Labour has to change and reconnect with voters or else it will become irrelevant, party leadership hopeful Jess Phillips declared.
After the party lost seats in many of its traditional heartlands in Scotland, Wales and the north of England, she said the party had “absolutely no chance of stopping that decline of irrelevance across the whole of the United Kingdom” if it fails to do that.
However, Ms Phillips, who said she would be different from every one of Labour’s previous leaders, insisted she believed she could win a general election – something the party has failed to do since Tony Blair was in charge.
She said she wanted to be PM “much more” than she wanted to be the leader of the opposition, as she vowed to “lead with my heart”.
The Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley made her pitch to party activists in a pub in the southside of Glasgow, telling them: “My unique offer I suppose is courage, bravery and clarity and the fact I’m not like any leader we’ve ever had.”
Ms Phillips is standing against shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, and left winger Rebecca Long-Bailey in the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
And while she accepted it would be “hard” to get the necessary support from trade unions and constituency Labour Party associations to proceed to the next stage of the leadership contest, she said: “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I had a chance
“I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I had a chance of winning, and I want to win because I think I have a chance to win a general election.”
She stated: “I get that I’m not the one that looks a prime minister in this race, and you know what politics has changed, and if we keep on doing the same trust in politics will keep eroding.”
Ms Phillips added: “Boris Johnson has a majority of 80 in Westminster. The parliamentary games and parliamentary pantomime is over, the Labour Party risks being irrelevant full stop if you cannot reach out into people’s living rooms for the three minutes they give you each day, if that.
“People’s lives are busy, they’re holding a baby, they’re looking at their phones. If we don’t sound different, and sound like people can relate to us, and we can’t talk to people’s hearts, here, in Birmingham, in Bristol, in Bradford, we have absolutely no chance of stopping that decline of irrelevance across the whole of the United Kingdom.”
Ms Phillips, who said it was “embarrassing” that Labour has never had a woman leader, said she had managed to “cut through” and make herself known, despite being a backbencher in the Commons.
And she stated: “I think I am going to be different from literally everybody who has ever been the Labour Party leader before. I will be different and sometimes that will make people nervous.
“I will sometimes stride out on things that might make people nervous but I won’t be doing any of it on my own. This isn’t just the Jess show, it would be about building a brilliant team of really talented people from within the Labour Party whose voice should be being heard, and there will be people who are nothing like me and have a different approach.
“But I will look and sound different to any Labour Party leader, and not because I have an accent and am a woman, but because sometimes I am bold, and I will lead with my heart and I think that is OK.”