Sunday 5 January 2020 12:48 pm

Labour leadership contenders make early pitches

Four Labour leadership contenders have distanced themselves from the party’s election manifesto as they began their respective campaigns.

Labour’s 2019 election manifesto was considered to be one of the most left-wing offerings in party history, with mass nationalisation and spending plans at its core.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Sir Keir Starmer said the manifesto was “overloaded”, while Jess Phillips said the party “had to go back to basics” and that the electorate “didn’t trust us to govern”.

Read more: Ex-Labour MPs criticise party ‘cronyism’ and call for sweeping changes

Phillips – a long-time critic of Jeremy Corbyn – hit out at some of the policy positions, such as promising free broadband for all, as not credible.

“We have to go back to the basics – my son doesn’t go to school five days a week,” she said.

“While that is the case, offering people free broadband was not believable.”

Starmer, the current favourite according to latest polling, officially announced his candidacy yesterday in a video touting his previous legal experience with striking workers.

The pitch was seen to be an attempt to attract hard-left Corbyn supporters, however this morning he was careful to not fully endorse the party’s recent election manifesto.

This morning, he backed away from Labour’s 2019 offering while still promising a “radical” platform if elected party leader.

“The manifesto we need to be discussing now is not the 2019 manifesto, it’s the 2024 maniefsto.

“It needs to be credible, it needs to be radical. 

“Across the country there is hardwired inequality of almost every sort.

“We need fundamental change to deal with that…I’m not pretending we keep everything as it is.”

Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry also fronted television interviews today to make their respective early pitches to Labour members.

Nandy has been an ardent critic of Labour’s pledge to hold a second Brexit refendum and argued the party had not listened to northern towns that voted to leave.

Speaking to Sky News, Nandy said the party had long neglected the north.

“Trust was the issue [in the election],” she said.

“Not the radicalism, not the deep and fundamental change we were promising, but trust.

“Labour has in recent ears become a very paternalistic party.”

Thornberry, meanwhile, hit out at the party’s expansive manifesto under Corbyn.

“If anybody looks at the manifesto they can’t say they don’t like this or they don’t like that – but I think there was too much in it,” she said.

“It just wasn’t convincing.”

The leadership race is expected to be a fierce fight between the hard-left Corbynista faction and party moderates.

However, so far the expected favoured candidate from the hard-left of the party, Rebecca Long Bailey, is yet to officially announce her candidacy.

This has left moderate candidates – such as Starmer, Nandy, Thornberry and Phillips – to duke it out in the early stages.

Read more: Labour leadership contest: Who will take over from Jeremy Corbyn

Recent polling of Labour members by YouGov showed Starmer in front on 31 per cent, Long Bailey on 20 per cent, Phillips on 11 per cent, Thornberry on six per cent and Nandy on five per cent.

Corbyn loyalist Clive Lewis was on seven per cent in the polling.