Rebecca Long-Bailey: Why I’m Running for Labour Party Leader

Labour needs a socialist leader who can work with our movement, rebuild our communities, and fight for the policies we believe in. MP Rebecca Long-Bailey explains why she's running for her party's leadership and why democratic socialism is humanity's best hope.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey speaks during the launch of the party's election manifesto at Birmingham City University on November 21, 2019 in Birmingham, England. Christopher Furlong / Getty

The election result was devastating. But with the climate crisis spiraling and the far right on the march, we must regroup for the struggles ahead. Our task is to build a winning vision of a socialist future, and this task has never been more urgent.

Many candidates in the leadership election say they will not return to the triangulation and Tory-lite policies that held our party back before Jeremy Corbyn. But we need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda. A leader who is totally committed to the policies and has the political backbone to defend them. We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime. 

For all of these reasons and more, I have decided to stand for election to become the next leader of our Party. I don’t just agree with the policies, I’ve spent the last four years writing them. Labour’s Green New Deal, our plans to radically democratize the economy and to renew the high streets of towns across the country are the foundations for an economic transformation that will combat the climate crisis and hand back wealth and power to ordinary people. 

It is true that one reason we lost the election was that Labour’s campaign lacked a coherent narrative. But this was a failure of campaign strategy, not of our socialist program. Labour’s Green New Deal is the most ambitious agenda for tackling climate change of any major political party. And throughout the election it was tragically undersold. 

Not only did it provide a compelling frame for our entire economic program, it was most popular in those deindustrialized regions where we suffered our most devastating losses: the North West, the West Midlands and the North East. The popularity of our Green New Deal bridges the divides in our electoral coalition, with huge support in the cities and marginals in the South East too. It should have been a core part of our offer: this is how Labour will help you take back control.

I developed these policies with every part of our movement, working with trade unions, grassroots campaigners, school climate strikers, and countless party members. I’ve held meetings around the country, ensuring that the Green New Deal and our agenda for a democratic economy has the interests of communities at its heart. This is how policy should be made — by our movement and from the bottom up — and as leader you can trust me to open up Labour’s policy process to the movement at every level. 

There is nothing our movement cannot achieve. I truly believe that. Already we’ve demonstrated determination and resilience the political establishment did not expect. And while it’s easy to become disheartened seeing images of Australia burning and Jakarta flooded, remember that you’re part of a courageous movement of millions of people who are ready to stake everything for a better world. 

Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, we’ve drawn upon the collective knowledge and experience of that movement to develop a radical, ambitious socialist vision for the future. This is our greatest strength, and we need a leader who comes from and will stay true to that movement. 

But an ambitious socialist vision is only the first step. We also need to rebuild our electoral coalition and implement our vision. Labour’s path to victory lies in reuniting all our heartlands, from the communities that voted to leave in the North and Midlands, to those in Scotland who abandoned Labour in 2015 and our growing young, diverse strongholds in cities.  

For some, there will be a temptation to compromise on our anti-racist and internationalist principles. Let me be clear: as leader I will never throw migrants or BAME communities under the bus. Never again will our party put “controls on immigration” on a mug. It would be a betrayal of our principles, and of our core supporters and activists. We must defeat Boris Johnson and the nationalist right, never pander to them.

While our heartlands are diverse, there is a common cause that underlies the rejection of our party from Durham to Dundee: people across these islands are sick of the British state’s distant and undemocratic institutions. They have no trust in politicians to deliver, and have a deep desire for political as well as economic transformation. 

Time and again this showed on the doorstep. We struggled to marry our ambitious program with voters’ fundamental lack of trust in politicians. We had no plan to overhaul a broken political system and voters came to see Labour as part of the problem, another bunch of politicians making promises we couldn’t keep. We’ve also, at times, been too close to the establishment we are meant to be taking on — whether cozying up to Rupert Murdoch, joining forces with David Cameron in the Better Together campaign in 2014, or turning our focus inwards on parliamentary maneuvering for the last year. 

To win, we need to rebuild Labour as an insurgent force and offer a vision for a new democracy. We must go to war with the political establishment, pledging a constitutional revolution that sweeps away the House of Lords, takes big money out of politics, and radically shifts power away from Westminster. My vision of a democratic, decarbonized economy alongside a new democracy that hands power and wealth back to ordinary people is one that can win. It can unite all of Labour’s heartlands, from our young, diverse strongholds in English cities to Scotland, Wales, and deindustrialized areas in the Midlands and North.

I haven’t rushed to announce my candidacy because I wanted to take time to reflect following the devastating results in December. I didn’t emerge from the election with a ready-made leadership campaign because my every effort during the election went into campaigning for a Labour victory. I’m not driven by personal ambition, but by my principles and an unwavering desire to change our country and our world for the better. 

And those principles have led me here. I’m not your typical politician. I’m not a millionaire or a landlord, and I didn’t go to a posh school. Instead I’m a lifelong socialist, dedicated to our movement and determined to do my bit. You’re as likely to see me on a picket line as you are at the dispatch box, and you can trust me to fight the establishment tooth and nail.

We can’t wait five years to effect change in people’s lives. We must begin organizing in communities now, and resist the Tories every step of the way — in parliament, on the streets, and in our workplaces. As leader, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you — in every campaign against Tory cuts, with every minority community and all migrants against Johnson’s hateful agenda, and with trade unions in every struggle to protect workers’ rights. 

We have a mountain to climb, comrades, and the crises we face are stark. But we have our socialist vision, a path to victory, and most importantly, we have each other. More than ever, Nye Bevan’s words ring true: “There is only one hope for humanity, and that is democratic socialism.” Our strength, determination, and resilience will prevail. Together, we can do this.