Jess Phillips has abandoned her bid to become Labour’s next leader as she admitted she would not be able to bring the party together after its “cataclysmic” election defeat.
The outspoken backbencher, who was a prominent critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, acknowledged she would not be able to unite the unions, members and Labour MPs behind her.
Former shadow cabinet minister Lisa Nandy took a big step towards making it on to the final ballot paper after she won the backing of the GMB union.
BREAKING: GMB is nominating Lisa Nandy for Labour Leader and Angela Rayner for Deputy Leader.
SHARE THE NEWS 👇 https://t.co/qdUt8VNO3c
— GMB UNION (@GMB_union) January 21, 2020
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer is the frontrunner in the contest, having already secured his place on the final ballot paper as a result of nominations from the unions Unison and Usdaw and the Socialist Environment and Resources Association (Sera), an affiliate group.
Sir Keir, Ms Nandy, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry were all at the GMB’s hustings in London on Tuesday.
Ms Phillips was absent from the event and subsequently announced she was dropping out of the contest.
She said Labour had to “talk to the country on their terms, not just on ours” to win an election.
“In order to do that, the Labour Party will need to select a candidate that can unite all parts of our movement – the union movement, the members and elected representatives – I have to be honest that at this time, that person isn’t me,” she said.
The endorsement of the GMB puts Ms Nandy within touching distance of a place on the final ballot paper.
Candidates need the nominations of three Labour affiliates, including at least two unions, which amount to at least 5% of affiliate members.
The only other route on to the ballot paper is by receiving nominations from at least 33 constituency Labour parties (CLPs).
GMB general secretary Tim Roache said: “Lisa Nandy is a breath of fresh air in the debate over Labour’s future.
“The more members see of Lisa in this contest, the more impressed they will be by her ambition, optimism and decisive leadership. GMB is proud to nominate her.
“Lisa won’t shy away from the tough challenges or bold decisions that lie ahead, because she knows that after 15 years of losing elections, more of the same won’t cut it.”
To win again we’ll have to up our game, recover our ambition and inspire a movement.
I could not be more proud that the GMB – representing more than half a million workers – has given me their backing. https://t.co/SJ0AxfU363
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) January 21, 2020
Ms Nandy, who already had the support of the National Union of Mineworkers, said: “Labour is at a crossroads. To win again we will have to up our game, recover our ambition and inspire a movement.
“The GMB, the biggest industrial union which speaks for more than half a million workers, has been offering that leadership time and time again in recent years.
“As I seek permission to lead us back to power as Labour’s next prime minister I could not be more proud to have their support.”
The GMB also backed shadow education secretary Angela Rayner in the deputy leadership contest.
With Ms Long-Bailey expected to pick up the support of the major Unite union to be Sir Keir’s main rival, Ms Thornberry appears to face an uphill battle to make it through to the next stage of the contest.
She said she was “very sorry” that Ms Phillips had dropped out, adding: “We need to broaden our debate, not narrow it, and force the two favourites to prove they’re up to the fight by pitting them against some real strength.”