Getting on the ballot paper in the Labour leadership contest is not the most straightforward of tasks. For starters, you don’t just put your name down and get put before the membership. Nor is it like the Tories, where they simply get MPs to whittle the candidates down to a chosen two before asking the rank and file. To get to the final stage of the Labour leadership race, you have to prove a wide range of support.
And it's tararabit from her
Securing the nomination of enough MPs is one thing: then comes the search for nominations from Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), as well as Trades Unions or other affiliated groups. The latter hurdle has already been cleared by frontrunner Keir Starmer; it was becoming increasingly clear that this would be too much for Jess Phillips.
And so it came to pass: Sky News’ Joe Pike told this morning that “[Jess Phillips] is NOT attending this morning’s GMB hustings. All four other candidates have arrived at TUC HQ”. Owen Jones, who clearly has reliable sources in the Labour Party, added “I'm hearing from several sources that Jess Phillips is considering withdrawing from the contest today”.
Pike then returned to the subject later. “I understand Phillips will send her supporters a ‘message about her candidacy’ at approx 3pm”. And Jones had a warning for all those who think this leadership contest thing is a piece of cake once you have a few media cheerleaders: “Jess Phillips is the latest victim of 'Centrist Hack Syndrome': politicians who are serenaded by media supporters, told they will flourish if they only take the leap, and then collide with the reality that politics is actually very very hard”. Dead right it is.
He later made sure everyone knew “As I revealed this morning, Jess Phillips has withdrawn from Labour's leadership contest”. She conceded that Labour needed a leader “who can unite all parts of our movement, the union movement, members and elected representatives … I have to also be honest with myself, as I said I always would be throughout this campaign. At this time, that person is not me”. There was more.
“In order to win the country, we are going to have to find a candidate, in this race, who can do all of that, and then take that message out to the country. A message of hope and change, that things can be better … I will always speak out and I promise that we will change the problems in our party that we have seen. I'm going to go out into the country and join the fight back”. She has not yet endorsed any one other candidate.
Jess Phillips was probably never going to get the support she needed from CLPs and Unions. Perhaps she should have listened to those in the party, rather than those outside it, before taking that leap into the arena. Her problem is not personal appeal and likability - as I pointed out recently, she has that in abundance - but what might be termed an excess of candour, combined with what can come across as a lack of sensitivity.
Also, making pals with the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg might have made for good copy, but was always going to antagonise many rank and file party members and Trades Unionists. That isn’t to say she should not have a role in a future Labour shadow cabinet - I think she will - but that the Top Job is not for her. And that will be the case for some time to come.
So farewell then Jess Phillips. Will anyone else drop out before the voting starts?
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