Five candidates to contest Britain's Labour leadership

9th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Five candidates, including two brothers and a black female lawmaker, will fight for the leadership of Britain's opposition Labour Party, it announced Wednesday after the close of nominations.

Ex-ministers David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham, and veteran member of parliament Diane Abbott each secured support from at least 33 Labour lawmakers to join the race to replace former prime minister Gordon Brown.

Although the party could be in opposition for years, having been ousted after 13 years in power in May 6 elections that swept a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to power, the race for the top job is likely to be fierce.

Public hustings will take place ahead of a ballot throughout September and the announcement of the winner on September 25.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband remains the frontrunner, with 81 nominations, followed by his younger brother Ed, the former energy secretary, with 63. Abbott, Burnham and Balls have 33 nominations each.

Many in the party welcomed Abbott's inclusion on the final candidate list, after complaining that the field was dominated by white men of a similar age and background, although she is still considered the outsider.

David Miliband had given her his nomination to help keep her in the race, while left-wing lawmaker John McDonnell also abandoned his own bid, throwing his weight behind her to ensure at least one left-wing candidate had a chance.

"This will ensure there is going to be a much wider debate in the hustings," said GMB union leader Paul Kenny.

"There are wide-ranging differences between the candidates on issues such as nuclear (power) and privatisation and it is very important that these are aired."

The new leader will be voted for by three electoral colleges, made up of MPs and members of the European Parliament; trade unions and other affiliated organisations; and grassroots Labour members.

"This leadership contest is Labour's opportunity to take forward the rebuilding for our party for the future challenges ahead," said acting Labour leader Harriet Harman, who took over when Brown stepped down last month.

© 2010 AFP

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