Labour must be ruthless to win next election, says Long-Bailey | Politics

Rebecca Long-Bailey has said she would employ “ruthless” campaign tactics to lead the Labour party to election victory against Boris Johnson and his special adviser Dominic Cummings.

At a Labour leadership hustings in Brighton on Saturday, the shadow business secretary promised to “go toe to toe with the likes of Dominic Cummings”. She said this would involve establishing a media rebuttal unit to fight back against “smears” and placing greater emphasis on digital campaigning.

Cummings was the architect of the Vote Leave campaign, whose success was attributed in part to its use of micro-targeted online and social media advertising.

Johnson also credits Cummings with coming up with the “Get Brexit Done” slogan used in the Tories’ 2019 election campaign in which they secured a landslide victory.

Long-Bailey said: “We were nowhere near in this election campaign. They were targeting demographics – your hobbies, your income groups – and we were just putting out nice memes and videos, and that’s not good enough. We have got to be ruthless, forensic, and we have got to fight back.”

Writing in the Mirror this week, Keir Starmer also vowed to create a media “attack unit” aimed a exposing “Tory failure” if he is elected leader.

But on Saturday he said the party must not adopt Cummings’ strategy of attacking the UK’s free press or else it would risk creating a polarised media model similar to that in the US.

Since the election, Johnson has opened a consultation on decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, which accounts for the lion’s share of the BBC’s income. This month journalists walked out of a No 10 briefing after it became apparent that some reporters had been excluded.

Starmer said: “Part of Cummings’ approach is to attack independent journalism and to try to push us down an American model that will make it 10 times worse. This is a culture war. It is very important we diversify the press, we call out the vilification, but that we stand up for an independent and free press.”

Lisa Nandy, the only backbencher left in the race for the top job, said she wanted to introduce a social media tax to help provide local news outlets with long-term funding. The Wigan MP also said she would like to “mutualise” the BBC so that the public could have a greater say over its running.

“I want to see us mutualise the BBC, not because I hate the BBC but because I believe in the licence fee and I believe it must be far more accountable to the public and the people who fund the BBC,” she said. “It would be far less open to manipulation from this rightwing Tory government.”

The leadership contenders did not address the resignation of Sir Philip Rutnam, the Home Office’s most senior civil servant, who quit amid a bullying row with the home secretary, Priti Patel.

Voting has started in the three-candidate leadership contest and the winner is due to be announced on 4 April.

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