Labour leadership: Jess Phillips admits she 'probably won't win' after 'awful' first hustings

Centrist candidate needs backing of shopworkers’ union Usdaw later on Monday - or her bid could be doomed

Jess Phillips says Labour party needs a leader who spoke out 'when others were keeping quiet'

Jess Phillips has admitted her campaign for the Labour leadership is faltering ahead of a crucial trade union deciding who to back, saying: “I probably won’t win.”

The centrist candidate described her own performance in the first party hustings as “awful” – appearing to acknowledge that either Keir Starmer or Rebecca Long-Bailey would triumph.

Ms Phillips vowed to be herself and strive to be less “statesmanlike” at future hustings with the Labour faithful, saying: “I am going to say what I think. I am going to give honest answers.

But she added: “I probably won’t win, but I am guessing that I might just inspire others to give it a go too.”

The comments come ahead of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw – one of the ‘big five’ – deciding which leadership candidate to endorse later today.

Unless it defies predictions and opts for Ms Phillips, she will face the herculean task of winning the backing of 33 local constituency parties in order to stay in the race.

Describing the first hustings in Liverpool on Saturday, Ms Phillips wrote: “I was awful, because I was trying to hit a million different lines and messages in 40 seconds. Some were my lines, some were other people’s and it fell flat.”

Promising a different approach, in an article for The Guardian, she added: “I might not look the most like a prime minister in this race, because apparently looking like a prime minister is a thing.

“I cannot win that war, so I am going to stop fighting it. I am going to do the thing that made tens of thousands of people ask me to run to be the leader. I am going to say what I think. I am going to give honest answers.”

Unless they have the backing of 33 local parties, a candidate requires the support of three affiliates, two of which must be unions – and between them accounting for 5 per cent of the affiliated membership.

In practice, that means the backing of one of the “big five” unions, with Usdaw the only one thought to be even considering supporting Ms Phillips.

Its 15-strong executive will meet in Manchester, with some trades union sources suggesting it could opt for Sir Keir as he appears a more plausible winner.

Only 14 local parties have nominated so far – with 11 backing the shadow Brexit secretary and the other three Ms Long-Bailey. Nominations must be gathered by 14 February.

Unison has already backed Sir Keir, the GMB union is expected to choose between him and Lisa Nandy on Tuesday and Unite is highly likely to support Ms Long-Bailey, also this week.

The leftwing Communication Workers Union (CWU) also appears unlikely to back Ms Phillips or Emily Thornberry – who is also likely to be left out in the cold.

Members of the public have until 5pm on Monday to join the Labour Party if they want to vote in the contest, with the result declared on 4 April.

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