Lisa Nandy ‘Confident’ Of Winning Labour Leadership With Late Surge Of Undecideds

Wigan MP blames hard left deselection threats for loss of seats like Leigh and calls for regional immigration policy.

Lisa Nandy has declared she is “confident” she can pull off a shock win in the Labour leadership race thanks to a late surge from party members still unconvinced by her two rivals.

With another four weeks left for nearly 800,000 members and affiliates to pick a successor to Jeremy Corbyn, the Wigan MP is aiming to nudge ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey and then overhaul Keir Starmer with the help of second preferences.

Roughly half of party members are thought to have voted so far and polls have given Starmer consistent leads over his fellow contenders.

But Nandy told HuffPost UK that there were still “a lot of members who are undecideds, who haven’t made up their mind who their first choice is”.

And she felt she could still emerge on top when the winner is announced on April 4.

In a wide-ranging interview, Nandy also:

  • Claimed that deselection rows cost Labour MPs key seats in the general election.
  • Suggested that Starmer should be more “upfront” about his donations.
  • Slammed the far Left for lying about her voting record while on maternity leave.
  • Called for UK regions and nations to be allowed to set their own immigration policy.
  • Attacked Jeremy Corbyn’s “patronising” model of party “community organisers”.

The most recent YouGov/SkyNews poll put Nandy in third on 14% on first preferences, behind Starmer on 46% and Long-Bailey on 27%.

But her team points to the “softness” of Starmer’s vote in the details of the poll, with 36% saying they “might still change my mind”.

“The fact that party members are still thinking about this, are still considering it, that half of party members are yet to make up their minds, I say that’s a healthy place,” she said.

“I say that’s a party that has felt and understood the complete and utter collapse of the Labour base in almost every nation and region of the UK and now is the only moment when we have got a chance to sort it out.

“I’ve seen four leadership contests very close up in the 10 years I’ve been in parliament. This is the one where I really feel like our members are thinking hard and considering how we are going to get back into power in a few years’ time. I think they believe it’s possible, I believe it’s possible.

“They are really considering the options. At this stage in the race to still have a lot of members who are undecideds, who haven’t made up their mind who their first choice is, that’s the sign of a really healthy party that knows if it recovers its confidence it can win. I feel at every stage in this contest it’s given me more reason to be confident.”

Nandy was keen to say that she is not third out of three, but currently third out of six from the original field that included Emily Thornberry, Jess Phillips and Clive Lewis.

“I’ve always been confident even when we stepped forward into the race at the very beginning in late December. At the time I was fifth out of six candidates in the running,” she said.

The former shadow cabinet minister hit out at the way the party under Corbyn had made it easier to deselect sitting Labour MPs who were weeks away from fighting the Tories in the 2019 election.

Neighbouring Leigh MP Jo Platt was one of those targeted, before she lost her seat to the Conservatives.

“In the run up to a general election we actually managed to spend months having an argument with ourselves, sparking negative headlines in towns and cities across the country about Labour infighting,” Nandy said.

“And if somebody like Jo Platt hadn’t spent months going through that process before the election it’s quite possible that people in Leigh would have woken up on the 13th of December with a Labour MP.”

Nandy has clashed with Long-Bailey during party hustings over calls for open selections for all Labour MPs, but goes further in warning of the dangers to party unity of the move. Her rival has even suggested that automatic reselection is the best way to find the UK’s equivalent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (known as AOC).

“You are either getting rid of Labour MPs or you’re getting rid of Tory MPs. I’ve heard the suggestion that this is about getting ‘the next AOC’ in British politics, but it was women and it was BAME MPs targeted for deselection. If we had an AOC go through open selection, she would be targeted for deselection. We’ve got to stop this.

“When we create a culture where we turn inwards and attack ourselves and each other you always find that it is underrepresented groups, whether it’s women, whether it’s BAME members, people with disabilities, LGBT people, it’s always those groups who end up disadvantaged as a consequence. I want to see far less of this culture where we attack one another.”

“If we had an AOC go through open selection, she would be targeted for deselection”

Nandy is particularly furious at the way some of Long-Bailey’s supporters in local Momentum groups are still spreading misinformation about her voting record on the Tory welfare bill in 2015.

Long-Bailey defied the whip to vote against the bill, while Starmer abstained (though he has since said that was a mistake). Nandy was on maternity leave at the time and wrote that she was against the bill.

“The one attack that is still going on that I’m finding quite frustrating is members being told constantly that I didn’t vote against the welfare reform bill - when all of the campaign teams know full well I was on maternity leave,” she said.

“I wouldn’t attack a woman for going on maternity leave or a month or going on paternity leave, I think the Labour Party has to be much better than that. It would be different if I’ve been on maternity leave and kept my head down. But I was on maternity leave, and very, very clear and vocal at the time that I was opposed to that bill, despite the fact that was sitting on the front bench only that I would return to parliament and vote against it, when my baby was a few weeks old at the time, everybody knows that.

“I think those sorts of attacks really, really devalue what Labour stands for. And it is quite existential for us. Because if we’re the party that claims to go out and want to build a more compassionate, caring, equal society, then allowing people to be attacked for being new mums on maternity leave and standing up for their principles, I think is a real problem.”

One fresh area of recent conflict between the campaigns has been Starmer’s failure to declare on his website a full list of donations to date. This week, parliament published new figures showing he had a £100,000 gift from a former housing lawyer, but Long-Bailey’s camp said there were still donations that may not be revealed until after the leadership ballot closed.

Nandy, whose £31,000 campaign is dwarfed by the spending of her two rivals, said it was time for Labour to look again at possibly funding candidates to create a level playing field.

