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Umunna to stand for Labour leader

Published 12/05/2015

Chuka Umunna has confirmed that he will join the race to be Labour's next leader.

He said he believed Labour could win power in five years' time, adding: "I want to lead that effort as part of a really big Labour team, getting Labour back into office."

Mr Umunna was speaking ahead of a meeting tomorrow of Labour's national executive committee (NEC) to draw up a timetable for the contest to succeed Ed Miliband.

The shadow business secretary is the second candidate to formally throw his hat in the ring after shadow health minister Liz Kendall did so at the weekend.

He said he had held back from making his announcement while he spoke to defeated candidates from the party's disastrous general election performance.

Mr Umunna declared his intention to stand via a Facebook video recorded on a street in Swindon - one of the English towns where Labour failed to make the gains from the Conservatives it needed to return to power.

He appeared alongside defeated candidate Mark Dempsey, who he said was one of dozens of thwarted would-be MPs in key target seats to whom he had spoken in the days since defeat forced Mr Miliband to quit.

" Of the 80 Conservative seats we were targeting, we made a net gain of just four last Thursday. We have got to do better than that if we are to win next time," he said - dismissing suggestions from some in the party that it would need a decade to recover sufficiently to pose a threat.

"We can and we should be winning in seats like Swindon. North, South, East, West - we can absolutely do it as a party.

"Some have actually suggested over the last few days that this is now a 10-year project to get the Labour Party back into office. I don't think we can have any truck with that at all.

"I think the Labour Party can do it in five years. I want to lead that effort as part of a really big team, getting Labour back into office, changing this country and building a fairer, more equal society.

"That is why we all joined the party in the first place."

Defending his decision to remain coy about his intention in weekend interviews, he said he had wanted to discuss the challenges with defeated candidates first and "get out of London and say what I was going to be doing here".

Last year, Mr Miliband was embarrassed in the Wiltshire town when he was unable to identify his party's leader on the local borough council and appeared not to know the authority was Conservative-led during a radio interview.

Ms Kendall said it is "maybe time" the party had a female leader.

She argued that the party needed to "blast out of these old debates about Blairite, Brownite, Old Labour, New Labour and create something new, rooted in people's values and concerns".

She told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour: "People might think I'm a bit biased in this, but I think it's maybe time that Labour had a woman leader. People like Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman have been the acting leaders of their party, they have blazed a trail and I'd be beyond proud if I was elected as Labour's leader."

Asked if the dynamic would be better for Labour if it had a female leader up against Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons, she said: "I don't know. I think, hopefully, people will judge me on the strength of my arguments. There's a long way to go."

The MP for Leicester West said she did not "have all of the answers" to what happened to Labour, adding it would be "arrogant to suggest" she did.

She added: "We have got to have a long process of talking to people and listening to them to get us back on the right track."

Ms Kendall vowed that Labour "can win again if we think of the profound changes we need to make as a party and we build something new".

Speaking about Labour's defeat, she said Ed Miliband had "fought his guts out for the party", but added: "We didn't build a broad enough coalition of support, I think that's just a fact. People didn't trust us on the economy and I think they didn't really believe that we could make their lives better."

Ms Kendall voiced doubts about the tone of Labour's campaign at the start of the year, saying: "I did because there were too many people who were undecided, who were not sure, who hadn't been convinced and those undecideds remained all the way through and my worry was that they wouldn't come eventually in to vote for us."

Her politics, she added, was about "unleashing the talents" of people in the country.

During the interview, Ms Kendall opened up about her upbringing just outside Watford with her primary school teacher mother and father who left school at 16 before working his way up, completing his banking exams.

She said: "For them, everything when I was growing up was about getting a good education and they told me it would be my ticket to a better life."

Labour is considering three approaches for staging the contest to succeed Ed Miliband, who is currently on holiday in Ibiza, with a final decision to be taken by the ruling national executive tomorrow.

The options are a short campaign with the result decided on July 31, a longer campaign with the new leader chosen one or two weeks before the party conference in September, or using the conference as a final hustings with a ballot after that.

Others tipped to join the race are shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

Meanwhile, Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy has indicated she is open to putting her name forward for the position of deputy leader of the party - setting up a potential tussle with Tom Watson, the party's former deputy chairman.

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