Angela Rayner should ditch Long Bailey and make a bid for leader
Rayner should follow the lead of Blair, Miliband, and indeed Corbyn, and get out from underneath RLB
The only reason I’d like to sit on Labour’s National Executive Committee would be so that I could shout “Let’s get this party started!” every time Keith Vaz entered a room. The former member for Leicester East, you may recall, once made headlines for offering to buy cocaine for two sex workers, telling them: “We need to get this party started.”
Vaz and his colleagues are now trying to get the Labour Party started – or, should I say, restarted – using a Gove-ian range of stimulants, with potentially lethal party drug RLB, hallucinogenic Jess and the seemingly harmless but highly addictive Starmzy being the current narcotics of choice.
For those who want to help revive this corpse of a political party, you will need £25 and be nimble enough to register during next week’s 48-hour window of opportunity.
Am I being harsh? A corpse? Contrary to such intoxicated analysis in some Labour circles, the party did not almost win in December – they were all of 3.7 million votes behind the Tories. Thankfully, the message finally seems to be getting through – and beyond the usual suspects of Tony Blair, Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips and their crawling establishment cronies in the mainstream media (me).
Angela Rayner herself, the deputy leader in waiting, has launched her own bid for greatness by declaring that the Labour party “must win or die”. In words that seemed more fitting of a leader than a deputy , she went on: “Our coalition, the foundation of our party, is broken. Some blame Brexit, some blame the leadership. We all know both came up time and again, not least in seats like this one and my own. Yet neither will be the defining issue at the next general election. Politics makes for short memories.”
As someone who put a small wager at long odds some years ago on Rayner succeeding Corbyn, I have to declare an interest here. Odds of 50 to 1 seemed too tempting, especially as I had just heard Rayner tell Nick Robinson precisely where to get off on the Today programme. The last time I noticed her on the telly was on Question Time just before the election, when she deflated Nigel Farage, which is not easy to do. So I have a financial interest in her winning – but a rather more genuine admiration for her abilities.
For what it’s worth, she has an excellent back story – though I’d not be bothered if she were the product of St Paul’s and Christchurch, and sounded like Olivia Colman, rather than having left school as a single mum at 16, and retained her Stockport accent. Rayner knows what she wants and is clever enough to get it. She could do the job, and do it well. The only doubt I have is about what she actually believes in, whether she really intuits how to get Labour back to power – though it seems she may do.
I wonder, then, what Rayner is doing wasting her time running for deputy. Rebecca Long Bailey has virtues, but knowing how to return Labour to government does not seem preeminent among them. She is the continuity candidate, and proud of it. Fine, but if you are the anti-continuity deputy, where does that leave you, and the party for that matter? Perhaps RLB has promised Rayner she can take over for a second term in 2029. Not a cheque easily cashed, that.
As with previous relationships within the Labour leadership, you can see the tensions coming a mile away. Blair and Brown were the tragic example in recent times – Brown having failed to put up for the leadership in 1994, convincing himself in hindsight that he was somehow cheated out of his birthright. As Lloyd George said, there are no friendships at the top of politics. Sharing a flat can be acrimonious enough without having to share leadership of a political party, too..
One practical outcome would be for Starmer to win and Rayner to deputise, balancing his appeal on multiple fronts (gender, geography, personality, political stance). Best of all would be for Rayner to take her chances on the top job. Others have belatedly gotten out from under their supposedly senior “running mates”, including Blair, Hague, Cameron, Ed Miliband, May and (of course) Corbyn. I doubt Rayner would be that happy as anyone’s deputy. I think she might just be the person to get this party started.