BATLEY & Spen MP Tracy Brabin says the country needs a Labour government “now more than ever” – and she believes leadership hopeful Sir Keir Starmer is the man for the job.
Mr Starmer was welcomed to Batley Community Centre on Friday by a throng of Labour supporters who listened to him speak for more than an hour before firing questions at him about his candidacy, the aftermath of the General Election, Brexit and the future of their party.
Among the messages he had for his audience was to move on from the Brexit quagmire, embrace the positive aspects of the former New Labour project and its Corbynite incarnation, and to examine why the support collapsed so catastrophically in Labour’s heartlands.
Sir Keir was in Batley at the invitation of Ms Brabin, one of 89 MPs who nominated him for the leadership – despite him being up against three women in Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry.
Ms Brabin said: “As someone that was on the Women and Equalities Committee I do believe that we need to see more women in politics.
“But I do believe that no-one stepped into this race as a man or woman, they stepped into this race as someone who they believe can lead the Labour Party.
“I’ve lost, and it’s quite painful, good friends and colleagues in Paula (Sherriff), Thelma (Walker), Mary (Creagh) – really amazing MPs.
“I’ve heard what people have said on the doorstep, I’m having to take a view of what would bring Labour back into power because more than ever Batley & Spen needs a Labour government.
“We need somebody who is credible, somebody who can unite the party.”
She added: “I think Keir is the man to do that.”
Ms Brabin took Sir Keir, who is the favourite alongside Mrs Long-Bailey to win the leadership, to Foundations Nursery before moving on to Batley Food Bank during his short visit.
She said: “Sandra Major, who used to work for me and who volunteers at the food bank, told him that from January 5 to January 21 they gave out 900 food parcels. He was startled.
“He was very supportive but he did say that with a Labour government we are going to wipe out food banks.
“It’s a stain on us as one of the richest countries in the world that we have food banks being needed more than ever before.”
Joining a huddle of reporters in the community centre’s kitchen Sir Keir addressed how he was going to win back support in towns like Dewsbury and Batley.
He said: “We need to work with those communities and what I’ve found in communities like Dewsbury is there are challenges when businesses and industries change, when high streets change, and when buses and trains aren’t what they should be.
“Also what I see is there are new businesses and innovations and incredibly caring communities in these towns and villages and I don’t think we give them enough recognition or nurturing.
“We should be pulling these areas up and supporting them rather than talking them down.
“We do need to respond to the challenges that these areas have sent us, of course we do.
“Things like infrastructure and transport need to be massively improved. But let’s not forget there are really good initiatives going on and incredible communities pulling together to support each other and we should champion that.”
The result of the leadership race will be announced on Saturday April 4.