But it is make or break time for the other three candidates with a potential crunch point coming this afternoon, with the GMB union due to announce its endorsement.
Piers Morgan grills Emily Thornberry over her ‘multi-millionaire’ status
Emily Thornberry was grilled by Piers Morgan over Labour ‘sneering’ at rich and successful people as he asked her if she is proud of becoming a ‘multi-millionaire’.
Ms Thornberry, who is battling to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, has spoken repeatedly about her working-class upbringing during the campaign.
Today she insisted she was not worried about talking about her success as Mr Morgan suggested the current Labour leadership was ‘on a mission to take down anyone rich’.
Mr Morgan said: ‘Correct me if I am wrong but you are now fortunately enough to be a multi-millionaire now, right?’
Ms Thornberry replied: ‘Well, I own a house in London so therefore the house is worth a lot and has goner up a lot over the last 20 years since I have owned it.’
Mr Morgan said: ‘Are you worried about admitting that…’
Ms Thornberry interrupted and said ‘no’ as Mr Morgan continued and said: ‘… simply because Jeremy Corbyn and his top people seem to be on a mission to take down anyone rich and successful in this country.
‘You have gone from literally being so poor your cats had to be put down to someone who has been successful and as a family you are rich, by comparison, to most people in the country.
‘Is that something that you are proud of and should people who have also worked hard and achieved and made money in this country, should they be saluted rather than sneered at?’
Ms Nandy is the favourite to win the centrist union’s backing but without it her hopes of becoming Labour leader could be all but over.
To make it onto the final ballot the five candidates must win the nominations of 33 local constituency Labour parties or three Labour affiliates, including at least two trade unions.
That means without the backing of one of the major unions, a candidate will likely have to go the much more arduous route of sewing up a raft of endorsements from local parties in order to stand a chance.
While Ms Nandy’s hopes of making it through to the third and final stage of the battle, it looks increasingly difficult for Ms Thornberry and Ms Phillips to make it.
Ms Phillips today uses an op-ed in the Independent to try to win over moderate Labour activists with a positive message on immigration.
She said Labour needed to ‘bust’ the ‘most pernicious myth… that working-class communities are hostile to immigration’.
She said this belief ‘leads to political arm-wrestling between the left and right over who can sound the toughest on immigration.’
She then added: ‘Why, when we’re asked whether immigration is too high, do Labour politicians so often fumble their response? Let’s say what we think: no, it isn’t.’
The Birmingham Yardley MP then challenged all Labour members to ‘come together to create policies that both reflect our shared humanity and work in practice’.
‘That starts by saying immigration is great, and ends with a Labour government that enacts our values,’ she said.
Ms Thornberry today tried to win support by suggesting she would be the Labour leadership candidate which Mr Johnson would least like to face.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ‘It is an advantage to be a woman leader at this time because I think Boris Johnson has a woman problem, most definitely.
Sir Keir Starmer is the first Labour leadership candidate to make it onto the final ballot paper after he won the endorsement of the Usdaw union
Lisa Nandy is the favourite to win the endorsement of the GMB union. If she does not secure it her hopes of getting onto the final ballot appear slim
‘He certainly has a problem with me. I think the Labour Party should think about that.’
Ms Thornberry declined to say who she would vote for out of Sir Keir and Ms Long-Bailey should she fail to make the final shortlist.
‘I’m not getting into this,’ she told GMB. ‘I’m in this to win it.’
Sir Keir last night cemented his place on the ballot paper as he picked up the backing of the Usdaw union.
The union’s general secretary Paddy Lillis said its members ‘desperately need Labour in power’ as they also backed Angela Rayner for deputy.
Sir Keir has already been backed by Unison and environmental group Sera, which means he now through to the final vote.
Candidates who do secure the required support will be put to a ballot of party members between February 21 and April 2.
The winner of the contest is due to be announced at a special event on April 4.
Who is in the frame for the Labour leadership?
Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Kier Starmer was raised by socialist parents who named him after Keir Hardie, the Labour leader’s founder and a colossus of the socialist movement.
The current bookies’ favourite to win the leadership, in Who’s Who he refers to his parents Rodney and Josephine Starmer as ‘Rod and Jo’.
The shadow Brexit secretary was an out-and-out Remainer who frequently clashed with Corbyn’s inner circle over his overt support for a second referendum.
The 57-year-old lawyer, a former director of public prosecutions, was kept largely out of sight during the election campaign as the party tried, unsuccessfully, to hold on to Leave seats in the north.
Distrusted by hard left fans of Mr Corbyn, the Holborn and St Pancras MP set out his stall to be a unity candidate, attacking ‘factionalism’ and saying the party needed to include both Momentum and fans of Tony Blair.
And he dangled a carrot in front of Corbynites, saying he did not want the party to move too far rightwards.
He also played up his humble roots, with the Oxford-educated lawyer Sir Keir, who owns homes in London and Surrey worth more than £2million, saying in December: ‘I know what it’s like. I actually never had been in any workplace other than a factory until I left home for university. I’d never been in an office.’
He said he did not want a return to the era of Tony Blair, telling the BBC this morning: ‘I don’t need someone else’s name tattooed on my head to make decisions.’
But he might face difficulty if he is seen as not left wing enough, or if the party feels it needs a northern voice to win back seats.
