Rebecca Long Bailey has insisted claims that immigration depresses wages are wrong and broken with Jeremy Corbyn by saying she would press the nuclear button if necessary.

In her first Labour leadership interview, the shadow business secretary defended the outgoing leader, while saying he must take “ultimate responsibility” for the party’s election disaster.

Ms Long Bailey marked out her pitch with a call for an open immigration system – perhaps even a continuation of free movement after Brexit – calling that “the million dollar question”.

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People were “under the impression” that their wages were hit by an “influx of so-called migrants, but she said: “That just isn’t the case.

“I have not seen any economic evidence to suggest that the influx of workers from any country across the world at the moment has depressed wages in any way.”

And on Trident – which Mr Corbyn refused to say he would use – his possible protégé said: “If you have a deterrent you have to be prepared to use it.

“But I’m not going to be a warmonger foaming at the mouth and saying I’m going to press a button because any leader needs to ensure that they assess the situation, they address the consequences of their actions.

“And, of course, any country that was considering pushing the nuclear button needed to realise that we were facing nuclear annihilation right across the whole world – but, yes, a leader would need to be prepared to engage in that.”

On the current leader, blamed by many for the election hammering, Ms Long Bailey said: “I supported Jeremy. I still support Jeremy because I felt that he was the right man with the right moral integrity to lead the party.”

But she added: “We weren't trusted on Brexit. We weren't trusted as a party to tackle the crisis of antisemitism.

“We weren't trusted on our policies, no matter how radical or detailed they were,” she acknowledged, adding: “They simply didn't hit the ground running.”

The interview came after Ms Long Bailey finally became the sixth candidate in the race – joining Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, Clive Lewis and Emily Thornberry.

They have until next Monday afternoon to win the support at least 22 MPs or MEPs – ten per cent of the total – to formally enter the contest, with the winner to be declared on 4 April.

On immigration, Ms Long Bailey was asked about her pledge that “never again will our party put ‘controls on immigration’ on a mug” – as Ed Miliband did.

“I think we need to have a fair immigration system but we can't nod towards quite dangerous politics, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We do need as a party to make a stronger argument, because I don't think we have ever set out the case why immigration is a positive force.”

Ms Long Bailey’s campaign received a boost when a possible rival leftwing candidate, party chairman Ian Lavery, announced he would not stand and backed her instead.

“She has the intellect, drive and determination to take forward and develop the popular, common sense socialist policies that Jeremy Corbyn has championed,” Mr Lavery said.

“And after a century, it’s about time the Labour Party was led by a woman.”

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