Rebecca Long-Bailey has announced her backing for a change in the way Labour selects its parliamentary candidates as she called for a “democratic revolution” within the country and party.
The shadow business secretary, a frontrunner in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader, said Labour needed to “rip up the rulebook” and “empower” members in its heartlands by introducing open selections.
In a speech to supporters in Hackney, east London, Ms Long-Bailey said the current system of trigger ballots had produced a culture where party members have to negatively campaign against an incumbent MP.
“I’ll be honest, I support open selections,” she said. “And that’s because many MPs and members feel the compromise that we’ve reached so far produces a culture where members have to negatively campaign against a sitting MP.
“It doesn’t offer the opportunity for new candidates who want to come through to emerge without a stigma in being part of that negative campaigning.”
She said her role as leader would be to “democratise” the party and to “examine new ways to empower our members”.
“That means having a frank conversation about open selections with our movement, about where we go next, ripping up the outdated rulebook that has held back our members for too long and throwing open the door to a new generation of MPs and candidates.
“If our party is to reconnect with those sick of the political establishment, then we’ve got to stop acting like them and empower our members in all of our heartlands,” she said to applause and cheers from supporters.
Ms Long-Bailey added: “Being an MP or any elected representative is a privilege that must be earned and I want to open the discussion now on how our candidates should be selected, how we nurture and bring through talent in our movement, whilst recognising and valuing the experience of the MPs that we have.
“So, we need a democratic revolution both in the country and in our party, and our party has to lead by shining example. Because if we can’t democratise our own party, we won’t be trusted to democratise our workplaces, our economy and the country.”
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery, introducing Ms Long-Bailey, called on her only male rival Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, to stand aside and let a woman win.
He urged: “We need a female leader of the Labour Party… Stand aside Keir.”
Mr Lavery also suggested Ms Long-Bailey’s politics should be called “Baileyism”.
He said: “If we stand with Rebecca Long-Bailey, Baileyism, we’ll have a leader who can take the fight to the Tories not in 2024 but in 2020. We’ve got a woman who is as strong as anyone within the party.
“She’s got fantastic vision, she’s got a fantastic history and a fantastic background, and she isn’t frightened of anybody – she’s not even frightened of me. And she is the right person for the job.”