Emily Thornberry has been dogged by claims of snobbery towards working-class voters for years.
The shadow foreign secretary, whose Islington seat neighbours that of Jeremy Corbyn, was forced to resign from Ed Miliband’s front bench in 2014 after tweeting an apparently mocking image of a house in Rochester with a white van and England flags outside.
Labour came third in the by-election in the constituency, which was won by Ukip.
After December’s election failure she was embroiled in a furious row with ex-minister Caroline Flint, who lost her Don Vallley seat to the Tories.
Ms Flint claimed Mrs Thornberry told a northern MP privately that Brexit voters were ‘stupid’.
Mrs Thornberry has angrily denied the allegation and threatened to sue Ms Flint.
A lively performer in Parliament, she has admirers among Labour’s clutch of metropolitan MPs.
Ms Thornberry’s London seat and vocal pro-Remain position could tell against her – although the membership is generally pro-EU.
Rebecca Long Bailey
The shadow business secretary is seen as the ‘continuity’ candidate, having been closely involved in Labour’s lurch to the Left.
Frequently deployed on media, the 40-year-old’s career has been pushed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who has long tipped her as a future leader.
Entering the contest she set out her stall saying she will keep pushing ‘our socialist agenda’, stressing her hard-Left credentials.
In a thinly-veiled swipe at rival Keir Starmer, she insisted she had not been happy with the party’s Brexit stance in the election campaign, saying it had eroded ‘trust in our communities’. She also admitted Labour should have been ‘tougher’ in addressing a wave of vile anti-Semitism among activists.
But Ms Long Bailey gave a staunch defence of Mr Corbyn, complaining that he had been subjected to ‘unprecedented levels of criticism and attack against his own personal character’ and she felt he was the ‘right man’ with the ‘right ideas’.
Given Labour’s dire need to reconnect with its traditional heartlands, her northern constituency and accent will also be selling points.
The Wigan MP washed her hands of the Corbyn project some time ago – which could be a boon given its humiliating failure in the election.
But the 40-year-old has maintained a high media profile, and has strong left-wing credentials away without being marked on the extreme.
While the leadership desperately tried to stay neutral, she pushed hard for Labour to adopt a more Leave policy and accept the verdict of the referendum.
Announcing her run she said: ‘Without what were once our Labour heartlands, we will never win power in Westminster … I have heard you loud and clear.’
Ms Nandy was involved in unsuccessful talks to support Theresa May’s deal, but has indicated she would not support Boris Johnson’s harder Brexit.
However, some MPs complain that she is ‘lightweight’ and failed to make good on her rhetoric about allowing Brexit to happen.
‘I’d rather be found dead in a ditch than invite them’: Durham miners warn new northern Tory MPs they will need police PROTECTION if they attend annual gala
Tory MPs who took a swathe of traditional Labour seats across the North of England in December were warned today they would need police protection if they dared to attend a traditional miners event.
Alan Mardghum, a former pitworker who now runs the annual Durham Miners’ Gala, said he would ‘rather be found dead in a ditch than invite them’ to the July event.
The gala, which sees thousands of people takes to the streets of the historic city, has strong socialist link, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn the guest of honour in recent years.
Mr Mardghum said there was ‘categorically no chance’ he would invite Tories who won long-term Labour seats including North West Durham, which Richard Holden took from Laura Pidcock.
The Tories are largely reviled in mining communities because of Margaret Thatcher’s suppression of the Miners’ Strike – led by National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) boss Arthur Scargill – in 1984.
But they took a number of so-called Red Wall Labour seats as Jeremy Corbyn’s party collapsed in the December 12 election, handing Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority.
They included four of the seven seats in County Durham.
‘To paraphrase (Boris) Johnson, I’d rather be found dead in a ditch than invite them or Johnson to the gala,’ Mr Mardghum told the BBC’s Look North.
Alan Mardghum, a former pitworker who now runs the annual Durham Miners’ Gala, said he would ‘rather be found dead in a ditch than invite them’ to the July event
Beginning in 1871, the gala is the biggest trade union event in Europe and is part of an annual celebration of socialism
In response, new Bishop Aukland Tory MP Dehenna Davison tweeted: ‘See you there Alan’
‘We never saw Arthur Scargill invited to the Tory Party Conference, why would we invite Tories to the miners’ gala?
‘They did their best to absolutely destroy the Durham miners and the miners of Great Britain.
‘Can I stop them coming to Durham? It’s a free country, but I would suggest if any of them are thinking of coming … they might need to speak to the police to make sure they are safe on the day.’
In response, new Bishop Aukland Tory MP Dehenna Davison tweeted: ‘See you there Alan.’
And new Ashfield MP, former miner Lee Anderson, added: ‘As an ex miner and a Conservative MP I would be glad to join you my friend.’
Beginning in 1871, the gala is the biggest trade union event in Europe and is part of an annual celebration of socialism.
Last year’s event marked the 150th anniversary of the Durham Miners Association, with around 200,000 people attending to see traditional colliery brass bands march through the city.
Mr Mardghum told the BBC he would ‘rather be found dead in a ditch’ than invite Boris Johnson (above, welcoming Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to 10 Downing Street today) to the gala
The Labour leader, pictured with his wife Laura Alvarez, watched traditional colliery brass bands marching through the city below last year