“We have a mountain to climb & the crises we face are stark. But we have our socialist vision, a path to victory & most importantly, we have each other.”Rebecca Long Bailey
As the Labour leadership campaign moves on, Rebecca Long Bailey is showing why she can win for Labour, writes Matt Willgress.
Following a recent event at which Jeremy Corbyn also spoke, it was widely reported that Rebecca Long Bailey outlined how in 2016 a member of the shadow Treasury team deleted shared files when they resigned as part of anti-Corbyn MPs stepping down en masse in what became known as the failed “chicken coup” attempt.
Describing what occurred, she said she had a “feeling that something wasn’t right” and went back to her office where a staffer explained that shared files regarding the government’s Finance Bill had gone.
She then explained how “I went in and I spoke to John [McDonnell] and I started ranting and I think my exact words were, if they think they are going to get rid of us then they’re going to have to carry me out kicking and screaming,” before outlining how she and supportive MPs then had to work flat out to ensure Labour was able to hold the Tories to account on their Finance Bill.
She added: “I don’t ever want to see anything like that again. We can never have anything like that happening again.”
Not only should this act as a timely reminder of how some MPs damaged Labour so much in the summer of 2016, but it’s also a strong reminder of how much Rebecca Long Bailey has contributed to our party in recent years, and how much of a team player she is.
In contrast, both Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy resigned at that point from their roles.
Confirming her account, Jeremy Corbyn is reported to have said at the event that in opposing the aforementioned Finance Bill in Parliament, she “gave an absolutely brilliant performance, because she was totally dedicated to standing up for our party against the Tories.”
He is also reported to have added that “I’ve known Becky since she came into Parliament and we’ve worked very well together,” and that “she has done the most to develop our trade union policies.”
The last point is a vital one. Rebecca Long Bailey may have been a new MP in 2015, but it hasn’t just been in the area of employment rights and working with unions that Rebecca Long Bailey has been a key architect of much needed new policies in Labour in recent years.
She has also been at the centre of Labour’s plans on why we need a real and radical Green New Deal, policies to revive our high streets, ensuring that we have a genuine industrial strategy to benefit all regions and nations, and in developing ideas around how we can use 21st-century public ownership to take back control of our economy.
In developing popular policies and approaches in these areas, she has worked with trade unions, party members, social movements and others to ensure comprehensive and radical alternatives to the status quo.
As I have written previously, this is a key difference between the candidates.
Only in Rebecca Long Bailey do we have a candidate who has shown in recent years that she can not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to firmly opposing austerity and developing a progressive economic alternative based on a radical and credible “investment not cuts” agenda.
In this regard, not only was she the only one of the current leadership candidates to vote against the Tory welfare Bill in 2015, she has also shown that she gets why the two main crises we face — in terms of living standards and the climate emergency — need transformative solutions, based on investment in our future.
As party chair Ian Lavery put it when announcing his support for her, “she built much of what we got right over the last four years.”
Importantly he then added, how in his opinion she also “has a sensitive understanding of what went wrong, forged in a spirit of genuine inquiry not point-scoring,” meaning that she is not for curbing our ambitions, but instead for forging a credible path to power based on restoring trust in politics and faith that we can change things for the better.
As Lavery put it, “Labour doesn’t need to ‘represent’ working-class communities, it needs to be formed by working-class communities from Hackney to Hartlepool, from Durham to Dundee. This is a job involving long-term workplace, community and party organising. We need a leader who understands ideas and understands people, too.”
And this has been a key part of her message at Rebecca Long Bailey’s packed-out campaign events so far where her understanding of these challenges really comes to the fore.
We need to have an honest discussion about both what went wrong and what we’ve got right since 2015, and then we need to get the Labour Party battle-ready for the fights coming up.
As part of this, we need to further develop, better explain and massively popularise transformative solutions to the problems Britain and the world face.
We must not abandon this approach for the failed “austerity-lite” politics that have destroyed support for Labour’s sister parties across much of Europe, and that is why we must elect Rebecca Long Bailey as Labour leader.
I’ll leave the final words to Rebecca Long Bailey herself: “We have a mountain to climb, comrades, and the crises we face are stark. But we have our socialist vision, a path to victory and most importantly, we have each other.”
Let’s do this.
- This article originally appeared in the Morning Star. Matt Willgress is the editor of Labour Outlook. Sign up to support Rebecca at https://www.rebeccaforleader.org.