i’m choked, but without support from one of the big 5 unions, she just can’t make it

Jess Phillips quits Labour leadership race
Kate Proctor, Rajeev Syal, Nazi Groon, Jan 21 2020

Jess Phillips has pulled out of the Labour leadership contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn, saying she is not the person to unite the party. Her decision, two weeks into the campaign, came as she failed to secure any union or affiliate backing, although she secured 23 nominations from MPs to put her into the latest phase of the contest. Earlier on Tuesday, Phillips did not attend a hustings organised by the GMB union, leading to speculation her campaign was faltering. In a message to supporters, the MP for Birmingham Yardley said:

The Labour party will need to select a candidate who can unite all parts of our movement, the union movement, members and elected representatives. And I have to also be honest with myself, as I said I always would be throughout this campaign. At this time, that person is not me. In order to win the country, we are going to have to find a candidate, in this race, who can do all of that, and then take that message out to the country.

She thanked her supporters and said the tens of thousands of people who had signed up to vote in the election should get a say in the race. She said:

I want to say to those people: this is not the end. It’s the beginning.

‘Lord’ Keir Starmer is expected to pick up a share of party members’ votes that would have gone to Phillips had she ended up on the final ballot paper. She did not say who she would back in the leadership race. A source said that when she spoke at a campaign event at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London on Monday night, they sensed there were problems with the campaign. he said:

It felt like she was giving her own elegy. It was the sort of speech that Liz Kendall was giving in month three of the last leadership campaign, but it’s week three. I did wonder if something was up. She was saying the important thing was to go through it, so that people like me and people who sound like me can go for leader.

Phillips scraped over the line to get the nominations needed to get to the second phase of the leadership debate, with the backing of 23 MPs including herself. She has been described as being on the right of the party by opponents. Among those who backed her were Wes Streeting, who was running her campaign, Liz Kendall, Margaret Hodge, Neil Coyle and Chris Bryant. Early polling had put her in third place behind Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Jess Phillips pulling out of the Labour race means party members won’t hear uncomfortable truths
John Rentoul, Independent, Jan 21 2020

Jess Phillips more or less announced her campaign for the Labour leadership was over in her article on Sunday, in which she admitted she had performed badly in the hustings the day before, writing:

I tried to do what was required, to learn lines, appear statesmanlike (as if!) and say the things I am meant to say. Turns out I cannot do it, because when I try it looks fake.

As many of her critics pointed out, it is no use blaming the rules of a contest for doing badly. Being able to get your message across in 40 seconds is a reasonable test for a political leader, and that is why the National Executive Committee set it. On the other hand, the traditional hustings, like the traditional job interview, is not the complete or optimal way to make personnel decisions. She is right about that and blunt enough to say so. It is the sort of thing no normal candidate would say. She was truthful enough in her article to say that she was unlikely to win, and indeed, that she doubted if she could “take another six weeks of it.” She couldn’t, which is a shame, because it means the contest will close down on conventional lines. she said in a statement following her decision to step down:

The Labour Party will need to select a candidate that can unite all parts of our movement and I have to be honest that, at this time, that person isn’t me.

‘Lord’ Keir Starmer will try to persuade Rebecca Long-Bailey’s supporters to vote for him because he was loyal to Jeremy Corbyn and is dead left-wing really. Bailey will try to persuade Starmer’s supporters that she has some flexibility and personality of her own and is not just a prisoner of Corbyn’s minders. Lisa Nandy will try to persuade one lot that they really must have a female leader, and the other lot that she is really, really left-wing, in a desperate attempt to come second on first preference votes. No-one will be telling Labour members what they need to hear, which is that the party is a long, long way from most of the voters whose support it needs to defeat Boris Johnson at the next election. Phillips came closest to telling them uncomfortable truths, which may be why she picked up support from the large number of MPs who are most clearly identifiable as “Blairites,” although there is not much difference between any of the candidates on policy, and Phillips, who refused to join the party in her youth because of her opposition to the Iraq war, is entitled to feel misrepresented as a right-wing neoliberal sellout. Like it or not, she had the best slogan: “Speak Truth; Win Power.” She was prepared to say things all the candidates should say, if they weren’t so timid. She said she didn’t think the Scots should have another independence referendum, for example, in a refreshing break from the weak-minded appeasement of the SNP that seems to have infected Labour ranks. She had a brave run. But there is only so much reality the Labour membership can take. Five years ago only 4.5% voted for Liz Kendall. This time the nomination threshold is tougher, and Phillips won’t even make it on to the ballot paper.

Jess Phillips accidentally made clear why Labour is doomed
Tom Peck, Independent, Jan 21 2020

Twenty-four hours ago, Jess Phillips was complaining that the problem with the Labour party leadership hustings was that it was impossible to articulate the struggle the party faces in answers of 40 seconds, as are the rather peculiar rules. And yet, having now pulled out of the race, in the form of a two-minute video, she has summed up the party’s problems in eight word-perfect seconds.

I truly believe that if we don’t speak to the country on their terms, and not just ours, then we won’t be able to make the gains we need to win an election.

And thus were summed up the last four bizarre years, which already feel like an impossibly bad dream, with consequences for the country, and the party, that were once considered beyond either’s very worst nightmares. But with her second sentence, specifically the reason why she is standing down, she clearly articulated the problem the Labour Party is going to find it very difficult indeed to solve.

The Labour Party will need a candidate that can unite all parts of our movement: the union movement, the members, the elected representatives… and at this time, that person isn’t me.

Ms Phillips is right on both counts. But her rightness cannot be reconciled with itself. She is right that the party needs to remove itself from its incessant navel-gazing. It needs to understand how it came to be in the unimaginably woeful state it is in. It needs to work out how it managed to become repellent to northern working-class voters and the lives they lead. It could start by rewatching the mad Palestinian flag-waving sessions from its own conference. But no Labour Party leader can hope to fulfil all of the things Ms Phillips says they must do. It is impossible to make the party electable again and gain the support of the members. Because it is a straightforward statement of fact that the members do not want the party to be electable. Even now, a YouGov poll of members reports that Jeremy Corbyn is the members’ favourite leader of all time. He towers above Clement Attlee. Blair, naturally, is a distant last. A conventional wisdom has now emerged that Labour must unify, that its warring factions must find a peace, but it is impossible to see the settlement of such a peace. The members, which is to say for the most part the pro-Corbyn wing of the party, have absolutely nothing to offer. They have had their fun drunkenly joyriding the car, but now that it has been wrapped around the electoral lamppost and the police called, no good can come of placating these people, but that is what all leadership hopefuls must do. Jeremy Corbyn’s opinions and those who share them are of no value whatsoever to the Labour Party. They are the fast lane to oblivion. This was as true in 2019 as it was in 1983, as it was at any point in the last 150 years. Ms Phillips is right. Labour has trodden itself so deep in the mud it is unlikely that whoever wins this contest will be the one to drag it back to the daylight. The best hope for this next short era, the party’s next self-inflicted spell in the wilderness, is that it finds a kind of Kinnock of the hour. But in the medium to long-term, no good can possibly come of accommodating those for whom no amount of failure can ever be too much. Ms Phillips cannot be Labour leader because she is correct that she has nothing to offer those who are so desperate to lose. The next Labour leader will have to lead a party that has embraced a politics that rejects markets. The trouble is that democracy is a market. And for those who think themselves above the mucky business of buying and selling themselves, there is a familiar outcome. At the moment there is no one who can save Labour from itself, as Ms Phillips didn’t quite say but accidentally made very clear indeed.

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