As the candidate most towards the left of Labour, leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey hasn’t received a warm welcome from the British press.
In an interview with Andrew Neil on 4 March, the BBC host launched an attack on the leadership candidate over her past (sound familiar?). Promptly, a Labour MP then jumped on the attack bandwagon (still familiar?).
The ludicrous attack, however, did not pass unchallenged.
Enemy of the NHS?
In the interview, Neil targeted Long-Bailey over her past work at a law firm. He cited a leaflet from her 2015 election campaign, in which Long-Bailey said she was previously “a solicitor for the NHS to help defend our health service”. She clarified that she was employed in a specific department in a legal firm, which only worked with the NHS.
Neil then brought up the fact that the leadership hopeful worked on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts within her role. Long-Bailey confirmed this, explaining that – because all NHS property contracts at that time involved PFI – “you couldn’t not work on PFI”.
A Conservative government introduced PFI and then it spiralled under Tony Blair’s Labour government. It’s a deeply controversial scheme. It involved the private funding of infrastructure, such as hospitals, for public services; and the government then using public money to pay back that investment via leases and repayments to the private entities at exorbitant rates.
As such, Neil used Long-Bailey’s work on them (for the NHS, at a time when PFI schemes were compulsory) as a stick to beat her with. Essentially, his questioning painted her as someone who, rather than ‘defending’ the NHS, was complicit in selling the NHS to the highest bidder. In reality, of course, she worked for a legal firm implementing a scheme dreamed up by a government that was merrily selling the NHS to the highest bidder. There’s a difference.
This fact didn’t pass others by, however:
On the bandwagon
Labour MP Stephanie Peacock then jumped on board, taking a swipe at Long-Bailey’s defence of her work at the law firm:
But this met with swipes back in Peacock’s direction:
Indeed, some tested how far the complicity line can go for those who aren’t responsible for making policies but interact with them in their daily lives:
Grasping at straws
Politicians should be accountable. And their choices before entering politics are often relevant. But it appears that the BBC and Peacock are taking aim at Long-Bailey for a policy she didn’t invent or vote for. Nor did she choose to work for the blood-sucking private entities making a mint out of PFIs. She chose to represent the NHS instead.
This attack is flimsy, and Peacock jumped right on it. A poor show from both the public broadcaster and the Parliamentary Labour Party member. No change there, then.
Featured image via David Woolfall/Wikimedia and BBC