From pawn shop assistant to would-be potential prime minister, Rebecca Long-Bailey’s bid to be Labour leader has been a steep political climb.
As swathes of seats in Labour’s “red wall” across Wales and northern England fell on vote night, talk of Ms Long-Bailey taking over as the “continuity Corbyn” candidate to replace the two-time election loser rose.
And with party chairman Ian Lavery pulling back from entering the race, Salford and Eccles MP Ms Long-Bailey, 40, is the clear left-wing standard bearer in a contest in which centrist Sir Keir Starmer has taken an early edge.
Working class credentials
When reciting her biography, Ms Long-Bailey tends to dwell on the jobs she had before becoming a successful lawyer, such as working in a pawn shop.
She has also been keen to point out her working class credentials by saying she took jobs in call centres, a furniture factory and as a postwoman.
A close ally of Jeremy Corbyn who toed the leader’s line, some detractors within the party dubbed the shadow business secretary “wrong-daily”.
If successful, Ms Long-Bailey would be Labour’s first female leader, and has backed the party’s education spokeswoman Angela Rayner – also her flatmate – for the deputy’s post.
An MP for only four-and-a-half years, Ms Long-Bailey took a prominent role in the last general election campaign, which saw the party receive its biggest hammering since 1935.
But supporters insist she is a good communicator whose northern roots would make the party seem less London-focused and help take back the previously lifelong Labour seats it lost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
After taking a post-election profile so low it was subterranean, Ms Long-Bailey broke cover with a piece in The Guardian at the end of December where she – gently – tried to put some distance between her campaign and Mr Corbyn by branding herself a “progressive patriot” and stating that the party’s “compromise solution” on Brexit had not gone down well with voters.
“We need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda”
A mother of one, Ms Long-Bailey wrote of her working class upbringing in Greater Manchester, where she saw her docker father made redundant.
“When I began my first job in a pawnbrokers, I saw people forced to give up family heirlooms so they could afford to feed their children.”
Finally announcing her bid to head the party, Ms Long-Bailey struck a solidly socialist tone, writing in Tribune: “Many candidates in the leadership election say they will not return to the triangulation and Tory-lite policies that held our party back before Jeremy.
“But we need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda. A leader who is totally committed to the policies and has the political backbone to defend them.
“We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime.”
The ex-phone bank worker is now hoping for a call from Labour’s membership asking her to step up to the top job.