Angela Rayner launched her Labour deputy leadership bid with a speech in Stockport today that included a stark warning – as she claimed the choice faced by her party is “win or die”.
The education spokesperson and MP for Ashton-under-Lyne announced her candidacy this morning at a community centre on the estate where she grew up and brought up her son as a young single mother.
She was joined by Labour MPs Nav Mishra, a former Momentum organiser who was elected for the first time last month, Lucy Powell, Jonathan Reynolds, Afzal Khan and Sam Tarry. Another new MP, Kim Johnson, also endorsed Rayner’s bid.
During the speech, Rayner touched on her experience of teenage motherhood as well as being a working-class woman in politics, how she was portrayed by the media and treated by colleagues as a result of her background.
“We can’t afford to hide from the scale of this defeat or its lessons,” the deputy leadership candidate said of the 2019 general election result. She later criticised Labour’s campaign strategy, arguing that “we tried to fight target seats where we’d effectively already lost” and this “cannot happen again”.
Rayner put Labour’s defeat in the context of a long-term decline of the mainstream left in the UK and elsewhere in the world, asserting: “Either we face up to these new times, or we become irrelevant.”
As leadership candidate Keir Starmer also did on Sunday, the Shadow Education Secretary made clear that she believed that “Leave or Remain” would not be the question at the next general election – though she predicted that the government would not “get Brexit done” as promised.
Rayner defended the need for “national renewal” and a new economic settlement, but warned that policies must not be interpreted as “free things”. The aim should be to “devolve power and rebuild the party in the country”, she said.
Rejecting the idea of either a shift towards “vanilla politics” or “turning back the clock”, Rayner stated that “people won’t take it on trust that we can deliver what we promise”. She said Labour “fell into the trap of describing a platform of revolutionary change” when it “could have told a simpler story”.
Noting that “I owe so much of my life to Labour”, she called for “a united party that starts winning elections for all” – and emphasised the importance of stamping out antisemitism within the party.
Rayner concluded her deputy leadership launch with the bold statement: “As a party, we face a choice: win or die. And I fight to win.”
Shadow cabinet members Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon have also declared that they will be standing for the deputy post. Ian Murray and Rosena Allin-Khan are expected to formally announce their own bids soon.
Following the speech, Rebecca Long-Bailey tweeted: “Great to see my good friend @AngelaRayner launch her campaign for Deputy Leader. A committed trade unionist and fighter for equality, she’s got my full support.”
Rayner vowed today that she would vote for Long-Bailey if her friend does stand for the leadership. She defended the potential candidate against the claim of “continuity Corbynism”, saying Long-Bailey is “her own woman”.
Below is the full text of Rayner’s speech.
Thank you for joining me. I wanted to make this speech here, on the estate where I grew up and lived for most of my life. I talk about my background because for too long I felt I wasn’t good enough; I felt ashamed of who I was. It took me time for that shame to turn into pride.
I want children growing up here now to know they are worth as much as anyone else. And I want the world of Westminster politics to hear that too. Because I remember when I first spoke from the front bench in the House of Commons, a parliamentary sketch writer said I must have got lost from the set of Little Britain.
It was another way of saying I didn’t know my place. Maybe I don’t. But I know the place I came from. It’s here. Not Little Britain. Real Britain. And people here deserve the very best our country has to offer. But they will only get it from a Labour government.
It’s why I have spent a lot of time over this last few months with party members, both in rooms like this and on the streets and doorsteps outside them. All of us hoping and longing for a Labour government. But we lost.
I am naturally an optimist. I believe political campaigns can and must offer us and our country hope, even now. But we can’t afford to hide from the scale of this defeat or its lessons. We have now lost four elections in a row.
Working class seats that a decade ago had 20,000 Labour majorities now have Tory MPs. Bassetlaw, Labour since 1929, has a 14,000 Conservative majority. Mansfield never had a Conservative MP in its 135-year history until 2015. Now it has a Tory majority of 16,000.
Many of the seats we lost are still marginal, but there are also scores more Labour-held seats now vulnerable. Some were only saved by the Brexit Party splitting the Leave vote.
The Tories outpolled us among blue collar voters by 40% to 23%. We hold a 14% lead amongst graduates, but the Conservatives hold a 33% lead among people with a GCSE level education or less. And the gap between generations has never been starker.
Our coalition, the foundation of our party, is broken. Some blame Brexit, some blame the leadership. We all know both came up time and again, not least in seats like this one and my own. Yet neither will be the defining issue at the next general election.
Politics makes for short memories. But this crisis has been a long time coming. It is the biggest challenge in our history. Nor are we alone.
Across Europe, social democratic parties are collapsing. The once mighty German SPD, the biggest and oldest social democratic party in the world is on 11%. The combined forces of the French centre left parties are on 6%.
