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Sun, 27 September 2020

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Emily Thornberry confirms she will run to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

Emily Thornberry confirms she will run to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader
4 min read

Emily Thornberry has confirmed she will enter the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said she "hopes to be one of the candidates" when the contest gets properly underway.

Although Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir Starmer have said they are considering a bid, Ms Thornberry is the first Labour MP to confirm that she plans to run.

Writing in The Guardian, Ms Thornberry also revealed that she warned Jeremy Corbyn that it would be "an act of catastrophic political folly" to agree to an election, but was over-ruled by Shadow Cabinet colleagues including Becky Long-Bailey, who is likely to be the leadership frontrunner.

She also insisted that she had "pummelled" Boris Johnson on a weekly basis when he was Foreign Secretary and she faced him in the Commons, so was best placed to take him on as Labour leader.

Labour officials are expected to agree a three-month timetable for the leadership contest, with Mr Corbyn's successor in place by the end of March.

In her article, Ms Thornberry attempted to neutralise criticisms of her based on her opposition to Brexit and the fact that, like Mr Corbyn, she represents an Islington constituency.

She said: "When the Labour leadership contest begins, whoever is standing – and I hope to be one of the candidates – the first question shouldn’t be about their position on Brexit, or where they live in our country.

"The first question should instead be: what’s your plan for taking on Johnson over the next five years? And do you have the political nous and strategic vision to reunite our party, rebuild our machine, gain the trust of the public, give hope to our declining towns and smaller cities, and never again waste the opportunity to take back power?"


Ms Thornberry also took a swipe at allies of Jeremy Corbyn who have blamed Brexit for Labour's election defeat, pointing out that she had called for a referendum to deal with the issue instead.

"I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and brussels sprouts," she said. "Let’s be clear: this was always going to be the Brexit election, the first genuine single-issue election in 119 years."

The Islington South MP added: "Boris Johnson proposed an election at a time of his own choosing, on an issue of his own choosing, and we went along with it – like crackers voting for Christmas.

"The Liberal Democrats agreed to it because they thought it would work in their favour, and Labour because we imagined we could change the subject. That was a total delusion.

"I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be 'an act of catastrophic political folly' to vote for the election, and explained exactly why we should not go along with it. I argued that the single issue of Brexit should not be enough to give Johnson a five-year mandate to enact his agenda on every issue. Instead, I said we should insist on a referendum on his proposed deal, to get the issue of Brexit out of the way before any general election.

"When I raised this at the Shadow Cabinet, and spoke forcefully against an election, some colleagues nodded along, but the loudest voices were pro-Leave colleagues insisting that we should vote with Johnson.

"So we wilfully went into a single-issue election with no clear position on that issue and, as every pollster predicted, we were brutally squeezed by all the other parties with an unequivocal policy on Brexit, all of them sharing a clear strategy to eat into Labour’s base."

Ms Thornberry's intervention came after Sir Keir said he was "seriously considering" entering the leadership race, also in the pages of The Guardian.

Under Labour rules, candidates must receive the backing of at least 21 MPs plus support from 5% of constituency branches or affiliated organisations.

The contest is expected to formally begin on 7 January.


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