Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy has said a “red bridge” uniting support across different wings and regions must be built to prevent the party’s demise, as she launched her campaign to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
The backbench MP outlined her vision to convince voters across the nation that they are fighting the same battle, during a speech in Brexit-backing Dagenham, east London, moments after nominations closed to push her into the next round.
She stressed on Monday that Labour cannot “steady the ship or play it safe” in recovering from the worst general election result since 1935, or the party “will die and we will deserve to”.
Ms Nandy, who is through to the next round of the leadership battle, referenced the so-called red wall of former Labour strongholds across the Midlands and the North as she stressed a need to speak to broad swathes of the nation.
“The stark truth is, the path back to power for Labour will never be built along the red wall,” she said.
“The path back to power for the Labour Party will be built right across that red bridge that stretches from our major metropolitan cities, through our suburbs and into our smaller towns and villages as well.”
The former shadow cabinet member rejected the argument that Labour is locked in “a tug of war” and must choose between working and middle class, Leave and Remain, North and South or young and old.
One of Labour’s most prominent critics of the party’s pledge to hold another EU referendum, Ms Nandy also criticised the party for having “completely failed” over Brexit and for allowing the Tories to divide the public.
In Scotland, where Labour’s support has been decimated by a rise in the SNP, Ms Nandy said an international commission was needed to defeat nationalism.
“Now is the time to look outwards, to think big and to paint on broad canvas, to set up an international commission to go out to the field and discover how in modern times, in just a few brief moments, the cause of social justice has beaten back divisive nationalism and won,” she said.
She stressed the party has been able to listen to the public and to recover before, as she quoted former Labour PM Tony Blair.
“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime – this was more than just a slogan,” she said.
They were right criminals were destroying communities, she said, but so too were those who were “deeply troubled” that it was people from ethnic minorities and poorer families who were most likely to be imprisoned.
Acknowledging that allowed “both parts of Labour’s very diverse coalition” to find a solution, she added, pointing towards restorative justice and rehabilitation in conjunction with policing.
Ms Nandy extended this analogy to knife crime in Croydon and drug running in Barrow, as being the “different symptoms of the same diseases”, and to tackling the climate crisis.
And she extended the comparison to those in Bassetlaw who fear their jobs are at risk and energy bills could go up, with Balham activists’ talk of a green revolution, highlighting the need to build environmentally-friendly buses for the benefit of all.
“We might be talking a different language but behind that we have exactly the same ambitions,” she said, calling for a “radical, reforming, credible Labour government” that reunites with communities.
She also praised the Dagenham women who in 1968 fought for and won equal pay rights, with their strike in a nearby Ford factory.
She rejected the belief that “changing the man at the top” would fix a crisis, saying leadership like theirs is needed now, and “less the man who stands and pronounces at the despatch box” at the House of Commons.
Ms Nandy was among the five contenders through to the contest’s next stage, having secured the nominations from Labour MPs and MEPs required ahead of Monday afternoon’s deadline.