ASKED on Tuesday’s Today programme what had last made her laugh out loud, Rebecca Long Bailey replied: ‘Probably Angela Rayner, she’s always coming out with cracking jokes.’ One side-splitter which her flatmate Rayner recently shared with the nation was her choice for next Labour leader and prospective prime minister: ‘I will support Rebecca because she is a good friend and I think she would be a fantastic candidate.’
Much of the country chortled, but Rayner was entirely serious. Long Bailey became the sixth and last leadership candidate to declare, the reason for her delay being: ‘I didn’t emerge from the election with a ready-made leadership campaign because my every effort during the election went into campaigning for a Labour victory.’
Yeah, right. Originally the bookmakers’ choice, her tardiness allowed early pacesetter ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer to usurp RLB as odds-on favourite, at least for the moment. However, assuming that Long Bailey becomes the beneficiary of the Momentum machine, the likelihood is that her parroting of hard-Left lingo will chime with much of the membership, therefore at current odds of around 5/2 she still looks the better value bet.
To be clear, this betting tip reflects RLB’s chances of success and is not based upon her personal qualities. On the contrary, it is astonishing that she is even a contender for the leadership: the embodiment of ‘vapid’, in my view she is the weakest candidate of the sextet.
Yes, even less credible than you, Jess. Nonetheless, Rebecca Long Bailey was for some time assumed to be the anointed successor. Interviewed by ITV News, she demonstrated that she is independent and not the continuity candidate by, er, awarding Jeremy Corbyn full marks for his leadership.
In response to the accusation by Tom Watson and others that Long Bailey represents ‘continuity Corbyn’,
Angela Rayner snapped back: ‘I take offence to that on behalf of Becky because one thing I know about Becky is that she is her own woman.’
Rayner is standing for deputy and surely is a shoo-in regardless of who is elected leader. Rather than go for the top job, angry Angela claims to have stood aside in favour of her more soporific sidekick to prevent the media stoking a rivalry between the dream team, modestly adding: ‘Me and Becky are two fantastic women’ (though dodgy grammarians).
For an alternative view of RLB, here from last month is George Galloway’s withering assessment of her likely candidature: ‘I’ve nothing bad to say about Rebecca Long Bailey. In fact, I’ve nothing to say about her at all, and isn’t that the point . . . there’s nothing there. Her glasses are on but there’s nothing behind them.’
Ouch. Galloway’s preference was for Labour’s hard Left to be represented by lumpen Ian Lavery, which places a large question mark against his judgment. Nonetheless, his accusation of vacuity was manifest in the article published by Tribune with which Long Bailey formally launched her leadership bid. The full text can be read here.
In her second sentence, Becky blithely warns of ‘the far-Right on the march.’ For those understandably struggling to identify these strutting extremists, Long Bailey fingers the enemy as ‘Johnson and the nationalist Right’ and promises to ‘stand shoulder to shoulder with you . . . against Johnson’s hateful agenda’.
Yes, Boris Johnson, liable to be the most spendthrift and socially liberal prime minister the Conservative Party has ever had, is running a ‘far-Right’ and ‘hateful’ government – at least according to Rebecca Long Bailey. Her observation that ‘Labour’s path to victory lies in reuniting all our heartlands’ is a statement of the blindingly obvious; however, telling voters in fallen ‘Red Wall’ constituencies that they facilitated a neo-fascist regime is a strange way to re-attract Labour’s disillusioned deserters.
Furthermore, the disenchanted working class, already aghast at the extraordinary economic, social and cultural transformation of their communities, and frustrated by the concomitant pressures on local services, had better get used to it: if Labour is led by Rebecca Long Bailey, ‘never again will our party put “controls on immigration” on a mug’.
In fact the only Labour mug will be any former supporter who imagines RLB to be a new broom who will sweep clean. Instead, she offers only window dressing: ‘I don’t just agree with the policies, I’ve spent the last four years writing them.’ Nor, apparently, was it her handiwork contained within the manifesto which was to blame: she pins Labour’s December debacle on ‘lack of a coherent strategy’ and ‘failure of campaign strategy, not of our socialist programme’.
On Tuesday’s Today programme, for the Radio 4 audience RLB attempted to be more emollient than she had appeared in print. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that her prepared pitch for the leadership in Tribune is much more representative of her true views and feelings.
As a reaction to a catastrophic election defeat, it is difficult to imagine a more risible response from a putative leader. RLB’s myopic and tin-eared treatise not only offers more of the same, it continues the failed tactic of defaming moderate Conservatives as ‘far-Right’ and blackening bogeyman Boris for being ‘hateful’.
It’s pathetic. In her appeal to become his successor, she praises Jeremy Corbyn for having been ‘honest, principled and kind’. Ah, now we understand the ways in which bilious Becky is ‘very different’.