Long-Bailey vows to challenge media ‘smears and lies’ if elected Labour leader

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Rebecca Long-Bailey has vowed to challenge the media’s “vested interests” and “ridicule” perceived smears against Labour if she succeeds Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

The shadow business secretary announced to supporters in Salford that she would look to build a “counter-narrative” to what she branded “deliberate” efforts in the press to keep Labour and its left-wing policies from power.

In a speech on Friday plotting Labour’s path back to power, the leadership hopeful signalled the party’s at times fraught relationship with the traditional media would continue under her watch.

Long-Bailey said that while journalists had a “vital role” to play in society, she argued that “large sections of the media represent vested interests”.

“Much of the press is owned by billionaires, so it’s no surprise they support the Tories and monster Labour,” said the shadow cabinet member.

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“I’ll not only call that out, I have a plan to deal with it. I’ll ridicule the most absurd smears and lies.

“We won’t just rebut factual errors in stories, but provide a counter-narrative about deliberate media efforts to hold back aspirational socialism.”

Her ideas for establishing rival messaging include setting up a “dedicated creative digital communications unit” in the party, responsible for producing “viral content that can both get around media hostility and speak directly to voters”.

The campaign group Momentum, which is backing Long-Bailey in the leadership race, currently does something similar, often producing humorous videos mocking Conservative policies and explaining Labour alternatives.

Long-Bailey also urged the party not to row back from the “popular” policies found in its election manifesto, despite them being rejected by the electorate. She said: “Retreating from popular policies that provide answers to the crises facing our country is no route to victory.”

Despite her comments, Long-Bailey has previously confirmed she would ditch elements of the defeated manifesto.

Along with the other three candidates in the contest, she admitted on BBC Newsnight that she would not pursue blocking a rise in the retirement age or introducing a four-day working week.

She does, however, support re-nationalising industries such as rail, water and energy, while also scrapping university tuition fees.

Labour leadership
The Labour leadership contest is due to conclude on 4 April (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Long-Bailey has been criticised repeatedly during the leadership race by rival Lisa Nandy for wanting to introduce open selections, a system that would make it easier for members to get rid of sitting MPs.

But Long-Bailey encouraged MPs not to be “timid” and welcome the proposals, which she argued would help it appeal to a greater section of society.

“I’ve heard the line about wanting to deselect Tory MPs, not Labour ones,” she said, referencing Nandy’s critique.

“But this isn’t about that. It’s about creating a party full of motivated, engaged members who can then sweep those Tory MPs away.”

Nominations for the leadership race are set to close at midnight on Friday – with three out of the four candidates so far having won enough backing to make it onto the ballot paper.

Keir Starmer, Long-Bailey and Nandy have made it through to the final stage, but shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry remains short of the required support.

Members and supporters will begin voting from 21 February, with the next Labour leader set to be announced on 4 April.

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  • Show Comments
    1. The smears she should be most concerned about are those of institutional anti-Semitism. All four candidates have described themselves as Zionists or supporters of Zionism. They seem to believe that being in favour of a State of Israel means being a Zionist. The historical ignorance is stunning. Chomsky is in favour of a State of Israel, indeed, much of his work on Israel/ Palestine has embraced the anxiety that Israel’s actions are likely to lead to its demise. He has been a long-standing advocate of a settlement which guarantees both an Israeli State and a Palestinian State, but he is not a Zionist. Nor is Ilan Pappe. Nor many Jews and non-Jews who support a State of Israel alongside an autonomous Palestinian State. Zionism is something quite distinct from support for an Israeli State in conjunction with a Palestinian State.
      What characterises Zionism is a belief in messianic entitlement together with a claim on the whole of Palestine. That is not at all the same as a belief in a State of Israel within, for example, the pre-1967 borders or the borders defined by UN Resolution 181. Further, the Zionist belief that the whole of Palestine should become a Jewish State is fundamentally racist. It entails either elimination or the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.
      All four candidates are woefully wrong. They are ignorant of history and their logic is pitiful. They are out of their depth. If they are Zionists they are racists. They can support an Israeli State and oppose Zionism. They can do so by insisting that Israel withdraw its settlements, lift the siege of Gaza, define its borders and accept a State within a defined portion of Palestine, the rest to be occupied by a Palestinian State. By defining themselves as Zionists they are falling in with Israel’s racist policies (a State of Israel does not imply racism) and asserting their belief in a Jewish State in the whole of Palestine. What do they then believe should happen to the Palestinians? Their confusion brings tears to the eyes of any informed adult.

    2. RLB – if you are listening and reading: antisemitism allegations are largely a smear. Some of your parliamentary colleagues are the biggest originators of the media smears so what are you going to do about that? You can’t forever run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Try running – as you did from the Lewisham Hustings when you tried to avoid having to comment on this subject and then gave a wet flannel of an answer. It’s been noticed and widely commented on. It will serve you right if you lose because many of us who might have voted for you sit on our hands instead. Might as well have a full-baked Tory Labour Leader than a half-bake

    3. Yet she is not calling out the media for the false antisemitism smears, nor is she calling out the pro-brexit propaganda that will lead our country to ruin. I am beginning to hope she will loose. It would be better to have a right winger who we know is a right winger instead of one pretending to be left wing.

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