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WITH MPs’ nominations closing on Monday, Labour’s leadership contest really kicks into gear next week.
For the left across the labour movement, there is one clear standout candidate in this election — Rebecca Long Bailey.
As she wrote in her launch article: “We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime.”
With leadership candidates keen to win support among a rapidly grown and changed Labour membership in recent years, we can expect many of them to pronounce support for a bolder agenda than Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents did in 2015.
But there is one key difference between the candidates. Only in Long Bailey do we have a candidate who has shown in recent years that she can not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to firmly opposing austerity and developing a progressive economic alternative.
First, she — unlike all the other candidates likely to be on the ballot paper — voted against the Tory Welfare Bill in the summer of 2015.
Second, and importantly, she doesn’t just now claim to agree with the popular elements of Labour’s “investment not cuts” policies, she has spent the last four years being a key architect of many of them.
Vitally this included the need for a Green New Deal, where her work and proposals were applauded across our movement and beyond.
This is an area which will become more urgent by the month in the period ahead as the climate emergency deepens.
Long Bailey also led up on policies to revive our high streets, having a genuine industrial strategy to benefit all regions and nations, and in developing ideas around how we can use 21st-century public ownership to take back control of our economy.
In other words, we know she means it when it comes to transformative solutions to both plunging living standards and the climate crisis.
As James Smith pointed out in the Independent, this offers a path forward that “place[s] emphasis on the palpable inefficiency of the economy as it is currently organised — the corporate failures it rewards and the individual talents and local knowledge it wastes.”
Long Bailey also understands that our political system is broken and our economy rigged, when pledging to “upend the broken political system that has held back our communities for decades.”
She understands that “real wealth and power must be returned to the people of Britain, and their desire for control over their own lives and the future of their communities must be at the heart of our agenda.”
She is also the only candidate advocating the opening up of Labour’s policy process to the movement at every level and is clear that “our promise to democratise society will ring hollow if we can’t even democratise our own party.
Long Bailey is clearly committed to the Labour-union link and has shown again and again support for working people in dispute.
As well as the need to build support and organise in workplaces, she has pointed out that the fight against the Tories starts now, and is not just in Parliament, arguing that “to rebuild trust you have to turn up and Labour needs to be at the heart of communities making real, concrete change long before the next election.”
Furthermore, she is in the only candidate to make the vital points that while “for some, there will be a temptation to compromise on our anti-racist and internationalist principles,” she “will never throw migrants or BAME communities under the bus,” adding that “we must defeat Johnson and the nationalist right [and] never pander to them.”
She voted against bombing Syria in 2016 and has clearly opposed Johnson’s kow-towing to Donald Trump’s war drive on Iran.
As part of this, she has also made the essential broader point that “it’s time Boris Johnson stopped outsourcing our foreign policy to Donald Trump.”
It is not just enough to oppose one example of Trumpism in action, we need a fundamentally different approach.
Finally, I would argue that Long Bailey is the total opposite of Johnson in a way which can appeal to voters.
She is not an egotist; she is a team player. She doesn’t feel entitled to rule as part of the elite; she has gone from working in a pawn shop to Parliament.
She is not yet another career politician based in London; she is someone with real-life experience who then went on to represent Salford.
Every time I have heard her speak at an event, she comes across as authentic and genuinely committed to the ideas she is espousing to make people’s lives better.
She offers hope and that is what we need now more than ever in the days of Johnson and Trump with their politics of hate and division.
As she said this week: “with the climate crisis spiralling and the far right on the march, we must regroup for the struggles ahead. Our task is to build a winning vision of a socialist future, and this task has never been more urgent.”
Let’s get to work and make this happen.
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