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By Tobias Ellwood
By Ben Guerin
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Jess Phillips says it will be ‘embarrassing’ for a man to be Labour’s next leader

2 min read

Jess Phillips has said it will be “embarrassing” for the Labour party to elect a male leader and urged men to “pass the mic” if they truly believe in equal representation.

The leadership hopeful addressed the party’s record of never electing a woman for the top job as “frustrating”, as she battles against Rebecca Long-Bailey, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer to win the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, Ms Phillips said the party has a “blind spot” for this despite fighting for women’s representation across the country, and said it was not good enough to make progress only in other areas.

“Well I think that if you truly believe in women’s representation, sometimes – and that goes not just for women in the way that that intersects in other areas – but sometimes passing the mic is the greatest way to show that you truly believe in something,” she said.

Asked how it would look if Labour elected a man in the 2020 contest, she added: “It’s genuinely frustrating because the Labour party is absolutely … if you set the test as how it has improved the lives of women in the country, how it has fought for women’s representation, how it fights for women in politics at almost every level except that one, and so I think it does a disservice to the Labour party’s record on women but I think it would look bad, if I was honest…

“I think it will be embarrassing and what’s more, it gives absolute grist to the mill and ammunition to our other side... It’s not great if we can’t ever seem to think that the women are good enough.” 

Mr Starmer, the only male contender in the race, is currently taking a lead in the polls.

A new YouGov poll has the Shadow Brexit Secretary on track to win 46% of votes in the first round of voting, with Ms Long-Bailey coming in second place on 32%. 

Ms Phillips came in as third choice on 11%.

Elsewhere, the vocal backbencher said she believed Labour’s problem during the election was a lack of trust in the leadership and ability to deliver on its manifesto promises.

And the Remain MP cast doubt on campaigning to re-join the European Union if she was Labour leader, adding: “Well it’s very unlikely at this stage isn’t it? We’re leaving the European Union and I don’t think there is any appetite."

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