Labour will be reduced to a rump of just 100 seats after the next election if it continues on the path set by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, a senior MP has said.
Rachel Reeves told HuffPost UK she was likely to back Jess Phillips to take over as Corbyn’s successor because she can “best communicate with the people who we need to win back” and can “cut through and be bold”.
She also revealed she was “ready to serve” under any new leader, preferably in an economic role such as shadow chancellor or shadow business secretary, given her experience as business committee chair and shadow Treasury chief secretary.
But she warned Labour must change if it is to survive as a potential party of government, in what will be seen as a coded attack on so-called ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate Rebecca Long Bailey.
Reeves, who launched a withering attack on Corbyn following December’s election defeat, told the Commons People podcast: “We can’t achieve anything unless we are in power and frankly we have let down the people we came into politics to serve by losing four elections.
“This one by the worst margin since 1931 and if we’re not going to take this opportunity to ask ourselves some deep questions about whether we want to be a protest group or a party of government we are not going to govern again.
“This is a moment really for the Labour party to decide what sort of political party we are.”
Long Bailey this week rated Corbyn’s leadership as “10 out of 10” and bemoaned the press for “savaging” the outgoing leader.
Reeves said: “If we sort of say all was fine, just one more heave and everything, we’ll be back in government, if only we had a better media, if only the electorate properly understood that everything would be okay - we can carry on down that route, fine, well next time we’ll have 100 of us.
“And I’m not willing to let that happen.
“So you’ve got to speak out the truth as you see it and what you’ve heard.
“I’m not repeating what I said to myself, I’m repeating what people said to me time and time again on the doorstep - that they had voted Labour all their life, that their father and grandfather would turn in their graves, but they just couldn’t vote Labour this time.”
Turning to the candidates, Reeves praised Lisa Nandy’s analysis of why Labour lost in northern towns, and said Keir Starmer was “very clear and very credible” and would “clearly” be able to settle quickly into the top job.
But she said she was likely to back Phillips for the leadership.
“She does have that ability to connect with people and connect with people who might not always have engaged in politics and might not always vote Labour,” she said.
Reeves also urged Labour’s new leader to “bring back some of the talent” on the backbenches, naming the likes of Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper, who have served in government and are “incredibly intelligent and well respected people”.
“We need that talent on the frontbench because a leader is just one person,” she said.
The MP, a senior figure once seen as a potential leader, was frozen out under Corbyn.
Asked if she would take a job as shadow business secretary or shadow chancellor, Reeves said: “I’d be back, yeah.
“I’m ready to serve, I would like to serve and I have said that to the leadership candidates.
“I hope to get that opportunity again to help the Labour party back to power, transforming lives.”