ANALYSIS: Sir Keir Starmer bids to be the real continuity Corbyn candidate

Posted On: 
5th January 2020

In recent days, the question in Labour circles has been "where's Becky?"

Keir Starmer with Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.
PA Images

Since confirming she was "considering" entering the leadership race a week ago, Rebecca Long Bailey has been conspicuous by her absence.

And this weekend, as the political programmes return ahead of Westminster re-opening for business on Tuesday, the Shadow Business Secretary is again conspicuous by her absence.

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While leadership candidates Lisa Nandy, Emily Thornberry and Jess Phillips are being quizzed on their own bids, Long Bailey remains away from the public gaze, plotting her next move.

Suggestions that she may not run at all have been scotched by those closest to her, but there is no doubt that Long Bailey's rivals are stealing a march while she prevaricates.

None more so than Sir Keir Starmer, who on Saturday night challenged the received wisdom that Long Bailey - who already has the support of John McDonnell, Richard Burgon and Momentum boss Jon Lansman - will be the "continuity Corbyn" candidate in the race.

In a four-minute video posted on Twitter, the Shadow Brexit Secretary met head-on any suggestions that he is a centrist or - even worse - a Blairite.

His left-wing credentials are burnished by testimonies about the free legal help he provided for anti-Poll Tax protesters, his opposition to the Iraq War and the fact that he took the last Labour government to court for refusing to provide benefits for asylum seekers.

There is even a fleeting shot of him embracing Corbyn, and definitely no mention of the fact that he was one of the frontbenchers who quit their jobs in 2016 in an attempt to bring him down.

It is a smart, slick and well-targeted campaign launch, aimed directly at the Labour membership who will decide the outcome, rather than the public at large.

One Labour insider described Sir Keir as "continuity Miliband", a less-than-complimentary reference to another former party leader.

But there is little doubt that in the race to be Jeremy Corbyn's heir apparent, Sir Keir has stolen a march on Long Bailey. Over to you, Becky.