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Will Rebecca Long-Bailey make it from pawn shop to PM?

The shadow business secretary has had a steep political climb.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Shaun Connolly, PA Political Correspondent

From pawn shop assistant to would-be potential prime minister, Rebecca Long-Bailey’s bid to be Labour leader has been a steep political climb.

As swathes of seats in Labour’s “red wall” across Wales and northern England fell on vote night, talk of the shadow business secretary taking over as the “continuity Corbyn” candidate to replace the two-time election loser rose.

And with party chairman Ian Lavery pulling back from entering the race, Salford and Eccles MP Ms Long-Bailey, 40, is the clear left-wing standard bearer in a contest in which centrist Sir Keir Starmer has taken an early edge.

When reciting her biography, Ms Long-Bailey tends to dwell on the jobs she had before becoming a successful lawyer, such as working in a pawn shop.

When I began my first job in a pawnbrokers, I saw people forced to give up family heirlooms so they could afford to feed their children Rebecca Long-Bailey

She has also been keen to point out her working-class credentials by saying she took jobs in call centres, a furniture factory and as a postwoman.

A close ally of Jeremy Corbyn who toed the leader’s line, some detractors within the party dubbed her “wrong-daily”.

If successful, Ms Long-Bailey would be Labour’s first female leader, and has backed the party’s education spokeswoman, Angela Rayner – also her flatmate – for the deputy’s post.

An MP for only four-and-a-half years, Ms Long-Bailey played a prominent role in the last general election campaign, which saw the party receive its biggest hammering since 1935.

But supporters insist she is a good communicator whose northern roots would make the party seem less London-focused and help take back the previously lifelong Labour seats it lost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

After taking a post-election profile so low it was subterranean, Ms Long-Bailey broke cover with a piece in The Guardian at the end of December where she – gently – tried to put some distance between her campaign and Mr Corbyn by branding herself a “progressive patriot” and stating that the party’s “compromise solution” on Brexit had not gone down well with voters.

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Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A mother of one, Ms Long-Bailey wrote of her working-class upbringing in Greater Manchester, where she saw her union official father deal with “rounds and rounds of redundancies”.

“When I began my first job in a pawnbrokers, I saw people forced to give up family heirlooms so they could afford to feed their children.”

Finally announcing her bid to head the party, Ms Long-Bailey struck a solidly socialist tone, writing in Tribune: “Many candidates in the leadership election say they will not return to the triangulation and Tory-lite policies that held our party back before Jeremy.

“But we need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda. A leader who is totally committed to the policies and has the political backbone to defend them.

“We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime.”

The ex-phone bank worker is now hoping for a call from Labour’s membership asking her to step up to the top job.

PA

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