Labour leadership candidates plead for 'unity' at hustings in Liverpool

18 January 2020, 14:29

The Labour leadership contenders pleaded for unity of their first major hustings
The Labour leadership contenders pleaded for unity of their first major hustings. Picture: PA Images

By Victoria Smith

Candidates for the Labour leadership have called for unity in the party as they tried to win over members in the first regional hustings of the competition.

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, a frontrunner backed by left-wing pressure group Momentum, called on the members to "reunify and rebuild".

"We have to be honest that over the last four years we haven't been united," she told the audience in Liverpool.

Jess Phillips, a key critic of Jeremy Corbyn, said the "name calling within the party has been horrendous" and called for the new Labour leadership to create a "broad team".

She has been criticised for making incendiary comments knifing the outgoing Labour leader "in the front, not the back".

The Labour leadership contenders fought for support of CLPs and members a the hustings
The Labour leadership contenders fought for support of CLPs and members a the hustings. Picture: PA Images

Commenting on the difficulties of being in opposition, shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: "Being leader of the Labour Party in opposition is, quite frankly, the worst job in the world.

"That's what we are applying for. In the end we have to wade through an awful lot of s**t."

She added that Labour members should end the internal conflict and "concentrate on fighting the Conservative Party.

During the event, Ms Phillips lashed out against how the current leadership "lost the moral high ground" over its handling of anti-Semitism in the party.

"Jewish people were scared of Labour winning the election. That's deeply serious.

"The Labour Party has now lost the credibility to handle its own complaints system.

"We have lost the moral high ground to fight racism in this country because of the way we have handled anti-Semitism."

The timetable for the contest was announced this week as several candidates launched their campaigns, with the new leader being decided by April 4 this year.

Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and affiliate nominations opened on Wednesday, the second part of the process, where Ms Phillips and Ms Thornberry will be fighting to stay on the ballot paper.

Members will be able to vote from February 21 to April 2, and those with an interest in the leadership race may register as a supporter for £25.

The winner will be announced at a special Labour conference on April 4.

Additional reporting by Ewan Quayle

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