Moderate Labour MPs throw their weight behind Jeremy Corbyn critic Jess Phillips in a bid to revive the party following its historic defeat
- She is one of nine candidates to be in the running for the leadership role
- But others say only Yvette Cooper can save Labour from the ‘hard-Left mess’
- Jess Phillips is seen as a ‘clean skin’ to clean up after Jeremy Corbyn
The battle to become new Labour leader was already under way last night as moderate MPs threw their weight behind arch Jeremy Corbyn critic Jess Phillips.
They are backing the high-profile backbencher to revive Labour after its historic election defeat.
Up to nine candidates are already understood to be manoeuvring for the top job, split between some wanting a break from hard-Left policies and some still wanting to keep the Corbynista flame alive.
In a sign of a fierce fight ahead, other moderates say only ex-Cabinet Minister Yvette Cooper can rescue the party from the Corbyn ‘hard-Left mess’.
Leadership hopes: Jess Phillips is vying to revive Labour by taking over from Jeremy Corbyn
They are even threatening to ‘override’ Corbynite rank-and-file members if they block her because she served under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Challenged to say what would happen in that case, one Cooper supporter said: ‘Well, we’ll just make her leader of Labour MPs in the Commons’ – and not the whole party.
In the running: She is one of nine candidates being linked to the leadership role
Such a move would set up a bitter showdown between tens of thousands of party members still loyal to Mr Corbyn’s leadership and centrist MPs at Westminster.
But one leading moderate MP said anti-Corbynista colleagues would support mother-of-two Ms Phillips as a ‘clean skin’ to clean up after Mr Corbyn.
The mother-of-two, a former women’s refuge manager, appeared to throw her hat in the ring straight after being re-elected in Birmingham Yardley by saying she was ready to ‘take a role’ and insisting the party needed change.
She once threatened Mr Corbyn, saying she would ‘knife you in the front’ if he proved damaging to the party.
Hopes of the hard-Left may now rest on Salford MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, with reports that Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon will back her and run for deputy leader himself.
But other MPs prefer schools spokesman Angela Rayner, saying she appeals to both the Northern working classes and the ‘metropolitan’ South.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry are also expected to campaign.
Moderate Sir Keir Starmer – said to be the only credible male candidate – denied reports last night that he was reaching out to the Left-wing Momentum movement to broad his support.
Denial: Sir Keir Starmer denied he was trying to win over Momentum in a bid to win
The contest is not expected to begin until the New Year when Corybn finally stands down.
Each candidate needs the backing of 21 fellow Labour MPs to qualify.