Labour leadership: Who is Lisa Nandy and what are her key policies?

Andrew Woodcock
Lisa Nandy speaking to the audience at the Labour Party Leadership hustings in Durham on 23 February, 2020: Getty

Viewed as the outsider when she declared her intention to run for the Labour leadership, Lisa Nandy has won plaudits and support for her willingness to confront the party with the need to alter direction in the wake of crushing election defeat.

But as ballot papers went out, it remained far from clear whether members are ready to embrace her message that Labour must “change or die”.

Observers believe that Nandy’s chances of securing the leadership depend on snatching second place from Rebecca Long-Bailey and then overhauling frontrunner Keir Starmer on the basis of second preference votes.

The Wigan MP’s long-standing commitment to the unfashionable cause of support for the UK’s smaller towns was thrust to the forefront of debate on the left by the defection of many such constituencies to Tories in December.

In stark contrast to other senior Labour figures who blamed Brexit or the media for the defeat, she has spoken of a disillusionment developing over 20 years or more among traditional working-class voters who feel the party has stopped listening to them and drifted away from representing their interests.

And she has shown herself to be a robust performer, emerging unscathed from an interview with the BBC's most fearsome interrogator Andrew Neil and slapping down Good Morning Britain's Piers Morgan for comments about Meghan Markle.

Ms Nandy, 40, is the most experienced parliamentarian of the trio seeking to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, having been first elected to parliament in the 2010 general election which saw Labour removed from office after 13 years in power.

She worked as an aide to shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell before joining the frontbenches as charities spokeswoman in 2012 under Ed Miliband.

She backed Andy Burnham for the Labour leadership in 2015 and was appointed to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as shadow energy secretary following his victory.

But she resigned the following year to work as co-chair of Owen Smith’s campaign to oust the Labour leader - something for which many on the left have not forgiven her.

She later spoke of the abuse she received as a result of her participation in the challenge to Corbyn’s position, which she said had left her “genuinely frightened”.

On the backbenches, Ms Nandy became an increasingly vocal advocate for the reversal of the declining economic fortunes of smaller towns, forming the Centre for Towns think tank in 2018 to provide research and analysis of their particular needs. She also served as chair of Labour Friends of Palestine.

Labour leadership contenders Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer (Getty)

She argued for a close future relationship with the EU, but cautioned against throwing the party’s weight behind the campaign for a second referendum on the grounds that it would alienate many Leave-backing Labour voters.

Ms Nandy secured her place on the ballot paper for the contest to replace Corbyn by winning the endorsements of the Jewish Labour Movement and Chinese for Labour, as well as the GMB union and National Union of Mineworkers. She secured nominations from 71 constituency parties.

In the leadership campaign, she has urged Labour to listen to the needs of voters in its heartlands and called for greater powers for local councils to respond to the needs of their areas, including by scrapping Local Enterprise Partnerships and transferring their £12 billion budget to town halls.

She argues that Labour’s route back to national office lies through the local authorities and mayoralties where the party still holds power and can demonstrate the practical benefits of its policies to boost bus services and energy co-operatives.

Born in Manchester in 1979 the daughter of Indian-born Marxist academic Dipak Nandy and the granddaughter of Liberal MP Frank Byers, Ms Nandy was educated in comprehensive schools and studied politics at Newcastle and Birkbeck universities.

She worked as a researcher for former Labour MP Neil Gerrard and then at homelessness charity Centrepoint and the Children’s Society and served on Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council before entering parliament.

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