Liz Kendall says Labour still has “mountain to climb”

The shadow work and pensions secretary does not believe polls predicting a huge victory for Keir Starmer’s party reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Labour shadow minister Liz Kendall
Liz Kendall, shadow work and pensions secretary. Credit: UK Parliament

An ally of Sir Keir Starmer has said she does not believe the polls which show Labour on course to win an historic majority in the general election, amidst a Tory wipeout.

Liz Kendall, the shadow work and pensions secretary, insisted that Labour still had “a mountain to climb” after suffering its worst defeat since 1935 at the last election.

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the former Labour leadership contender also said that Rishi Sunak was talking “complete rubbish” when he accused Sir Keir this week of “entrenching his power” by promising to allow 16-year-olds to vote in future elections.

Kendall gave interviews during a visit to Croydon South – a Conservative heartland which proved resistant to Labour’s landslide wins under Tony Blair in 1997 and 2001.

The constituency has been represented since 2015 by the policing minister Chris Philp, but despite winning a sturdy majority of more than 12,000 votes at the last election, polls suggest Labour’s Ben Taylor is on course to unseat him.

Kendall said: “We want to win this seat. We want to turn the page here. We want to start rebuilding Croydon South and the rest of the country.

“Nothing is in the bag. He [Ben Taylor] knows it, he’s out fighting for every vote every single day.

“We know we’ve got a mountain to climb. I don’t believe the polls, and I’m not just saying that – I literally don’t believe the polls. Neither does he.

“That’s why we won’t stop until those polls shut at 10pm on July 4th. We’re going give it our all because people here deserve the best. They haven’t had it from the current MP, but they will under Labour.”

Philp argues he has “a track record of getting things done for our community – longer opening hours at Purley Hospital GP hub; a new A&E for Croydon Hospital; plans for a new medical centre for Coulsdon; successfully campaigning for the creation of a directly-elected mayor to fix the mess Labour left behind in Croydon; opposing Labour’s destruction of family homes; campaigning for a new pool for Purley and more”.

He adds that voters should re-elect him so he “can keep getting things done for our local community”.

In several seats, polls suggest that Nigel Farage’s Reform party will win as many or more votes than Labour’s majority over the Conservatives – indicating Reform voters could make a critical difference to the size of Labour’s win in Parliament.

Croydon South appears to be one such seat. An Ipsos poll in The Guardian on Tuesday afternoon showed Labour winning 41 per cent, up 10 points from the last election. The Tories were down by about 16 points on 36 per cent, with Reform on 11 per cent.

Reform’s predecessor – the Brexit Party – did not stand in Conservative-held seats at the last election, which benefited Philp and other Tories in holding on to their constituencies or strengthening their majorities.

But Kendall dismissed suggestions Reform will help Labour win in seats like Croydon South.

“No, I think Ben Taylor will play the most important role here,” she said. “He’s an absolutely passionate man. He’s set up his own business, he’s set up charities.

“He wants to be a new voice here, a fresh start for people. So many people here [are] crying out for change and our message is if you want change, you’ve got to vote for it and vote for him in the general election.”

Labour has promised if it wins to extend voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds. The pledge was rebuked by Sunak, who told the Daily Mail that Starmer was only proposing the policy because it would be “electorally helpful to him” and that he was “entrenching his power”.

But Kendall said this was “complete rubbish”, adding: “I’ve been talking to young people today. I was somewhere earlier before I came here, [talking to] a 14-year-old girl, passionate about what she wants to do in future.

“She deserves a say on her future when she turns 16, and I hope that’s what we’ll deliver.”

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