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27 March 2020updated 23 Jul 2021 9:22am

Rebecca Long-Bailey: “I will be behind the next Labour leader 101 per cent”

The shadow business secretary and leadership contender commits to not publicly criticising the next leader if she doesn't win the contest.

By Ailbhe Rea

Rebecca Long-Bailey has committed to being behind the next leader of the Labour party “101 per cent” if she doesn’t win the leadership contest. 

In an interview with the New Statesman podcast, the shadow business secretary and MP for Salford and Eccles said that after five years as a “disunited party”, “the only way we’re ever going to win a general election is by bringing all the different elements of the party together. And it’s actually really positive to have different groups within the party.”

“It’s not positive to fight each other. It’s not positive to have MPs or members saying things publicly to the media about the elected leader of the party or indeed each other. It undermines everything we’re trying to do.

“But if we can have those policy discussions in private and once we’ve agreed those positions, we’ll come out stronger and we all should unify behind the leader. That’s certainly what I’ll do.”

She continued: “If I don’t win this leadership contest, whoever wins, I might not agree with them all of the time – and I might tell them that privately – but as far as the general public’s concerned, I’ll be behind them 101% per cent.” 

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Emphasising her commitment not to air internal debates to the media, she added: “It’s healthy to have those debates but not to do it publicly. We’ve seen how destructive that’s been. Why would anybody vote for a party when the MPs in that party won’t even support the leader? It’s absurd.” 

Long-Bailey agreed that the coronavirus crisis has created greater unity within Labour than the party has seen for many years. “Definitely. We know that the lives of our constituents are at stake and any Labour MP would move heaven and earth to make sure the people they represent are looked after and that they’re safe.” 

“There’s been a really good level of collaboration across the party on this issue,” she added. “We’ve all been working very productively with each other.”

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“Even prior to this crisis I think a lot of members and even our own MPs took heart in the way that the leadership campaign was being conducted, because the candidates have generally been very nice to each other and very cooperative. It’s set out very firm foundations for the future, whoever wins this. Long may it continue. Fingers crossed that it will.”

The full interview, in which Long-Bailey discusses the things she wishes Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy had been pressed on more during the contest, as well as the economic response to the coronavirus outbreak and the misconceptions around universal basic income, can be accessed on Spotify, Acast, Google or wherever you normally get your podcasts. 

An ad-free version for NS subscribers is available here