While some in our free and fearless press were waiting for Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips to confirm her departure from the Labour leadership contest, the more significant news was that the GMB Union had backed not Keir Starmer, or Rebecca Long Bailey, but Wigan’s MP Lisa Nandy. Now that Ms Phillips has also backed Ms Nandy, the thought is beginning to enter that she might give the other two more than a run for their money.
With the GMB’s backing, she is almost certainly going to get on the final ballot. That fact alone will sway some CLPs; it might even prompt other Trades Unions to back her. So, assuming Ms Long Bailey also makes it through, it will be a three way contest. That is why some on the left are starting to look seriously at Lisa Nandy.
And there is much to admire about the MP whose only previous appearance on Zelo Street was back in 2012, when the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were attempting - unsuccessfully - to smear her over her rail travel expense claims. She had travelled in First Class; therefore something must, they deduced, be improper. It wasn’t: she was actually saving money on the full Standard Class fare.
But now the examinations are going to be more intensive. So how is she coping? Rather well, it seems, as Mark di Stefano, now at the FT, observed earlier today. “Nick Robinson: ‘Who is your favourite Labour leader?’ … Lisa Nandy: ‘I think there are different leaders who’ve done different things at different times…’ … Robinson: ‘Carefully avoided’ … Nandy: ‘Well it’s a daft question’”. That was not the only interviewer getting short shrift.
She also went on ITV breakfast offering Good Morning Britain and put self-publicist extraordinaire Piers Morgan back in his box. After Ms Nandy concluded that coverage of the Duchess of Sussex “has not shown the British media in its best light”, off went Morgan in his best rant-while-monopolising-the-attention manner. “The reality … [is] Meghan Markle's had exactly the same level of treatment as someone like Kate Middleton, for example. Good and bad in equal measures”. And he was just getting warmed up.
“If you're a member of the royal family, you get acres of press coverage. I would say 70% of the Meghan coverage has been positive, 30% has been negative. And she just doesn't like the negative stuff. It's got nothing to do with her skin colour, nothing to do with her gender. It's just they've done stuff that the public, and the media reflect British public opinion most of the time, thought was wrong”. Then came a pause.
And then came the put-down. "If you don’t mind me saying, how on earth would you know? As someone who’s never had to deal with ingrained prejudice, you're not in a position to understand people who have … The way Meghan Markle was treated, I didn't like it at all”.
Now, those two exchanges do not make a conclusive case for Lisa Nandy to be elevated to the post of Labour leader. But they speak to an assurance, a confidence, that any leader needs in navigating their way through the media minefield. We have a media that is, overall, innately hostile to the Labour leadership right now. To have a leader prepared to take them on in a level-headed yet fair, but firm and decisive way, is always a bonus.
Lisa Nandy is proving to be a serious challenger. Do not take her candidacy lightly.
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