Rebecca Long-Bailey makes her leadership pitch as the natural successor to Corbyn

Long-Bailey received the warmest response of conference so far as she highlighted her socialist credentials.

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In and amidst the high drama of this morning’s Supreme Court ruling, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary, has quietly made her pitch to be the person who succeeds Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. 

Making her big speech to the party conference this morning with a string of bold policy announcements to combat climate change, Long-Bailey segued into a broader discussion of her background, political values and vision for the party, in a clear bid to be considered the natural successor to Corbyn.

Following her announcement of plans for a “green industrial revolution” - including renationalising  the energy grid and investing £300m in community car clubs - Long-Bailey made a rather noticeable departure from the immediate policy issues at hand to reflect on her upbringing, before setting out a passionate case for socialism, to a warm reception from the membership.  

Reflecting that she had “done really well” in life, Long-Bailey told conference: “It wasn’t a glittering story of triumph over adversity, it was sheer luck.”

“A system based on luck is a lottery ticket that most of us will lose. My socialism and your socialism isn’t about luck,” she went on, “but based on climate and social justice.” 

As the crowd cheered, Long-Bailey set out Labour’s vision for society, spanning beyond her own policy brief, and concluded with the declaration, “Nothing will ever be too good for you!”, a reworking of Bill Heywood’s line that ‘nothing is too good for the working class’. 

She was met with a standing ovation and huge cheers from the audience, in what has been the most enthusiastic response of the conference, along with the reaction to today’s Supreme Court ruling. 

Jeremy Corbyn arrived with Long-Bailey and was present on the stage for the duration of her speech. His presence, along with that of John McDonnell, will be taken as a tacit indication of his support, although he was also waiting  to deliver his own address on the Supreme Court ruling. He began by warmly wishing “massive congratulations to Becky on a great speech.”

As a litmus test of whether people are correct to tip Long-Bailey as the natural successor to Corbyn, today’s speech suggests the membership is strongly behind her. While Thornberry and Starmer both made effective pitches yesterday, only Long-Bailey managed truly to stir the crowds and produce the “goose-bump” moments that matter. 

On this fast-moving day, it doesn’t look impossible that a new Labour leader will need to be selected soon. If that is the case, Long-Bailey is waiting in the wings.

 

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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