Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey launches her campaign in Manchester. She slams austerity and promises to create a fairer economy for all that will also tackle climate change.

Rebecca Long-Bailey pledged to fight climate change, democratise the UK economy and replace the House of Lords with a senate outside of London if she became prime minister, in her campaign launch to become the next leader of the Labour Party at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum on Friday.

Long-Bailey, who is one of the favourites to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, began her speech talking about growing up in a working class family in Old Trafford and being inspired by its past of industry and innovation:

“It’s more than thirty years ago that as a young girl I first came here to the Science & Industry Museum,” she began. “Going from room to room was like travelling forward in time; from eighteenth-century cotton spinning, to the Victorian steam engines, to the birth of flight, the first computer and space travel. It was like the history of human progress and it only went in one direction. Forwards and upwards.”

“I remember feeling really proud that it [innovation] happened here, in the city where I was from. I remember being amazed at just how far we had come in just a few generations and trying to imagine what the future would look like if it carried on at the same rate.”

Long-Bailey, who is currently MP for Eccles and Salford and the Shadow Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, also paid tribute to the region’s history of political struggle which had helped drive progress in the UK:

“It was not just about the technology either. The history of Salford and Manchester was about the Chartists, the trade unions, the Pankhursts. The history of our cities was the history of struggle, of solidarity, of social and economic progress on an unstoppable journey upwards. But now I think these days, that sort of optimism is in short supply.

“The climate and environmental crisis, the rise of the far right to political power and the relentless pressure that austerity places on our public services and on our social fabric. These are undoubtedly forces that darken our lives and darken our horizons.”

She said that the standard of living for millions of people had “taken a knock” because of “deindustrialisation and a decade of austerity.” But, added, “I do not think that has dented one bit of our shining conviction that our children’s lives must always be better than our own.”

Long-Bailey then unveiled some of the policies which she would implement as party leader. She pledged to fight the climate catastrophe, saying that she would push for a “Green New Deal” and the “rewilding” of the country’s landscapes. “I will fight for the investment in the low-carbon industries today and tomorrow, to secure a liveable planet for future generations, and bring new jobs and prosperity to all regions and countries of the United Kingdom.”

The leadership hopeful also promised investment in the public sector and democratisation of the economy. “I will fight for world-class public services that secure our fundamental need and free us up as individuals, as families, as communities to pursue the lives we aspire to… And I will fight for a democratic economy — for modern, democratic, public ownership, so that we all share in the tremendous wealth that human ingenuity and hard work can guarantee us all. It also meant “rebalancing” the UK economy, Long-Bailey said, “so that every town, city and region can thrive again, with renewed pride; pride in solidarity, inclusivity and internationalism.”

On the political system, Long-Bailey said that the electorate felt disconnected from the political establishment, regardless of Brexit. “The story of the last few years is that people feel instinctively wrong that laws drafted hundreds of miles away by a distant and unaccountable bureaucratic elite in Brussels. Westminster didn’t feel much closer and it still doesn’t today.”

“We will put power back where it belongs…We will end the gentlemen’s club of politics and we will be setting out plans to go further by devolving power out of Westminster to a regional or local level.”

Long-Bailey unveiled plans to “sweep away” the House of Lords and replace it with an elected senate based outside of London. The senate would have a “new democratic legitimacy and should have powers to reflect that,” Long-Bailey insisted. “In my view, this should include holding the government to account on the impact of new legislation on our wealth, our wellbeing and our environmental sustainability.”

On the same day as the campaign launch the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) backed Long-Bailey for leader. Keir Starmer, Long-Bailey’s main rival in the race, has the support of Unison, while the National Union of Mineworkers is supporting Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. The two remaining candidates, Jess Philips and Emily Thornberry, are yet to receive the support of a union.

The candidates have until 14 February to win the support of either 5% of the grassroots Labour parties – known as Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) – or three of Labour’s affiliates, which include trade unions, to get onto the final ballot that will go to a vote of all members. The results of the Labour leadership election will be announced on 4 April.

Alex King

Feature image: Twitter

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  • Alex King

    Alex is a reporter at Planning Magazine. Prior to working there he was a freelance journalist specialising in climate, employment and politics. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Politico, Novara Media, Tribune Magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Mill and Red Pepper. He also set up and co-manages Green New Deal Media, an independent media outlet based in Greater Manchester devoted to addressing climate breakdown.

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