Another Labour leadership hustings was held last night, this time hosted by The Guardian in Manchester. Keir Starmer described the idea that Labour had ‘won the argument’ as “complete nonsense”, and stressed that blaming the election result on Brexit was “not an honest analysis”. Lisa Nandy said Labour’s response to Brexit was “utterly tone-deaf” and a “real problem”, while Rebecca Long-Bailey argued that it contributed to the wider “mistrust” among voters.
This was the main subject of disagreement between the candidates, but we know that Labour members were mostly in favour of the fresh referendum policy and that many conference delegates even wanted a more pro-Remain position. And these differences of opinion on Brexit are probably the one thing we can reliably assume the selectorate does know about the leadership hopefuls. This factor is already priced in.
The real newsworthy event of the night was Long-Bailey’s campaign deciding to disclose the sources of any donations over £1,500. The published donor list reveals that Unite has contributed £215,000, the CWU over £52,000 and Momentum nearly £120,000. These are big numbers, with staffing alone amounting to over £115,000. But her team will point out that these are a particular kind of ‘single donor’ – i.e. collections of individual contributions from political funds and membership fees, not high-net-worth individuals.
This throws down the gauntlet: will Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy now follow Long-Bailey’s lead? It is understood that Nandy’s campaign is being run on a shoestring compared to the two others, with a much smaller team and only GMB to rely on for large-scale support. It is no coincidence that they did not put out a mailshot, whereas every party member was sent a poster of Keir Starmer complete with his pledges. Long-Bailey did a direct mailshot too, but it was limited to those without email addresses listed, which amounted to 60,000 members (rather than the full 540,000) according to her campaign.
It was a wise move, and arguably the least we should expect from Labour candidates, though just how effective it can be at this stage is uncertain. It is thought that the majority of members vote early, during the first week of ballots dropping, and that will be the hope of Starmer’s team in particular. And my impression is that members – tired from years of factional battles and the general election campaign more recently, if they were engaged in those – appear to be a bit switched off from this contest, with the perceptions of candidates often failing to match what they have actually said and done. The more transparency on funding, though, the better.
And if you missed our in-depth exclusive interview with Richard Burgon published yesterday, do give it a read now. Love or hate his Marmite ideas and views, the deputy leadership hopeful has certainly got people talking about his campaign and himself as a left-wing figure in the party.
- Today: PMQs (12pm); Arise rally with Richard Burgon and others in London (7pm)
- Thursday: Sky News live Labour leadership debate (8pm)
- Saturday: Party leadership hustings in Brighton