Jess Phillips urges men to ‘pass the mic’ on Labour leadership
Labour leadership challenger Jess Phillips has urged men to “pass the mic” on the top job arguing it would be “embarrassing” if Labour failed to elect a woman.
The prominent backbencher warned it would “look bad” and also hand “ammunition” to political opponents, who were “laughing at us”.
Unlike the Conservatives, Labour has never had a female leader.
Of the five candidates running to succeed Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the party’s disastrous election results, four are women, with shadow Brexit secretary and early front-runner Sir Keir Starmer the only man.
Asked how it would look if Labour again elected a man as leader, Ms Phillips told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that it would be “true to form”.
She said: “The Labour Party has a blind spot in this regard, it always has.
“It’s genuinely frustrating because… it does a disservice to the Labour Party’s record on women but I think it would look bad.
“I think it will be embarrassing and what’s more, it gives absolute grist to the mill and ammunition to our other side. I have had Tory members of parliament laughing at us after the last time.
“It’s not great if we can’t ever seem to think that the women are good enough. When you’re a woman in politics you’re always the next time – oh it’ll be your turn next time.”
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She added: “I think that if you truly believe in women’s representation, sometimes… passing the mic is the greatest way to show that you truly believe in something but I think it is a very, very difficult argument to say you should stand back if you truly believe you are the best person for the job.”
Ms Phillips also rejected the suggestion she was an “uber Remainer”, having campaigned for s second referendum, and said there was no bid to rejoin the EU.
However, she said it was not an “honest position” to close off future options or alliances.
The MP for Birmingham Yardley was recently forced to backtrack after she indicated she might try to take Britain back into the bloc if Brexit turned out to be damaging.
Speaking to Ridge, she said: “We’ve got into this position where people disagree on individual issues as if you can’t then be trusted on anything else. It’s a really dangerous culture.
“People are okay if you are clear and you are honest about what you think and then they will give you a hearing on other issues, so I’m not an uber Remainer, I don’t feel the need to represent myself as an uber Remainer, I am a politician who will do what I think is right.”
Asked about any future move to rejoin the Brussels club, she said: “We are leaving the European Union and I don’t even think amongst people who voted Remain in the original referendum, that there is any appetite to carry on having a constitutional conversation when we should be talking about the things that people actually talk about.
“So there is no plan to have some sort of campaign to re-join the European Union but any prime minister who wouldn’t look at the merits of every single alliance that our country could have for our safety, security, peace and economic viability, with a reasoned head on, anyone who closes off any option in the future, I just don’t believe that that’s an honest position.”
Meanwhile, Mick Whelan, general secretary of the Aslef trade union, told Ridge his union representatives would be meeting with the Labour Party leadership contenders over the coming days before deciding which candidate to support.
He said: “This process only delivers the candidates, the 550,000 members with one-person, one-vote will then decide which candidate they want and it’s the same as my organisation.
“We will make recommendations, but (union members) will ultimately decide the nomination of Aslef to that process, it won’t be Mick Whelan.”
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly declined to give Ridge his opinion on the Labour leadership race.
But he added: “My only piece of advice for whoever does get it is if they want any chance of being successful they need to do what the Conservatives did at this election and listen to people.”
Also appearing on Ridge, Labour deputy leadership contender Rosena Allin-Khan insisted being a London Remain-supporting MP did not hamper her broader appeal.
She said: “I grew up in poverty. I know what hunger feels like. I know what being cold feels like. My lived experiences will enable me to connect with voters around the country. It doesn’t matter that I’m from London.”
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