Lisa Nandy made a head start on the rest of the Labour leadership field this afternoon. Invited to propose the motion re-electing Lindsay Hoyle as Speaker, the Wigan MP gave an assured, well-received speech that colleagues inevitably interpreted as her opening salvo in the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
No wonder. Nandy – as the gig demanded – paid fulsome tribute to Hoyle, who sits for Chorley, the constituency next door to Wigan. But she also stressed the importance of the Speaker and his broad Lancastrian tones projecting a familiar and accessible face to the public at a time when “the system in this place is not working” and MPs “can feel the ground crumbling beneath our feet”. There was also what felt like a very deliberate reference to “communities that have just sent shockwaves through the political system”. Or, put another way: the towns Labour lost.
Her five-minute speech was as much a prescription for solving the opposition’s woes as it was a case for re-electing Hoyle, if not more. In delegating what is usually a straightforward formality to Nandy, the Speaker gifted her the first audition for the leadership. Crucially, it came before a packed house – and with it the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and its 2019 intake. The setting and timing give her a head start on other putative contenders, who will have to wait to enter the bearpit of tonight’s PLP meeting. There was red meat for the Labour membership, too: most strikingly, Nandy quoted the unseated Corbynite Laura Pidcock’s maiden speech as she called for Westminster to challenge rather than perpetuate privilege.
None of this was lost on Nandy’s colleagues, of course. Indeed, some were not best pleased that Hoyle had given her the opportunity – or that she took it so enthusiastically. In the words of one well-placed source, many were “furious that Lindsay Hoyle has tried to bounce Lisa Nandy on them as the next leader of the Labour Party”. Even allowing for a backlash, however, it is hard to imagine that she will find it any more difficult to secure 21 nominations after her moment in the spotlight.
Update: The Speaker’s office has been in touch to clarify that Hoyle had always intended to ask a constituency neighbour to propose him for re-election. Another, Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP for nearby Ribble Valley, dragged Hoyle to the chair with Nandy.