THE woman who is frontrunner to become the first female leader of the Labour Party won rousing support from trade union members at a rally event in Oxford.

Rebecca Long-Bailey won endorsements from a host of local party members when she spoke at Blackbird Leys Community Centre on Monday night.

It came after the MP for Salford & Eccles said she would ‘never apologise’ for the party’s socialist manifesto which it put forward at the December General Election.

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She told the crowd: “One of the problems in the General Election was unity – I think we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and say we haven’t been a unified party.”

She added: “I’ll never apologise for our manifesto, I thought it was one of the most hopeful manifesto’s we’ve ever seen.

“My criticism is we didn’t have an overarching message, we didn’t have a message for our communities.

Oxford Mail:

“Every single thing within that comprehensive manifesto was about making their lives better it was about aspiration, that we will assure that our children’s lives will be better than our own, but we didn’t convey that enough to our communities.”

Union members and campaigners spoke in support of Ms Long-Bailey.

Oxford Labour organiser Michaela Collar, a strong advocate of the party’s Green New Deal for the environment, said that under Ms Long-Bailey's leadership the party could secure a greener future for Oxford through investment.

She said: “How can we bring economic transformation alongside climate change? We are not going to be able to win one without the other because you do not get an influx of investment without new industry.”

She added: “What does it mean to get the Cowley branch line reopened?... We can get the train into town instead of going down the Cowley road in a traffic jam.”

She also called for more investment in new housing.

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Ian Hodson, president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, told the people of Blackbird Leys that they deserved help to get out of poverty as much as other parts of the UK.

He said: “I was looking on Twitter and apparently this is an 'affluent' area, so that’s why we’re here, because we’re the 'metropolitan elite' now and apparently the issues that you face in this community are different from the rest of the country.

“That’s why I’ve been here on several occasions to talk to people about the Living Wage.

“You know we’ve got no difference here to what they’ve got in the north east and other parts of the country – there is poverty everywhere.”

Sam Smith, a senior representative from the Unite union’s BMW branch, also spoke in support of Ms Long-Bailey.

She said: “I am delighted to say that Unite regionally and nationally will support Rebecca to be the next Labour Party leader, we all need to support each other and stay strong and support Rebecca here with the leadership vote.”

The leadership ballot opens on February 21 and the results will be announced April 4 after the party’s ruling body has decided.