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Umunna backs Kendall in leader race

Published 26/05/2015

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Liz Kendall was the leadership candidate who could move Labour 'beyond our comfort zone'
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Liz Kendall was the leadership candidate who could move Labour 'beyond our comfort zone'

Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall has won the backing of former bookies' favourite Chuka Umunna.

The shadow business secretary said Ms Kendall was the candidate who could move the party "beyond our comfort zone".

The endorsement from Mr Umunna - who dramatically withdrew from the contest earlier this month - came in an article for the New Statesman.

In a joint article with his ex-campaign team, he said Labour needed to tell a "credible national story of a country proud of its history and confident of owning the future".

"A vision of a Britain in which all can get on, whose citizens are financially secure and in control of their lives and happiness - and are, collectively, secure and effective in the wider world," he went on.

"For us, our next leader must get this vision right. On all these big subjects, Liz Kendall has asked the tough questions and started to chart a course to the answers. She has been courageous in challenging conventional wisdom.

"She has no compunction in moving Labour beyond our comfort zone and is determined to build a team ready to chart a route forward."

Ms Kendall's chances of gaining the 35 MP nominations needed to feature on the ballot have been boosted by a series of endorsements over the past week.

The shadow health minister has received backing from education spokesman Tristram Hunt, who had considered running himself, and shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis, among others. She can now add Mr Umunna, Emma Reynolds, Stephen Twigg and Jonathan Reynolds to her tally.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, widely regarded as the frontrunner, and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper are both expected to secure well over the required 35 nominations.

Mrs Cooper has sought to move her campaign up a gear by arguing that Labour should offer free childcare for all.

A Scandinavian-style system of universal childcare would see 30 hours of free care for all pre-school youngsters over the age of two.

For younger children, there should be a new system of tax credits to cover the period after a mother finishes maternity leave, she told the Independent.

Meanwhile, the other declared candidate, Mary Creagh, has expressed confidence that she will reach the threshold of 35 nominations.

She also delivered an apparent swipe at Ed Miliband by dismissing the "Rubik's Cube" approach to politics. The former leader famously listed completing the puzzle as his special talent.

Describing the task facing Labour to come back from defeat, Ms Creagh told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour: "It's a massive, massive challenge and we aren't going to do it by sort of having a Rubik's Cube approach to politics, where we put one face to one person and then try and present another face to another, because we just end up in a scramble."

The field has widened in the race for deputy party leader, with former housing minister John Healey becoming the seventh to indicate he is a candidate.

The others competing for the role are Rushanara Ali, Ben Bradshaw, Angela Eagle, Stella Creasy, Caroline Flint and Tom Watson.

As there are only 232 Labour MPs and each candidate requires the backing of 35 to make the ballot paper, at least one individual is doomed to miss the cut.

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