‘Not strongly left but trustworthy’ and full of integrity, say MPs of Labour’s most genuinely forensic performer
A number of Labour MPs on the left of the party are urging Brent North MP Barry Gardiner to start a challenge for the Labour leadership, according to well-placed sources in the party.
Gardiner was the party’s best – and most ‘forensic’ media performer across two general election campaigns under Jeremy Corbyn and was sacked from the front bench by Keir Starmer in one of Starmer’s first acts after winning the Labour leadership last year, in a move many Labour insiders said was born out of Starmer’s insecurity about his own lack of charisma on camera.
Gardiner became known as the ‘smiling assassin’ because of his ability to very pleasantly dismember interviewers and their partisan nonsense, as these 2017 examples show:
Labour MPs are said to have warmed to the idea of a Gardiner challenge because of his appeal across the party and the fact that, while not strongly to the left of the spectrum, he always took a principled stand and never gave the time of day to those who were trying to prevent a Corbyn government – conduct seen as the diametric opposite to Keir Starmer’s pledge-breaking and timidity. One MP told Skwawkbox:
Barry’s left, but not that left – but there’s one thing he is and that’s very trustworthy and he never sided with the saboteurs against the leadership. When you look at Keir Starmer’s behaviour and all the promises he binned after getting elected, that’s worth a lot.
If we can’t have a leader from the left, at least we can have one with integrity and intelligence.
Gardiner started to prepare a bid for last year’s leadership contest, but the then-establishment of the Labour left insisted that only Rebecca Long-Bailey could stand – despite warnings from the grassroots that many members would not back her – and his tentative nominations evaporated under pressure from those backing Long-Bailey, forcing Gardiner to stand down.
But 18 months of Keir Starmer’s unappealing mix of arrogance, bungling, weakness, insecurity, war on democracy and betrayals have left MPs across the spectrum disgusted and a Gardiner bid would carry a compelling weight – and his appeal across the movement makes him one of the few worthwhile candidates who could realistically gather the nominations necessary to make a challenge.
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