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Jess Phillips quits Labour leadership race after gay bar rally and fiery Mumsnet trans row

Nick Duffy January 21, 2020
Jess Philips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, is on the ballot to become the next leader of the party. (Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Jess Philips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, quit the ballot to become the next leader of the party. (Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Jess Phillips has withdrawn from the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

The outspoken feminist confirmed on Tuesday that she would not continue in the race, after trailing behind frontrunners Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Jess Phillips: The person to unite the country ‘isn’t me’.

In a message to supporters, Phillips said: “Sending a message to everyone who has backed me, to all who have joined in and joined up – I promise that your voices will still be heard. We all have a role to play in changing our party and our country.

“In order to do that, the Labour Party will need to select a candidate that can support all parts of our movement. The union movement, the members, the elected representatives – and I have to be honest with myself that at this time, that person isn’t me.

“In order to win the country, we are going to have to find a candidate in this race who can do all of that and then take that message out to the country, of hope and change for things to be better.”

Labour Party MP Jess Phillips speaks to thousands of pro-EU demonstrators gathered for a cross-party rally in Parliament Square, organised by the People's Vote Campaign. (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Labour Party MP Jess Phillips. (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

She added: “Tens of thousands of people have signed up to our campaign and, in doing that, have joined the Labour Party.

“It’s brilliant that they will get a say in this race. I want to say to those people, this is not the end. Together, we can now use our strength and make the changes we want to make.”

Labour leadership candidate had shown support for trans rights.

The decision comes one day after she addressed supporters at London’s iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern gay bar.

She had written after the rally: “A brilliant members event at the historic Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Great to have a chat to everyone. The movement we are building is so powerful!”

Jess Phillips, who sits on parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee and drew up original calls for trans rights reforms, had affirmed her support for trans rights in an interview with PinkNews.

She faced anger on Monday during a fiery Q&A session with users of the Mumsnet web forum – popular with parents and anti-trans activists – after she expressed her support for trans rights and said that working class communities don’t care about “gender critical” issues.

Responding to an initial question on the issue, Phillips wrote: “As a women’s rights activist for my entire life, the importance of women being able to organise collectively is a cornerstone and should be protected.

“I do believe trans women are women and helped to write the report that suggested changes to the GRA … [because the system] seemed bound entirely in 1950s perceptions of men and women. I think it needs reforming.”

She added: “I ran a women’s domestic and sexual violence service and am confident in specialist services being able to risk assess for safety.

“In that service, we had a small number of trans women in my time there and they did not pose a risk. Everyone in service was risk assessed on their relative risk.”

Despite a flood of anger from users, Phillips stood by her guns, writing of the issues raised: “I have in the last five years knocked thousands and thousands of doors in working class communities across our country. No one has ever mentioned this.”

More: Jess Phillips, Labour, Mumsnet, Royal Vauxhall Tavern

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