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Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis face a last-minute battle to progress to the next stage of the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as U.K. Labour Party leader.
With the window closing at 2:30 p.m. on Monday to meet the threshold of 22 nominations needed from Labour members of Parliament and members of the European Parliament in order to progress, Thornberry and Lewis were both short of the target. According to the Labour website, Thornberry, the party’s foreign-affairs spokeswoman, is on 10 nominations, with Lewis, a junior economy spokesman, on four.
Thornberry on Sunday told the BBC that she thinks she can get there. “From the conversations that I’ve had this weekend I’m fairly confident that so long as I don’t get any slippage I’ll be fine,” she said. Lewis sounded less hopeful, telling Sky News “it’s hard” and “I wish my mum could nominate me.”
The politicians aim to join the party’s spokesmen on Brexit and business, Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as backbenchers Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy in the next round of the contest, when they must secure backing from trade unions and local party branches. At stake is whether the party can pick itself up from its biggest electoral defeat since 1935 and be able to challenge Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives at the next election, currently scheduled for 2024.
Mountain to Climb
“We’ve got a mountain to climb,” Starmer, the favorite, told party activists in Manchester on Saturday as he outlined his plans for the leadership. He said now isn’t the time to “trash” either the last Labour government under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, or Corbyn’s hard-left leadership. “We cannot fight the Tories if we’re fighting each other. Factionalism has to go.”
Starmer has tried to shake off the image that he represents the metropolitan elite, repeatedly pointing to his working class roots. On Saturday, he told the meeting that the party has to “be bold enough to say the free market model doesn’t work” because wealth hasn’t trickled down through society. He tweeted afterward that the U.K. needs “a new economic model with moral purpose and equality at its heart.”
Long-Bailey put more flesh to the bones of her platform on Sunday, telling Sky News she would abolish the House of Lords, tackle antisemitism in the way that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has called for, and saying she could accept a second referendum on Scottish independence, though that isn’t her preference. Viewed as the candidate favored by the current party leadership, she rejected the charge that she represents “continuity Corbyn.”
“It annoys me when people say that and unfortunately as a woman, it annoys me even more,” Long-Bailey said. “I’m a person in my own right.”
Long-Bailey received a boost on Saturday when the grassroots Corbyn-backing Labour group Momentum said it would recommend to members throwing its support behind her. On Sunday, she sought to broaden her appeal by being prepared to criticize Corbyn, who said after the election that Labour had won the argument.
“We didn’t win the argument,” she said. “If we’d won the argument we would have won the general election.”
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