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25 June 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 5:51am

Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall has pledged a “Living Wage society“ – but what does it mean?

The Labour leadership candidate wants to extend the Low Pay Commission's legal remit.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Liz Kendall announced her most concrete policy commitment this week, in her campaign to be Labour leader.

Talking about her general pitch and background to a room full of female Labour activists and politicians, she ended the event with her idea to create a “Living Wage society”.

Her pledge, if she were to become Labour leader, and then Prime Minister, is to extend the legal remit of the Low Pay Commission to include working “with employers, unions and civil society to identify practical, non-statutory ways to move wages towards the living wage, sector by sector”.

At the moment, the Commission’s key remit is to set the legal national minimum wage. Kendall would like to add pushing for the living wage as part of its responsibilities.

“That’s why today I’m pledging to move Britain to a living wage society,” she told the audience. “And that one of the first areas I will take action on as Labour leader is the scandal of low pay in social care.”

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Her focus on decent pay for care workers is central to her drive to challenge the low pay that has made workers’ lives so difficult, particularly since the recession.

But what does this mean?

Kendall is dismissed by her detractors as “Blairism reheated”, and championed by her backers as “the candidate who can win”. The Blairite label has stuck to her ever since she became a prominent name in British politics.

“I’m a bit worried about her rhetoric,” one Labour health source tells me. “The free schools, the defence spending, the points-based immigration system. She needs to counter-balance all that.”

So is Kendall’s focus on low pay an attempt to show her leftier, softer side? The Kendall team denies this, highlighting how pay for care workers has always been an interest of hers, considering her role as shadow minister for care and older people, and point to her long-held interest in trying to combat the proliferation of low-paid jobs in general.

“I can see why people would want to put this in a box,” says one insider, “but I know this is something she’s passionate about”.

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