Thornberry labels Labour leadership rivals Starmer and Long-Bailey ‘machine politicians’

Emily Thornberry has taken aim at two of her rivals in the Labour leadership contest, labelling them “machine politicians”.

The shadow foreign secretary criticised Sir Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey, who are seen as the frontrunners in the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

A winner will be announced at the start of April.

Ms Thornberry is viewed as having an outside shot at winning Labour’s top job – and is currently battling to stay in the contest.

She told ITV News there was a “squeeze” to make it through to the final ballot of party members because of Sir Keir and Ms Long-Bailey dominating opposite wings of the party.

Speaking on the Calling Peston podcast, Ms Thornberry also said she thought others in the race had been preparing their leadership pitches before the start of the general election campaign.

“The truth is that I had a standing start, so I threw everything into the general election and I started after the general election,” she said.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case with everybody else.

“I started after the general election and we now have two machines, and we have two machine politicians, one on the left and one maybe perceived to be on the right. And there’s a bit of squeeze going on.”

Asked to confirm who she was talking about, Ms Thornberry replied: “Rebecca on the left and Keir on the right.”

Having initially been required to secure the support of Labour MPs and MEPs, candidates are now battling to ensure they make it to the final round of the contest.

Leadership hopefuls can do this in one of two ways.

They can get the nominations of three Labour affiliates, including at least two trade unions.

Or they can secure endorsements from at least 5% of constituency Labour parties (CLPs).

Candidates have until 14 February to secure their place on the ballot.

Ms Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, has not yet been backed by any union.

This means she is likely to need to get the requisite number of nominations from CLPs – 33.

Ms Thornberry currently has three, which means she faces an uphill struggle to meet the threshold ahead of next month’s deadline.

Sir Keir and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy have made it through to the members’ ballot, having gained enough union backing.

Ms Long-Bailey is expected to get the endorsement of Unite, which could pave the way for her to join them.

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips gained the support of enough MPs and MEPs, but pulled out of the race on Tuesday and backed Ms Nandy.

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