Labour’s first deputy leadership hustings – snap verdict

Sienna Rodgers

Angela Rayner is the clear frontrunner in Labour’s deputy leadership race. The LabourList/Survation poll found her winning on 60% of first preferences and the recent YouGov research identified a similar result at 57%. She is known for her charisma and barnstorming speeches, as well as leading on the national education service. She has appeared loyal to the leadership without being branded as a continuity candidate.

But the first official party hustings, which took place in Liverpool this afternoon, was a mostly dull event. And to much surprise, Rayner was not the candidate to liven it up. Dawn Butler instead took up that responsibility with a fiery conclusion at the close of the event. Everyone in the audience must have seen her riff of “So Strong” before, but it works every time.

Perhaps the most interesting point of the session came with a question on the Board of Deputies ten pledges – that’s when candidates actually disagreed on something. Echoing the promise of Keir Starmer in the previous hustings, Ian Murray said he would “want every single case of antisemitism on my desk every week”. He is prepared to “take personal responsibility”.

Butler acknowledged that she had not signed up to the pledges. She said it was because the matter is “too important” and “I don’t want to rush it”. The equalities spokesperson explained that she first wanted to see the EHRC recommendations before working with the Board to “get it right”.

Richard Burgon went further. Although he believes in working with the Board of Deputies, he was clear: “I won’t be signing the ten pledges”. Setting out his reasons, the Shadow Justice Secretary said: “I’m concerned that the minorities within a minority… their voices need to be heard as well.”

Those with lower profiles – Ian Murray and Rosena Allin-Khan – were always going to benefit most from this hustings. Rayner didn’t harm her standing as frontrunner, which means it did little to change the dynamics of the race, but the campaign teams of Butler and Burgon will have been pleased with their candidates’ noteworthy performances and pitches to the left.

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