Cherie Blair: Amazing if a woman leads Labour but winner must speak to all

Sophia Sleigh, Rachael Burford
NIGEL HOWARD ©

The next leader of the Labour Party must talk to the people who “didn’t vote for us last time”, Cherie Blair said today.

The wife of Labour’s most electorally successful prime minister said the next leader must demonstrate that the party is “forward-looking” and “open”, in an interview with the Standard.

Before the launch of her 100,000 Women campaign in Davos, Mrs Blair said it would be “amazing” for the party to elect its first female leader, but added: “In the end, the question will be who can take the party and make sure it is talking to the people who didn’t vote for us last time.

“They need show we are the forward-looking, open party. People seem to have forgotten that.” Mrs Blair also spoke out about the “unfair” way women in politics are treated, particularly on social media.

She added: “It is so sad that many women in the last Parliament had to take precautions after being threatened with rape, murder, horrible things. Women... put themselves forward as politicians out of a sense of public duty.”

Mrs Blair refused to endorse any candidate directly, joking: “I’m not sure an endorsement from me will do anyone any favours.”

The race to select Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement has entered its second phase with just one man, Sir Keir Starmer, still running. His rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry are fighting for backers after Sir Keir’s early progress.

Supporters of his rivals have been urging members to use the leadership race to elect Labour’s first female leader.

Andy Burnham, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, today said the next leader has to be the “best person” and did not have to be a woman.

He told the BBC: “Labour sometimes gets itself in trouble when it just says ‘it’s got to be this’ for a reason that is about showing a certain position, as opposed to choosing who is going to be the best person to win back that trust.

“If it could be, it would be a very strong statement, but it doesn’t have to be in my view.”

Sir Keir is expected to secure enough votes from local party branches, unions and affiliates to make it onto the final ballot paper. Three of the ‘big five’ trade unions are expected to endorse candidates by the weekend. Unison has already backed Sir Keir while Unite is expected to back Ms Long-Bailey.

On a visit to Grimsby today, Ms Nandy sought to promote her industrial credentials, saying: “Too many major public contracts worth billions of pounds — in sectors like offshore wind and the rest of the energy industry — have benefited overseas firms at the expense of British jobs despite these investments being funded by everyone through their energy bills.”

Today is the last chance for those wanting to vote in the Labour leadership contest to sign up to join the party. Ahead of the 5pm cut off, Ms Phillips said: “If you care about our party, if you care about our country, be part of our movement to make things better.”

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