Liz Kendall has all but admitted she is not going to be the next Labour leader. At a speech in Westminster this morning, the shadow care minister spoke about the future of the party and referenced ‘whatever happens on Saturday’ — but she was no longer talking about her plans as leader. Kendall urged Labour to stick together after the new leader is elected, specifically if Jeremy Corbyn wins:
‘First, everyone must – and I believe will – accept the result and mandate of the new Leader. They will have won the right to pursue their agenda and must be given the space and scope to do so. If Jeremy Corbyn wins, it would be a huge mistake not to accept that result as legitimate. The voters will have made their decision and the rest of us must accept it as such.
‘Second, whoever is elected must recognise no leader has a mandate for untrammelled power. Anyone who seeks to exacerbate divisions will only store up trouble for the future.’
But Kendall couldn’t help but make a final attack on Corbyn, urging modernisers not to give up the fight:
‘The programme Jeremy Corbyn offers is not new. His policies and politics are the same now as they were in the 1980s – and will end up delivering the same result.
‘Neither is he the sole keeper of Labour’s principles. No-one has a monopoly on being led by their conscience.But modernisers must be honest with ourselves: many people who’ve joined our party in recent months do not believe we are offering change, and some of them doubt our principles altogether.’
Kendall reiterated that she wouldn’t serve under Corbyn because she has ‘too many important differences with him’ and urged the party to ‘quickly turn our focus to campaigning in next year’s crucial elections’. Although the chances of Kendall winning are slim, giving a speech as the nominations were closing suggests she wants to remain an outspoken figure in Labour politics. If she had given speech over the weekend, it’s doubtful anyone would be listen.
If Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham manage to beat Corbyn, Kendall would most likely serve under them. But for now, it appears this speech was her goodbye to frontline politics for the foreseeable future. As with all of her addresses throughout the campaign, it was well received by the crowd (which included the drummer from Blur) and made some interesting points about Labour’s future. Kendall acknowledged that maybe she told the party too many hard truths and didn’t give Labour enough reasons to feel good about itself. Kendall’s contributions will be missed but many modernisers will be pleased she has left the door open to returning to the frontline under a future regime.