UK Politics

Who is Liz Kendall? Labour leadership contender guide

Liz Kendall Image copyright Getty Images

Get to know the contenders vying to be the next leader of the Labour Party with our at-a-glance guides.

Name: Elizabeth Louise Kendall

Age: 44

Background: Grew up in Abbots Langley near Watford, and went to Watford Grammar School for Girls. She was persuaded by her parents to study at Cambridge University. She went to Queens' College - captaining its women's football team - and got a first in history.

Family: Her father was a Liberal councillor - although he now supports Labour - who left school at 16 to work in banking. Her mother was a primary school teacher. She says her parents taught her that her family "would do better if other people in their area did well too".

She recently told the Mirror her relationship with actor and comedian Greg Davies was over, adding: "I am not going to be the sort of politician who does all that stuff about their private life.

"It's very precious to me and really important I have that space that's personal and just to me."

Job before politics: According to her website, growing up she had Saturday jobs in shops on Watford High Street.

Later on, she was director of the Ambulance Service Network and of the maternity alliance charity.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Liz Kendall worked for her predecessor in Leicester West, Patricia Hewitt

She has also worked for two think tanks - the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the King's Fund, as well as an adviser for Harriet Harman, currently Labour's acting leader, and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Route into Parliament: After failing to be selected as the candidate for Chesterfield in 2001, she was elected in Mrs Hewitt's old seat of Leicester West in 2010. She retained the seat with a 7,203 majority in the 2015 general election.

Political pedigree: The first march she went on was to get a zebra crossing in Abbots Langley High Street, she told the Guardian. Seen as the Blairite candidate in the leadership election, she has worked for former cabinet minister Patricia Hewitt as well as current acting Labour leader Harriet Harman.

Her acceptance of some Conservative policies including welfare cuts has angered some in the party, with some critics calling her a "Tory".

She argues that her stance is essential in order to win over voters who backed the Conservatives in the general election.

Achievements: Working for the IPPR and King's Fund think tanks, she led work to "tackle health service inequalities, improve social care and transform children's early years", her website says.

While working as an advisor for ex health secretary Patricia Hewitt, she was involved with introducing the ban on smoking in public places.

Soon after being elected, Ed Miliband made her a shadow health minister, a post that saw her attend shadow cabinet meetings.

Controversies: In 2010, she apologised for taking a photograph of the State Opening of Parliament and posting it on Twitter. Photography is banned in the Commons and the Lords.

Her campaign criticised Labour MP Helen Goodman when she wrote an article backing Yvette Cooper because she is "a working mum".

Ms Kendall's campaign chief, Toby Perkins, said the comments suggested a "paucity of intellectual argument", while Labour MP John Woodcock suggested such an argument would not be made about a man.

In a Mumsnet discussion, Ms Kendall said the campaign had "a bit [of a] 1970s... or even 1950s" feel, saying women should be judged by their ideas, not their family life.

Policies: Drop Labour's policy of ending free schools. Instead of using money to cut tuition fees Labour should focus on improving early years education to tackle social inequality.

The party should be "as passionate about wealth creation as we are about wealth distribution" and also "build a living wage society".

Maintain UK's NATO commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence. Scrap the Work Programme and give responsibility instead to local councils. She also supports interim Labour leader Harriet Harman's decision not oppose the limiting of child tax credits to two children.

Outside interests: Listening to hip-hop - Dr Dre and Public Enemy are among her choices, although growing up she says she listened to Duran Duran, Barry White and Wham!

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Liz Kendall is a fan of hip-hop artists like Dr Dre

She runs five mornings a week and told the Mirror she also enjoys TV box sets. At a recent hustings, she said she had wanted to be a dancer, not a politician, as a child, but her parents had persuaded her against it.

Kendall on why Labour lost: "People didn't trust us on the economy, or with their taxes, and we didn't have a positive vision of a better place that everyone could feel part of."

Kendall on how Labour can win: "People aren't going to trust Labour... unless they see that we stand for people who work hard and want to get on as well as the weak and the vulnerable. I think we need to make big changes and we need a fresh start if people are going to look at us again."

How she wants to seen: As a "fresh start" and "the candidate the Tories fear". The only one willing to change the party in order to win the 2020 general election and appeal to the Conservative voters Labour needs to win over.

How others see her: "She is a realist, but also understands that if we are not the party of change we could easily become a party of the past", former chancellor Alistair Darling.

"Her roots are unambiguously working-class and her commitment to the century-long ideals of the party is absolute," Newport West MP Paul Flynn.

"She is about the only prayer they have", The Sun.

"Researchers in four years running for leader… I don't think that's the way it should go," Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott

Who's backing her: Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who was himself briefly a frontrunner before withdrawing from the leadership contest. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said he would back her after deciding not to run. Ex chancellor Alistair Darling and former cabinet minister Alan Milburn are also thought to be supporting her.

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