Rebecca Long-Bailey surges ahead with the backing of the Corbynite Momentum group – but will the row over abortion derail her campaign?
- Rebecca Long-Bailey has received the support of Corbynite Momentum group
- She will launch campaign to become next Labour leader in Manchester today
- However, she has faced criticism after appearing to back stricter abortion laws
Rebecca Long-Bailey will launch her campaign to be Labour’s next leader today amid a row over her stance on abortion.
At a rally in Manchester, the hard-Left shadow business secretary will pledge to end the ‘gentlemen’s club of politics’ and argue for ‘modern, democratic public ownership’.
She received a huge boost last night when members of the Corbynite Momentum group backed her. The group vowed to ‘mobilise thousands’ to campaign on her behalf.
But she became embroiled in a row after appearing to back stricter abortion laws.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the hard-Left shadow business secretary, will launch her Labour leadership campaign today
It emerged that the MP, who is Roman Catholic, said during the election campaign that she ‘did not agree’ with the current law which allows women to terminate their child on grounds of disability after 24 weeks.
She said she did not believe there should be any difference in the law based on whether the child was disabled or not. And she told Catholic priests that she would make sure their ‘views are heard’ in a consultation on abortion policy.
Last night her team insisted these were her personal views, not a policy position, saying she ‘unequivocally supports a woman’s right to choose’.
But one Labour MEP urged people not to vote for Miss Long-Bailey over her views on women’s rights. And leadership rival Jess Phillips tweeted: ‘I always have and always will trust women to make the decisions about their bodies.’
Miss Long-Bailey, who is in front in the leadership race according to a poll published on Wednesday, made her comments in her response to a pre-election questionnaire sent to parliamentary candidates by Catholic priests at Salford cathedral.
Under current rules it is possible to have an abortion up to 23 weeks and six days of pregnancy. But there is no time limit on when an abortion may take place if there is evidence of a fatal foetal abnormality or a significant risk to the life of the mother.
The Salford and Eccles MP was asked if she would remove ‘discrimination on grounds of disability’ in abortion law.
She has won the backing of the Corbynite Momentum group but has also become embroiled in a row after appearing to back stricter abortion laws
She said: ‘I personally do not agree with this [the current] position and agree with the words of the Disability Rights Commission that ‘the context in which parents choose whether to have a child should be one in which disability and non-disability are valued equally’.’
The MP said while she would ‘never contemplate abortion’ herself she had ‘tried to understand the agonising decisions many feel forced to make’. She told the priests: ‘Labour would propose a wide public consultation on the detail of new laws and regulations and I will play my part in that discussion in ensuring that your views are heard.’
A spokesman for Miss Long-Bailey criticised the Labour news and gossip website Red Roar which first reported on the comments, saying ‘fake news peddlers’ were trying to ‘propagate a misleading narrative’.
He said she voted in favour of decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland in 2019.
But Labour MEP Julie Ward tweeted: ‘I have been fighting for women’s rights all my life. I cannot possibly vote for a person (a woman no less) who does NOT share my values.’