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17 January 2020

The Bakers’ Union clears Rebecca Long-Bailey’s path to the Labour leadership ballot

The endorsement of the left-wing food union suggests Long-Bailey will enjoy a straightforward journey to the next round of the contest. 

By Patrick Maguire

The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union has nominated Rebecca Long-Bailey for the Labour leadership – a boost for the shadow business secretary’s campaign ahead of its formal launch this morning. 

As affiliate endorsements go, this one is unsurprising, if instructive. The BFAWU, as well as being one of the smaller affiliated trade unions, is among the most radical. It has been a reliable supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee – opposing, for instance, attempts to impose the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in 2018. And, having nominated Richard Burgon for the deputy post last night, its direction of travel on the leadership question was clear enough. 

It also provides a salutary reminder: that not every union’s nomination is genuinely in play. While the TSSA’s decision to ballot its members on whether to support Long-Bailey or Keir Starmer took some by surprise yesterday – except, it should be said, both of their campaigns – the BFAWU’s nomination will shock nobody. That isn’t to say the union had no reason to support another candidate: Starmer released a video from the picket line of the union’s McDonald’s strike during the election campaign, while Lisa Nandy’s Wigan constituency has a Heinz factory, and with it, an active union membership. What neither of those candidates enjoy, however, is Long-Bailey’s factional alignment with unions such as the BFAWU. 

So as well as providing one of the three affiliates (and two unions) that she will need to reach the ballot, Long-Bailey’s first endorsement indicates a second (and third) from a smaller union will be easy to secure. While some at a leadership level in the labour movement favour Starmer on the grounds of electability, their executives and grassroots are still in the place one would expect. That suggests Long-Bailey can look forward to the nominations of Aslef, the Fire Brigades Union, Unite and the Communication Workers Union with some confidence.

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