Labour MPs hoping to become the party’s next deputy leader are to set out their stalls to colleagues as the contest for the two top jobs ramps up.
The first deputy leadership hustings will take place before the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Wednesday morning, hours after MPs seeking to replace Jeremy Corbyn made their pitches.
Among those in the race for the deputy post, triggered by Tom Watson’s decision to quit, are shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan and Labour’s only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray.
Shadow cabinet ministers Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon, along with shadow Europe minister Khalid Mahmood, are also vying for the job.
On Tuesday evening, the six MPs seeking to be elected leader of the party – Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Clive Lewis – made their opening pitches to the PLP.
Shadow business secretary Ms Long-Bailey said that in losing the election, Labour “let down the people who rely on us”.
“Our number one duty as Labour MPs is to learn the lessons of defeat and make sure we don’t repeat them,” she told the private meeting.
Earlier, the frontbencher insisted that she was not the “continuity candidate” to replace Mr Corbyn, but gave him a “10 out of 10 rating” – describing him as “one of the most honest, kind, principled politicians I’ve ever met”.
She told ITV: “What we can’t ignore was that Jeremy was savaged from day one by the press … We have a role as a party to develop the image of our leader and to put them forward in the most positive way, but we also have a duty to rebut criticism and attacks.
“As a party we needed to have a rebuttal unit, a clear structure in place to rebut the attacks against him.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir told the hustings that the party needs to “win back our heartlands”.
He said: “We need to understand and to address each and every reason we lost at this election, but we also need to win back Scotland, we need to win back seats in Wales, and if you draw a line from London to Bristol and look south we only have a handful seats. So, we have got a mountain to climb.”
Rival Ms Nandy, the MP for Wigan, said the leadership debate was “possibly the most important in our history”.
“Now is not the time to steady the ship. If we do not change course we will die and we will deserve to,” she added.
And Ms Phillips told the hustings she does not want to be the next leader of the opposition, but rather “the next Labour prime minister – I want the people here to be in government”.
“I have dedicated my life to trying to change the lives of others, but I am sick of just shifting the dial, I want to smash it,” the Birmingham Yardley MP said.
Mr Lewis later told BBC Two’s Newsnight programme that he would seek to provide “brutal honesty” if elected leader.
“I think Lewis-ism is about brutal honesty and about the fact that we are facing a crisis of democracy and social democracy.
“And that ultimately if we want to transform this country, we have to transform ourselves as well and that means asking some tough questions about what kind of party we want to be and what country we want to lead.”
The new Labour leader and deputy will be announced at a conference on April 4.