Rebecca Long-Bailey has broken cover with her first public pitch for Labour ’s leadership race.
The Shadow Business Secretary confirmed she is “considering” a leadership run and will back Angela Rayner for deputy in an apparent joint ticket.
Ms Long-Bailey and Ms Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, share a flat in London.
Defending Jeremy Corbyn ’s legacy, Ms Long-Bailey wrote in the Guardian: “Our transformative agenda is principled and popular, while triangulation and soft pedalling will only take us backwards.
“We didn’t lose because of our commitments to scrap universal credit, invest in public services or abolish tuition fees.”
However, in comments which will be seen as an attempt to differentiate herself from the Labour leader, she wrote: “From ex-miners in Blythe Valley to migrant cleaners in Brixton, from small businesses in Stoke-on-Trent to the self-employed in Salford, we have to unite our communities.
“Britain has a long history of patriotism rooted in working life, built upon unity and pride in the common interests and shared life of everyone.
“To win we must revive this progressive patriotism and solidarity in a form fit for modern Britain.”
She also suggested Labour had further to go in giving its members control of the party, writing: “Our promise to democratise society will ring hollow if we can’t even democratise our own party.”
Her intervention came just hours after another twist in the race as party chairman Ian Lavery said he was “seriously considering” a bid for the top job.
A spokesman for the Jeremy Corbyn ally told the Mirror he is mulling “all his options” after receiving “tremendous” support.
The move could split left-wing backing between ex-miner Mr Lavery and Ms Long-Bailey – who was has been seen as Corbyn allies’ chosen candidate.
In a statement after a weekend of speculation, a spokesman for Mr Lavery said: “Ian is optimistic about the challenges ahead and knows there is a lot of work to be done to unify the party.
“He has had a tremendous amount of support and is seriously considering all of his options at present.”
Labour’s ruling body will meet on January 6 to consider the timetable before the race formally kicks off on January 7.
One senior left-winger voiced doubts over whether Mr Lavery would mount a full candidacy next month.
They claimed: “He is responding to pressure from some quarters because Becky has not yet launched. Once Becky has launched I think that will disappear.“
A union source suggested Mr Lavery was being urged to run because Ms Long-Bailey’s campaign had not picked up the momentum some hoped for.
But the major unions have yet to back a candidate, and one source voiced doubts over whether either Ms Long-Bailey or Mr Lavery would win over the membership.
Ms Long-Bailey was publicly backed by Corbyn ally Richard Burgon and has been promoted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
But she has kept a comparatively low profile since the election. The Sunday Times reported some Corbyn allies had voiced doubts about whether she was well-known enough.
Candidates need 21 MPs’ backing to make the ballot paper before they face a vote by Labour’s 500,000 or so members, with a new leader in place by the end of March.
Many members joined from 2015 to back Jeremy Corbyn – but tens of thousands others have been urged to return to the party to vote.
Bookies’ favourite Keir Starmer has said he could run alongside Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, and former Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.
Left-wing votes could also be drawn to Clive Lewis, who has suggested the party had not gone far enough to break with the Blair and Brown era.
Jess Phillips, Dan Jarvis and David Lammy are also tipped to join the race.
Yesterday seven Labour MPs who were unseated in the general election called for a “fundamental change” in leadership and “unflinching” review of what went wrong.
Blasting “cronyism” at the top of the party and Mr Corbyn’s “anti-western worldview”, the MPs argued poorer voters backed the Tories after they “simply didn’t believe” Labour’s vast spending plans, or didn’t see the relevance to their lives.
Those signing the letter to the Observer included Emma Reynolds, Mary Creagh, who had chaired the Commons Environment committee, Phil Wilson who sat in Tony Blair’s old seat, and Anna Turley whose Redcar seat was taken by a 26-year-old Tory.