Jess Phillips pulls out of the Labour leadership race

The member of parliament for Birmingham Yardley’s decision to quit the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn comes after the candidate released a video on Twitter informing her supporters that she would not be able to unite the Labour Party.

Phillips, who was immensely critical of Corbyn, also took aim at Rebecca Long-Bailey, telling supporters that Labour must start speaking ‘to the country on their terms, not just on ours.’

However, her decision comes after a disastrous leadership campaign. The ‘Speak Truth. Win Power’ movement failed to make any significant inroads in this race.

The 38-year old admitted that her performance at the first leadership hustings was ‘awful’, but, more importantly, Phillips failed to receive any endorsements from local associations or affiliated bodies that would put her on the final ballot.

Currently, Sir Keir Starmer is the only candidate on the final ballot, after receiving the backing of 89 parliamentarians, and sufficient support from affiliate groups and constituency Labour associations.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary has won the support from three trade unions, including Britain’s largest, Unison. The 1.3-million strong union announced their support for the former director of the Crown Prosecution Service earlier in the campaign.

Recently, the Socialist Environment and Resources Association, and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, declared Starmer had their support.

Starmer’s support in Labour associations also appears to breach the Remain-Leave divide that proved problematic in the December election. Of the dozen associations, three, Bolton North East, Ipswich and Leigh, are pro-Brexit seats that Boris Johnson gained.

Lisa Nandy is on the cusp of joining Starmer on the final ballot after receiving backing from two-affiliate trade unions. Under Labour party rules, a candidate needs support from 5% of constituency Labour parties, or the backing of three affiliate groups, including two trade unions.

Last week, the National Union of Mineworkers, infamous for their confrontation with Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and 1985, announced their backing for the Wigan MP.

Nonetheless, the boost to the Nandy campaign came after today’s declaration that the 600,000-strong, GMB union would support her. The union is the United Kingdom’s third largest, and tends to represent workers in heavy industry.

Tim Roache, the GMB’s general secretary, said that Nandy is a ‘breath of fresh air’ and that she has ‘got the scale of the challenge’ that currently faces the Labour Party.

Nandy will need the backing of one more affiliate group to ensure that she will be voted on by the 519,000 Labour party membership.

Rebecca Long-Bailey will be fighting Lisa Nandy for support among the remaining trade unions. The Shadow Business Secretary presently has the support of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union, alongside the Chatham and Aylseford, Kensington, Preston and Warley local Labour associations.

Long-Bailey needs two more affiliate groups to endorse her to secure her advancement in the race. This is expected to be made significantly easier in the next few days as Len McLuskey, leader of Unite, is expected to support the MP for Salford and Eccles.

The Daily Telegraph understands that the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen are currently divided on who they will endorse. The general secretary, Mick Whelan, sees Starmer as the ‘winner’, whereas the executive prefer Long-Bailey.

Nonetheless, Long-Bailey will be fighting with Nandy and to some extent Emily Thornberry for the remaining endorsements of the 20-or-so affiliated unions.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary has fared far better than Jess Phillips in winning further endorsements since nominations closed earlier this month. The lawyer turned politician has the backing of the Horsham and Newbury associations but will need an additional 31 groups to support her for her name to appear on the final ballot.

If not then the MP for Islington South and Finsbury needs 3 affiliated groups to endorse her. This appears quite difficult, however, she fared well from Clive Lewis’ withdrawal from the race, and therefore, Phillips departure could again sustain Thornberry’s vulnerable leadership bid.

There are just 24-days until the CLP and affiliate nominations close, and by Valentine’s Day the Labour membership will be certain of who the true contenders are to take on Boris Johnson.

By J Walters

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