21/01/2020 22:14 GMT

Ian Lavery Says Keir Starmer Should 'Stand Aside' For A Female Labour Leader

Party chairman also labels frontrunner "the moderate of the race" as he warns against choosing a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

PA Wire/PA Images
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery during a campaign event for leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey in Hackney, London.

Left-wing firebrand Ian Lavery has warned Labour against choosing a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” for party leader as he told HuffPost UK Keir Starmer is “the moderate in the race”.

The Labour Party chairman, who is backing the so-called ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey in the race for the party’s top job, also demanded the shadow Brexit secretary “stand aside” to make way for a female leader.

Speaking at a rally in east London where Long-Bailey was drumming up support, Lavery said: “We need a female leader of the Labour Party. 120 years in existence and we still haven’t had one female leader of this party.

“Stand aside, Keir. Understand your place.”

Lavery, who himself briefly considered a tilt at the leadership, later claimed, in an interview with HuffPost UK, that the comments were ”tongue in cheek”, but added: “We have four women and a man (in the race for Labour leader). All I would say is that there is a clamour, and rightly so, to have a female leader. 

“It’s long overdue and that’s the point I want to make.” 

Lavery also used his speech to lay into pundits and MPs who were “rewriting history” about the reasons behind Labour’s devastating defeat at December’s poll, which left Boris Johnson’s Conservatives with an 80-seat majority. 

Calling the manifesto the “book of hope”, he said he felt “bruised and battered” but “the only way is up” for Labour and it was time to “reunite the party”.

He could not resist a swipe at Long-Bailey’s rivals, however. 

He said: “I’m not going to get into a slagging match with other contestants but beware of Greeks bearing gifts, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing because they’re all saying they’re socialists and they’re all saying I told you so.” 

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer during the first Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool.

Expanding on the comments in the interview with HuffPost UK, Lavery sought to brand Starmer the Blairite runner after Jess Phillips’ exit, saying: “I think Keir has been the moderate in the race the whole time. I think people accept that Keir is a moderate, despite what people might want to say, including Keir himself.”

Long-Bailey unveiled at the event, in east London’s Hackney, that she would back open selections of Labour’s parliamentary candidates. 

The controversial policy was a key demand of the campaign group Momentum and would guarantee local party members a regular vote on who is the Labour parliamentary candidate. It could mean sitting MPs are ousted between elections. 

Tuesday also saw the GMB union swing behind campaigning Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, who now needs just one more affiliated group to back her before making the next stage. 

Starmer has already secured the three affiliated groups required to make the ballot and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry will now have to rely on winning enough grassroots support. 

Long-Bailey has the backing of Momentum and is likely to secure the nomination of left-wing unions Unite and CWU. 

The winner of the Labour leadership contest will be announced on April 4.