Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has won the endorsement of the Unite trade union, taking her one step closer to the members’ ballot.
Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, emerged from an all-day meeting of the union’s ruling executive to say it was their overwhelming view that “Becky has both the brains and the brilliance to take on Boris Johnson.
“She’s incredibly committed; very, very strong in her beliefs and her vision, for winning back our heartlands, but also speaking about the aspirational needs of the whole of our nation,” he added.
The union will also back Richard Burgon for the vacant deputy leader post.
Speaking after a meeting in London, Mr McCluskey said his union would donate money to Mrs Long-Bailey’s campaign but an amount had not been decided.
The union, which was Labour’s biggest financial backer during last month’s election, had been widely expected to back her pitch for the top job.
After receiving the nomination, Mrs Long-Bailey said she was “honoured” to receive the union’s backing.
“I didn’t see myself as the kind of person who could ever become an MP. It was Unite, my trade union, that supported me to realise my potential,” she added.
Sir Keir Starmer has insisted that while he took a different stance to Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit, pushing for the party to embrace a remain position, he would not “oversteer” after December’s general election defeat. Many in the Labour heartlands feel they could never back or unite under the person most feel responsible in Labour’s defeat and his instance on a second referendum.
Long-Bailey is widely believed to have the backing of Corbyn.
Unite’s decision to back Long-Bailey means that under the complex rules for the contest, she only needs the support of one more union or other affiliated society to take her place on the ballot, alongside Starmer and Lisa Nandy.
The fourth contender remaining in the race, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, is battling to secure the support of 33 constituency labour parties (CLPs) – an alternative way onto the shortlist.
Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips has already dropped out, after it became clear that she would not make it through without the backing of a major trade unions.
The final choice will be made by Labour members, with the result announced on 4 April at a special conference in London.