We are now in danger of the same fate. This is not an era of change so much as the change of an era. A few new policies will not put things right. The quick fix of a new individual as leader will not be enough. We must rethink and renew our purpose and how we convince people to share it.
Either we face up to these new times or we become irrelevant. The next five years will be the fight of our lives… and I’m standing here today because I don’t run away from a fight.
That is why I’m announcing today that I will stand for the deputy leadership of our party.
I don’t pretend that I have all the answers. That is the point of being a collectivist. That by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we do alone.
It is why I want the leadership of our party to be a team effort. I will be quite straightforward: I will be voting for my friend Rebecca Long-Bailey if she stands for the leadership.
But our collective leadership must go far wider than simply who is elected to these positions. It is why I want us to have an honest, but friendly, conversation with each other. And at the end of it, a united party that starts winning elections for us all.
I owe much of my life to Labour. The Labour governments that provided the welfare state, Sure Start, and the minimum wage, which gave me the help I needed to not just survive but succeed. The trade unions that gave me a political education, skills and a vocation.
But I learned how to survive and win when I was much younger. I was a very young mum when I left school and lived on my own in a council flat.
It was a difficult time. I was a troublemaker but a troublemaker with a cause. And I learned how to organise. So when I became a union organiser I knew how to get justice for my members. I knew how to win. We must learn to do the same.
Many Labour voters stayed at home, and those who voted Tory are not yet convinced to do so again. This fight has just begun. We’ve got 5 years to beat Boris, win back our lost vote and build a new kind of coalition.
Labour must win 123 seats for a majority of one. It is a massive challenge. There are many that have gone from being considered heartlands to battlegrounds in the space of years. Most of them are towns across England and Wales.
Scotland presents its own challenges. The consequences of the next Holyrood elections will matter to all of us. Nor should we take for granted the new voters we have won over, any more than we should have done those we have lost.
For all that’s said about London, we made no net advance in seats there either. We faced a fight to hold others like Dagenham and Rainham – a place that, like my own constituency, has so much to gain from a Labour government, but where too many people felt our party had lost touch with them.
Where I come from, people believed the government would look out for them and it hasn’t. They were told if they worked hard they would share in the rewards of our growth. That was a lie.
But when everything had been taken away from them they kept their pride in who they are, in their community and in their country. It was no good promising people economic security, because we couldn’t convince them we would safeguard the security of their streets, or our country.
Too often our policies, though right in principle, were seen as glib promises of free things, ‘retail offers’, and distrusted as much as any other sales pitch. The electorate did not take up our offer.
Where I come from, people want to feel they belong to a community, and that they can contribute toward it and earn a better shared life. They looked toward Westminster, and yes they looked at us, and they felt patronised. They want better jobs and decent homes but they also want respect.
Many of the friends I grew up with, my own family even, voted to leave the EU. They felt like we treated them as embarrassing aunts or uncles. That we didn’t listen, didn’t understand, and didn’t act on their democratic vote.
And when they thought they were being told to ‘F off and join the Tories’, too many of them did. But the blunt truth is there no point now having the same old debates about Brexit.
By the time we next fight an election, we will have left the EU. Leave or Remain will no longer be the question. And we can play our part in ensuring those labels are no longer the dividing line in our country.
But nor do I believe that this government will have ‘got Brexit done’, as they promised. Instead, we will be wrestling with a new question. What place Britain has in the world outside the EU. We must not only hold the Tories to account for that broken promise, but give our own answer to that question.
It will be amongst the biggest policy challenges we face. But it is one on which I believe our party can not only unite but win over the vast majority of the British people. Because Boris Johnson won’t deliver what they voted for. It’s not just the missing magic money tree.
His vision is a Britain that competes with lower wages for workers, bigger handouts for big business, and worse standards for everyone. Not standing on our own feet, but licking Donald Trump’s.
Labour can offer a different place for Britain in a post Brexit world. Where we own our infrastructure, protect our workers, set the highest standards and thrive by making and exporting the technology that can save our planet.
To win we need unity, ideas and organisation. Labour has achieved three major election victories, in 1945, 1964 and 1997. We know what we need to win again.
Not sectarianism from any side of the party, faction fighting, abuse on twitter and personal attacks in place of political argument, nor by finding comfort in conspiracy theories. But working together to create a shared story of national renewal and a new kind of coalition in the country.
Building those bridges requires trust. But there are also lines beyond which there is no dialogue and no compromise possible. And the first line in the sand is antisemitism. Cross that line and you’re out. Apologies are worthless without action.
We need to make clear now that we will take that action. To educate where there is ignorance. And to quickly remove bigotry wherever it is found.
