Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
17 January 2020

Will Rebecca Long-Bailey’s views on abortion affect her Labour leadership campaign?

Controversy over Long-Bailey’s message to her local deanery may overshadow her speech in Manchester tonight, in which she’ll launch her campaign for the fifth time. 

By Stephen Bush

Just how many times will the Labour leadership candidates launch their campaigns? Rebecca Long-Bailey will launch hers for the fifth time today with a speech in Manchester – and if you think that sounds excessive, remember that she is the middle of the pack as far as launch announcements are concerned, tied with Keir Starmer and behind Lisa Nandy with seven.

But this is a very different flavour of launch, the first since her campaign was retooled. I’m told that the authors of her first two launch pieces, for the Guardian and Tribune, have been quietly binned. Her latest, which sets out the pitch she’ll make in her speech this evening, also for the Guardian, is a striking improvement on those.

That may be overshadowed by the row about reproductive rights, and Long-Bailey’s message to her local deanery, in which she spoke frankly about her opposition to abortions after the 24th week in the case of disability and her personal opposition to abortion, which she would “never contemplate”.

The view both that abortion is not a route that they would ever choose themselves, but that legal and safe abortions should be available as a matter of choice is not an uncommon one among the Parliamentary Labour Party, perhaps even a majority view among its religious cohort. This is the position that Liberal Democrat strategists wanted Tim Farron to take in the 2017 election, but for a variety of reasons, he was unable to do so.

That helped to wreck the 2017 Liberal Democrat campaign. Will this have a similar effect for Long-Bailey? I doubt it, personally, precisely because I always thought that had Farron been able to plainly set out the difference between his religious outlook and his policy position, most people would have been able to accept that. Long-Bailey is already occupying the space that Farron could not. If she loses, it won’t be because of her message to Salford Deanery.

Select and enter your email address Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A quick and essential guide to domestic politics from the New Statesman's Westminster team. A weekly newsletter helping you understand the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email. Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

But I could be wrong. The subtext of Long-Bailey’s leadership pitch is that a change of tone on issues of security and nation – progressive patriotism, a clear and affirmative answer on the use of the nuclear deterrent – allied with the economic pitch of Corbyn 1.0 can win power. One of the risks that Lisa Nandy is grappling with is, how do you become the candidate with a vision for towns without being seen by Labour Party members as the candidate for social conservatism? Long-Bailey may have a similar set of risks – and her overall pitch may mean that a largely secular membership is unable to differentiate between the positions of Farron and Long-Bailey.

Content from our partners
To truly tackle regional disparities, we need a new type of devolution
How smart meters helped a business thrive
The case for sustainable thematic investing