“It’s important that we are all open as we can be about it. We’ve been declaring since day one. I declare that myself and I also declare it through the parliamentary system. It’s important to me that people know where I’m getting funded and can draw their own conclusions,” she said. “I think there is a problem with money in politics. It’s a problem for political parties, it’s a problem in campaigns like this.

“It’s not just about the declaring, it’s about the public look at the political class as a whole, that they think there’s something somehow corrupt going on there. There’s a problem with how the the public perceive the role of money in politics. We’ve had commissions in the past where we’ve tried to sort this out, we’ve talked about state funding the political parties, and it never really got anywhere.

“I think we are going to have to find a way, whether it’s trying to find some better system within the Labour party of doing this or whether it’s helping the public to understand why we have the role of money in politics, and being much more transparent much more upfront about where that money comes from and why.”

One area where Nandy has also come under fire from some on the Left has been her repeated claim that Labour didn’t listen to voters on immigration and that she would have the “courage” to do so.

But she is determined to speak for constituents, saying there is “definitely a squeeze on some people in some parts of the country from the fact that they’re competing in a very crowded marketplace” with skilled migrants in the building trades and plumbing.

“I’ve seen that there’s been some people saying we absolutely shouldn’t be listening to people on immigration, I suppose this is because people are reading into that the idea that you can either listen or you can lead but you can’t do both. The sort of leadership I believe in is where you genuinely go out and try and understand what lies behind those concerns.”

Nandy also suggested that her drive for more devolution can help provide answers on immigration and floats the idea of regional decision-making.

“I think if you look at the way that the government’s just come up with this sort of back of the envelope plan about immigration, now that we’ve left the European Union, it shows you why we need a much more flexible immigration policy in different parts of the UK,” she said.

“Straightaway, Scotland says, this doesn’t work for us. If you’ve got an ageing population, you need people to come in to work in your nation or region, then this isn’t going to work at all. It’s a one size fits all approach and often the one size they are trying to make fit is for London and doesn’t work for other parts of the country. In fact this immigration policy doesn’t even seem to work for London. So they really have hit the sweet spot in terms of making a mess of the whole thing.”

“There’s no question that if you look at the different nations or regions of the UK now, we’re going to have to have a much more flexible approach. I’d rather not see that approach dictated from central London.

“I’d rather see that approach built from the ground up, so that you’re asking the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government, you’re asking regional leaders in different parts of England as well, what immigration policy would work in their areas and then you are building something that works for all of us.”


“We’ve managed to get into a real mess with this in the last few years in Labour where we’ve pretty much adopted the model that Cameron brought in through the big society, employing young graduates to go into areas to tell communities how to empower themselves in working class communities where we’ve had to do that for generations.

“We know how to organise quite well thank you very much, that’s why we are still here. I want to see that model completely flipped so that we are actually cascading the power and the resources to those areas.

“But that means a completely different culture and approach from Labour from the one that we’ve had for a really long time. I’m standing up for that cultural change in this contest as much as I’m standing up for a different politics. Because people can feel it in those communities, there’s something deeply patronising about it and we’ve got to show that we’ve got it.”


“I don’t believe we should be in a place where we shut down debate in the Labour party, but it depends what debate. And trans people in this country are amongst the most marginalised and discriminated against in modern Britain. And after signing that pledge I have felt a level of anger and hostility that is quite unlike anything that I’ve ever felt before.

“It’s given me a small flavour of what it must be like to wake up every day in this country as a trans man or trans woman and just go about your daily life. And it was really important to me that the trans community and understood that I’m there for them, that I’ll stand up for them. Whilst I absolutely respect and understand the need for safe spaces and a generation of feminists who fought for safe spaces for women who want to be reassured and protected that there will never be a place in the Labour party that I lead for people who believe that trans people don’t have rights or even worse that trans people don’t exist.”


“When I talk to those nurses and ex-miners back home who voted Tory, I don’t think of them as traitors. I listen to what they are saying and I think for them this was an act of love for Labour. They want us to know we’ve got to change. Tough love because they’ve been trying to tell us for 20 years.”


“I want to give people choices. I’m the sort of young person who when I got to 18 I wanted to move away to study, I went to a city, Newcastle, and then moved down to London after that because I wanted to move away to work and I wanted to get different opportunities. And I know loads of young people including many that I represent who feel exactly the same. But there are also a lot of young people who don’t have the choice because it’s either home and family, or it’s the future and opportunity. And they can’t do both.

“And for them for their families that’s really heartbreaking. But it’s also a real problem for this country because this model where we’ve said invest in cities and the benefits will trickle out demonstrably hasn’t delivered for most towns. It hasn’t worked 40 years of this the discontent in many parts of the country is just too loud to be ignored and I’m determined it won’t be.”


“I’ve always thought that if we were mates, it would be different. And we could definitely sort it out. I don’t think she’s quite a fully fledged Democrat yet. I’m hoping to see her sign up to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign in the near future. If we were friends it would be different.”


“I read ‘Waking Lions’ [by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen] By a new young writer who. It’s basically about a doctor who runs someone over and then has to live with the consequences for a really long time.

“I read fiction and I read it on purpose because there is a big problem when you go from doing constituency work to Westminster and back again constantly in your work every day is that your world starts to shrink, and you forget that it can be different.

“And there’s a Bobby Kennedy quote that I always liked where he says some people see the world as it is and say ‘why?’ I see the world that never was and say, ‘why not?’ And I think fiction does that for you. It helps you bust open the parameters of what’s possible. So I should credit most of the most of the authors that I’ve read over the years with inspiring this campaign, because that’s what we’ve been trying to do with the course of this campaign.”


“It’s not very good. Somebody messaged the other day to the campaign to say that they’ve got a score of over 3000. So we’re currently trying to track this person down and get them into the campaign like definitely getting a job in the shadow cabinet after I win.”

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