The Labour movement has always stood and fought against racism and fascism. From Cable Street, to Oldham, from the Blackshirts to the BNP. For years our friends and allies in the Jewish community stood alongside us. When they now feel so wounded, so hurt, we must listen – and act.
We must regain the moral authority to play our role in uniting our society against racism in all its terrible forms. It is why I will stand shoulder to shoulder too with the Muslim community in the face of a wave of Islamophobia, and with all communities now fearful and frightened of what this Tory government will unleash, and the dark forces they have emboldened.
Labour must be the party of ideas and new thinking. We can use this period for reflection, not reaction. To develop a shared understanding of why we lost and what we need to do to win, that will shape our politics, our campaigning priorities, our electoral strategy, and our policy priorities and formation.
After a decade of Tory rule, we face a country that is divided socially, economically and politically. Between classes, generations, regions and nations. Between those with a degree and a good chance of a career in a well-paid profession, and those who are likely to be in low wage, low skilled jobs with few prospects.
To win an election, Labour has to bridge the gap between them. But I don’t believe we can do that by offering ‘vanilla’ politics, not too much of one thing or another, and hope to slide into power by default. We won’t find our future by turning back the clock.
When a generation of young people are locked out of ever owning their own home; when millions of people are trapped in in-work poverty; when food banks have become a fixture in communities; and when your life chances are increasingly determined not by how hard you work, but by what you start out with, it is right that the Labour Party stands on a platform of change.
But people won’t take it on trust that we can deliver what we promise. We fell into the trap of describing a platform of revolutionary change. By the standards of recent politics, it was, and rightly so. But actually, we could have told a simpler story.
So many of our policies simply restored services that an older generation could remember our country having had before. So much of our platform could have been explained as simple common sense. A contrast to absurdities like our trains being run by nationalised companies from every European country except our own.
And when we have new policies to offer, it is so much better to show than to tell. To show what has been achieved in other countries and ask why we can’t have the same. To build on what Labour has done in local government. To take our achievements in Wales and Scotland and apply them to England.
Above all, we have to be clear how these relate to the everyday economy of people’s daily lives. It’s why I often talk about my experience with Sure Start. Not because it was exceptional. Because it was normal, for so many women here on this estate. But whose voices haven’t been heard.
We need to tell a bigger story, about how Labour will rebuild the country and put power back in the hands of people and their communities. If we are serious about this, I believe we can unite the country again.
And we have a duty to do so. The challenges of climate change, of automation, of stark inequality and of public services being starved of resources can only be met by a promise to share wealth and power across the country.
That is why we were right to offer a new economic settlement, that values work and workers. It’s time to replace the business model that chases short-term profits at the expense of sustainable development.
Where low skills and low pay are chosen over training and skills. Where workers are treated like commodities; the cheaper the better. Where taxes are there to be avoided.
The new economy we offer is one hardwired to improve the lives of the middle and low paid. Providing security and opportunity. Developing the everyday economy of retail, utilities, care and public services which sustain our daily lives.
Bringing rural areas, towns and coastal communities into wealth-creating activity. Devolving real power and resources to local places. A strategic state guiding, innovating and planning.
Local authorities invested with real power and resources, using their procurement to reboot local economies. Regional banking to bring investment to areas starved of funding. Trade unions allowed to represent their workers and a guarantee of quality work, goods and services.
I believe the need for that settlement will be even greater after five more years of Tory government, and if we make the right case for it, the British people will agree.
The new economy will only succeed if local knowledge and expertise works hand in hand with the national strategy of government. Genuine power-sharing means a new relationship between national and local government.
We need to be bold and break with the failed model of top down, centrally driven or market-based reform. This new relationship of the national, regional and local should apply for our own party too. Using what we have effectively and strategically.
Helping members participate and contribute their ideas and skills. Building our capacity for policy formation and innovative thinking. Providing opportunities for learning and training to be organisers.
Developing new generations of leaders at all levels of the party. Shifting resources and power to where we need them most.
Rebuilding is now a five year project, but there are immediate lessons to learn from what went wrong with our campaigning, as well as our communication.
For example, what happened here in Greater Manchester showed that our targeting was wide of the mark. Seats where we suffered catastrophic defeats were seen as secure, while we tried to fight ‘target’ seats we had effectively already lost. It cannot happen again.
I believe this deputy leadership election is our chance to debate what went wrong, and that a core role of the next deputy leader will be to put it right.
It is clear what we now have to do. Build unity for electoral victory. Build a national coalition that keeps the voters we’ve won; and wins back those we have lost.
Hold the Tories to account as an effective opposition, and oppose their attacks on our people and communities every step of the way. Be the Party of new ideas and new thinking. Organise our resources, devolve power and rebuild the Party in the country.
As a party, we face a choice: win or die. And I fight to win. Thank you.