East Anglian members meet Labour leadership hopefuls as voting starts

Labour leadership candidates Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, and Rebecca Long Bailey at the hustings a

Labour leadership candidates Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, and Rebecca Long Bailey at the hustings at Peterborough. Picture: SONIA BARKER - Credit: Archant

Labour’s leadership candidates were at two events for members in the East of England over the weekend – just 48 hours before the party sends out ballot papers in the race for leader and deputy leader.

Sir Keir Starmer with Suffolk County Councillor Jack Abbott. Picture: JACK ABBOTT

Sir Keir Starmer with Suffolk County Councillor Jack Abbott. Picture: JACK ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

The three leadership candidates: Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long Bailey and Lisa Nandy, were at a hustings event for party members in Peterborough before visiting the East of England Labour regional conference at Bedford.

Party members from across the region headed to these events - former Ipswich MP Sandy Martin was joined by councillors Sandra Gage and Kelvin Cracknell at Bedford while former Waveney candidate Sonia Barker and county councillor Jack Abbott went to Peterborough.

Mr Martin, who is supporting Sir Keir, said he was impressed by all the candidates at Bedford. He said: "Whoever you supported, I think those at the conference felt that whichever candidate won the party would be able to unite around them.

"They all performed very well and gave members confidence that whoever is elected will be able to lead a united party. For that reason, I don't think many people will have had their minds changed by what they heard."

Ms Barker echoed that from the Peterborough hustings. She supports Ms Nandy - but again felt all the candidates had been very impressive. She said: "I like Lisa because she comes from an area that backed Brexit and understands the strains that put on the party in places like Lowestoft.

"But all the candidates were impressive and I think we felt the party would be in a good place to go forward whoever won."

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Mr Abbott, a keen supporter of Sir Keir, was able to have a short meeting with him at the Peterborough hustings - and got a photograph with him.

Suffolk Coastal Constituency Labour Party has backed Sir Keir Starmer, but its chair Mark Jones is personally supporting Ms Long Bailey because he prefers her Socialist vision. He was at the conference in Bedford and said he was impressed by the unity he saw from the candidates.

He said: "They debated in a very comradely way. Personally I prefer Rebecca's vision and the Green Industrial Revolution that she is very keen to bring in - energy production is very important to us on the Suffolk coast and that is something that is very important for us."

The candidates' last hustings was on Sunday in Durham and the ballot papers start to be sent out on Monday. Party members have until April 2 to return completed ballot papers in the election for leader and deputy leader of the party and the result is due to be announced at a special conference on April 4.

Sir Keir is seen as the clear favourite - he has the backing of 374 Constituency Labour Parties against 164 for Ms Long Bailey and 72 for Ms Nandy. Sir Keir has the support of 88 MPs against 34 for Ms Long Bailey and 31 for Ms Nandy.

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