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Labour leadership contenders discuss key issues in televised debate

Labour leadership contenders discuss key issues in televised debate

The three remaining candidates in the race to be the next leader of the Labour Party have participated in a live Sky News TV debate in Dewsbury.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Sir Kier Starmer answered a variety of questions in the West Yorkshire town that the Labour Party lost in the December 2019 general election. 

The questions in the debate were wide-ranging. First, the candidates were asked how they would hold the government to account so that they address the issue of coronavirus. All three candidates stressed the importance of not making the virus a party political issue, however, they did highlight the government's cuts to the NHS over the last decade. Rebecca Long-Bailey said that Boris Johnson should definitely have convened Cobra over the issue, while Lisa Nandy said that it is an issue that can not be managed alone, stressing the importance of the UK having relationships with Europe and countries around the world. Sir Kier Starmer said the Prime Minister has 'gone hiding, he's gone missing just when he's needed' and said that Mr Johnson should be out there and taking a lead during incidents such as the coronavirus and flooding, a statement that received applause from the audience.

Asked whether they could admit that Mr Corbyn lost Labour the last election Lisa Nandy said there is no doubt there were questions over leadership, but also blamed disunity in the party, the party's dealing with antisemitism and Brexit. Ms Nandy also described the defeat as a long time coming. Sir Kier Starmer said the leadership was the main issue for the loss of the election, but there were also three other issues - Brexit, there being too much in the manifesto and antisemitism. Mr Starmer said he took responsibility for 'everything' in the party's manifesto and that it was a shadow cabinet decision. Rebecca Long-Bailey also acknowledged the issues with the leadership and said that the party did not explain its manifesto well enough.

Questions were also asked on another key topic, anti-semitism. Sir Kier Starmer said he had many discussions in the shadow cabinet and elsewhere about the action taken on antisemitism and if made leader he would 'personally take responsibility for rebuilding our trust with the Jewish community' and would lead on the issue differently. Lisa Nandy said she believed that Mr Starmer was 'sincere' about dealign with anti-semitism but that 'if we do not acknowledge how badly the shadow cabinet as a whole got this wrong, we will not earn the trust of the Jewish community'. Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey both said that she spoke out repeatedly about the anti-semitism issues within the party.

Asked about the economy, the candidates said that the idea that people don't want change is wrong, but people didn't trust the Labour Party in the last election to change things for the better, partly due to poorly explained policies.

On the question of whether it mattered that the Labour Party had never had a woman leader, all three leaders agreed that it mattered, but Sir Kier Starmer added that the leader had to represent all parts of the UK. Lisa Nandy said "Boris Johnson wouldn't have a clue what to do with a bolshy woman leader.

The candidates to be leader were also asked about their personalities and why they had tried to distance themselves from Tony Blair. The candidates refused to give an answer for a question asking who their second-preference candidate would be. The leadership election runs on a preference voting system, whereby voters can rank candidates in order in case their preferred candidate does not win. 

The candidates all said that they would work with each other, whoever was elected.

A straw poll of the live audience at the end of the debate said that Lisa Nandy won the debate.


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