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Tue, 27 October 2020

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Lisa Nandy demands Labour leadership candidates get more than 40 seconds to answer hustings questions

Lisa Nandy demands Labour leadership candidates get more than 40 seconds to answer hustings questions
3 min read

Lisa Nandy has called for Labour leadership candidates to be given longer than 40 seconds to answer questions at hustings debates.

She said the current format should be ripped up to allow for “frank” discussions after the party’s disastrous election defeat.

Ms Nandy has written to Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, in the wake of the first hustings event in Liverpool on Saturday.

The Wigan MP said that as well as giving the contenders more time to answer questions, they should also be able to address each other’s answers at subsequent hustings.

She said: “There is a clear desire for a full and frank discussion, not just on what led to our worst electoral defeat for over 70 years, but what we as candidates can offer our party and country which will enable us to form the next government…

“I am firmly of the view that the scale of our defeat in December, the solutions that each of the candidates want to put forward, warrants more than 40 seconds. 

“Given the views of members in the room and responses online, there is clearly a strong appetite to get more detail from those who wish to lead our party and run our country.”

Ms Nandy added: “This leadership election is the most important one we have had for generations, possibly in our history...We need these hustings to ignite a passionate debate in our party and across the country, and this cannot be achieved by proscribing answers to 40 second sound bites and hermetically sealing the candidates from direct conversations between ourselves.”

Ms Nandy called on her fellow candidates to agree to a new format.  

But Shadow Foreign Secretary said she did not support her leadership rival's suggestion.

Speaking to PoliticsHome, she said: "Oh look, there are some issues like knife crime or the Iran crisis which you clearly can't do proper justice to in 40 seconds, but formats are formats, and it's the same for everyone.

"I think when you've spent many years in frontbench roles like I have, and filled in at PMQs, you get used to the discipline of getting your point across in 30 or 60 seconds, because that's just how the job is. And you know, we can't have the new leader turning round in six months and saying: 'I know I'm rubbish at PMQs and I never lay a glove on Boris Johnson, but it's just because of the format.' That's not how it works.

"So if Labour HQ wants to change the hustings format, that's fine with me. If they want to keep it the same, that's fine too. Cos either way, you just need to adapt."

The prominent backbencher is lagging behind her rivals according to the latest YouGov poll, which put her in fourth place on 7%.

But contrast, Sir Keir Starmer is storming ahead on an 46%, followed by Rebecca Long-Bailey on 32%, and Jess Phillips on 11%. Ms Thornberry is last on 3%.

The next hustings is due to take place on Saturday in Leeds, followed by a further 10 events across the country by the end of February.

Labour sources confirmed that Ms Formby had received Ms Nandy's letter.

The new Labour leader and deputy leader will be announced on 4 April at a special conference.

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