Labour leadership: Jess Philips says Scottish independence is 'threat' to working people

Emily Thornberry has scraped through to the next round of the Labour leadership contest, but Clive Lewis withdrew.
Emily Thornberry has scraped through to the next round of the Labour leadership contest, but Clive Lewis withdrew.
Share this article
Have your say

One of Labour's leadership contenders has described the SNP's demand for independence as a "threat to opportunity and equality" for working people in Scotland.

Jess Philips, who will visit Glasgow tomorrow as she aims to woo Labour members in her bid to replace Jeremy Corbyn, said her party should always "make the case for solidarity and internationalism".

The Birmingham MP, who received the joint lowest number of MP and MEP backers as nominations closed today, said she would "unashamedly" make the case for Labour as a unionist party during her visit.

READ MORE: Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey won't block indyref2
Ms Philips, who is being backed by Labour's sole Scottish MP, Ian Murray, is expected to pledge that any future Labour Party that she leads would be "100% committed to the union".

She said: "The idea that the answer to the UK leaving a union with our most important trading partner is for Scotland to leave a union with her most important trading partner only makes sense if you're a nationalist.

"Nicola Sturgeon wants to talk to me about threats to Scotland - the SNP's abject failings on education and health show that it is her administration that remains a threat to opportunity and equality for working people in Scotland."

Ms Phillips added: "Labour believes in the union because we believe in redistribution, because we want to bring people together, not divide them, and because our compassion doesn't end at an imaginary line on a map. Let nationalists make the case for nationalism, we should make the argument for solidarity and internationalism."

An SNP spokesperson dismissed Ms Philips comments as an "arrogant intervention" and added: "It's disappointing that Jess Phillips would deny the people of Scotland their right to basic democracy - and would rather we remain shackled to a chaotic, dysfunctional and increasingly right-wing Tory government.

"With contributions as ill-informed as this, it's no surprise that Jess Phillips is expected to have little impact in the Labour leadership election."

Ms Philips comments came after she secured 23 nominations in the leadership battle - the same number as shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who scraped through with just ten minutes until the deadline.

Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, is currently ahead of the rest of the pack, winning the backing of 89 politicians. He has said Labour does not need to offer a second independence referendum to win again in Scotland, but if the SNP won the Holyrood elections next year, "any government would have to consider it".

He said: "We should fight the 2021 elections in Scotland; we should make the case for the United Kingdom. Obviously we will then have to see what the outcome of that election is. If after that there’s a mandate for a referendum, any government will have to consider it.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey, who has said she would grant a second independence referendum, came in second place on 33, just ahead of Lisa Nandy on 31. Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis withdrew after winning the backing of just four other politicians.

The candidates must now get five per cent of nominations of all constituency Labour parties or three Labour affiliates – of which at least two must be trade unions – comprising at least five per cent of the fully paid-up affiliate membership, to make it beyond the second stage of the process..

Sir Keir said: "I'm pleased to have received the support of colleagues in Parliament to make it to the next phase of this contest. This has been a good-natured and respectful start to the debate about the future of the Labour Party.

"Lots of important issues have been raised by all the candidates in the race so far."

He said he had appointed Labour MPs Carolyn Harris and David Lammy to act as vice-chairs of his campaign and added: "Over the coming weeks, I'm looking forward to travelling across the country to listen to members and activists about how together we can restore people's trust in Labour as a force for good."

In a speech in east London, Ms Nandy said Labour had to "think big and paint a broad canvass" to bounce back from its defeat at last month's election. She said Labour "did not have all the answers", particularly in Scotland, but that the party had a vital role to play in ensuring the "cause of social justice is beating back divisive nationalism and winning".

As part of her pitch, Ms Phillips is calling for the creation of a universal childcare service, based on provision in some Scandinavian countries. She said the state needed to think of affordable childcare as an economic catalyst for families, similar to transport and broadband connections, and not just focus on whether a women's earnings made her eligible for support.

"Universal free childcare will not only provide thousands and thousands of jobs to groups of people who are desperately in need of good, secure income, it will also enable masses more people to properly go out to work and make their families' lives better," she said.

Ms Philips, who secured 23 nominations, has also given her backing to Lisa Nandy, if she herself does not go on to win.

In the race for deputy party leader, Corbynite Richard Burgon also managed to scrape into the next round at the last minute, joining Angela Rayner, Ian Murray, Rosena Allin Khan and Dawn Butler. Rayner secured 85 votes, with Murray second on 34.

READ MORE: I’m no Blairite, says Labour deputy leadership hopeful Ian Murray
Today Ian Murray, Labour's sole Scottish MP, said: “It’s fantastic that we have a diverse range of candidates standing in this contest, and I look forward to debating the future of our party and our country.

“I’m standing to be deputy leader because I want to change our party so that we can win again and transform people’s lives. We must change the way our party works so that we are a party for the whole of the UK.

“Never again can we stray from our values and never again can we face both ways on the most important issues of our time. I know what it takes to beat the odds and I am determined that Labour will win again.”

Under Labour's rules, new members can join to take part in the vote, with a deadline of January 20. People will also be able to join as a registered supporter for a fee of £25 provided they are on the electoral register and meet the qualification criteria for membership of the party. Applications to become a registered supporter open at 5pm tomorrow and close at 5pm on January 16.

The second stage of nominations from constituency parties and affiliates then opens on January 15 and runs to February 14, with the ballot of members and registered supporters opening the following week on February 21, closing at midday on April 2. The result will be eventually be announced on April 4 at a special conference in London.

Unison, the UK's largest union, has said it is supporting Sir Keir.

He has also written to party officials today calling for leadership hustings to take place in "each region and nation" of the UK. Currently there are only seven hustings scheduled between January 18 and February 16 - in Liverpool, Durham, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow and London. He said the process of rebuilding trust in Labour must "happen in communities across the country, not just in those we currently represent".