Rebecca Long-Bailey vows to 'back workers in every dispute' if she becomes Labour leader

Candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn says she will stand on the side of trade unions 'no questions asked'

Rebecca Long-Bailey says Labour manifesto was poorly communicated

Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has promised to “back workers in every dispute… no questions asked” if she wins the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

At a campaign rally in Sheffield, the favoured candidate of the left said Labour’s leader should be someone “as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box”.

And she promised a drive to boost trade union membership, with the goal of recruiting more than 1 million workers to the movement over a Labour government’s first term in office.

Ms Long-Bailey, who has the backing of the influential Unite, CWU and Fire Brigades unions, said she wanted to put the trade union movement “at the heart of Labour’s path to power”.

As leader, she said she would commit the party to “back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers” as well as in wider “actions on opposing cuts, tackling the climate crisis, and standing up to the resurgent far-right.”

Labour needs a leader who is “committed to working with trade unions to rebuild our movement in all our heartlands, including in Red Wall seats”, and “understands that our communities have suffered not only under austerity, but for the last 40 years,” she said.

And she said that “standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative government.”

Ms Long-Bailey promised that “under my leadership Labour will never return to condemning striking teachers or firefighters, or to treating trade unions as if they’re embarrassing relatives of the party.“

“The Labour Party is the parliamentary wing of the whole labour and trade union movement, and our path to power is in rebuilding it.”

Ms Long-Bailey said she wanted a “renewed and fighting trade union movement” to once again be “the bedrock of Labour’s support in working class communities”.

She promised to support hundreds of thousands of young activists who have joined Labour in recent years to sign up to unions at work, and to commission a trade union recruitment plan targeted at the so-called Red Wall seats in the Midlands and north of England lost to Tories in December.

“Working people across all of Labour’s heartlands, from the seats we lost to our city strongholds, face the same conditions of insecurity, informal contracts, and low pay,” she said. “A trade union membership drive can help rebuild the Labour movement’s institutions and with it renew the bonds of solidarity and common interest that can unite working people everywhere. That’s our path to power.”

Ms Long-Bailey has won a place on the ballot paper alongside Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy for the contest to replace Mr Corbyn as leader on 4 April, while Emily Thornberry is still fighting to secure the 33 nominations from constituency parties she needs to stay in the race.

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