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Wed, 21 October 2020

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Rebecca Long-Bailey says Labour should stop promising to 'save' working class voters from themselves

Rebecca Long-Bailey says Labour should stop promising to 'save' working class voters from themselves
3 min read

Labour should stop trying to "save" working class voters from themselves, Rebecca Long-Bailey has declared.


The Labour leadership hopeful said the party had failed to connect with voters who "felt they should be rewarded for working hard" during an election campaign that saw it shed seats to the Conservatives.

Speaking to The Guardian, the Shadow Business Secretary recounted meeting a couple in Salford while out on the campaign trail.

"They were working class but they’d bought their own house, they’d worked hard, they felt they should be rewarded for working hard, they didn’t want to think that other people were getting handouts," she said.

"Whatever people’s incomes are, a lot of the time people don’t see themselves as destitute and struggling, and they don’t want someone to come along and say: ‘I’m going to remove the scales from your eyes, and save you from yourself’. It’s like, ‘I’ve got a job, I don’t need saving from myself, I just want to do a little bit better, thanks!’"

Ms Long-Bailey added: "It’s that hopeful vision, rather than a vision that says we’re going to save you."

The Labour hopeful, who has been billed as the candidate most aligned to Jeremy Corbyn in the race to lead the party, said voters had been unsure about Labour's values during the campaign.

She warned that while Labour "so many great policies", there had been "nothing to really pull them all together". And she urged Labour to embrace voters' sense of "aspiration".

The comments from Ms Long-Bailey, who is hoping to join Sir Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy on the final ballot of Labour members, come after fellow contender Emily Thornberry distanced herself from a call to make the party's MPs face mandatory reselections before every election.

Ms Long-Bailey has said sitting Labour MPs would have to win over members before each election under her leadership, in a move the Shadow Business Secretary argued would "throw open the door to a new generation" of Labour politicians.

But, pressed for her view on the move by the BBC's Andrew Neil, Ms Thornberry said: "So what we have is we have a situation at the moment whereby our candidates have to be re-nominated by the party.

"And I agree with that and I don’t think that we need to change it."

The Shadow Foreign Secretary meanwhile denied that Labour was in "some sort of existential crisis about who we are or what we stand for" after its defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson in December's snap poll.

And she doubled down on her backing for a second referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Pointing to the Tories' own campaign slogan, she said: "What we tried to do was to have a general election where we tried to change the subject. They had three words ‘get Brexit done’, we had three and a half paragraphs as our policy and we kept trying to change the subject and we weren’t able to. We should not have agreed to a general election in those circumstances."

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