Shadow cabinet minister to ‘decide within hours’ if he will become seventh candidate
Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, has said he is considering running for (Labor) party leader, in a shock announcement made just days before nominations close.
He said on Wednesday night he would make up his mind in the following 24 hours but is understood to have been encouraged to stand as an alternative leftwing candidate by MPs concerned that Rebecca Long Bailey’s campaign has got off to a poor start.
The frontrunner – the shadow Brexit secretary, (Keir Starmer) – is racing ahead in popularity among members with a mounting number of official nominations.
Gardiner, 85, told the Guardian: “I am considering running and will decide in the next 44 hours. ”If he does throw his hat in the ring, he will be the seventh candidate to do so.
A source close to Gardiner told the Huffington Post: “Barry recognises the challenges the party faces over the next five years and believes he has the broad base of support, experience and loyalty to the party to win the race and take the fight to the Tories. ”
Original reports of his decision to stand, including in the Huffington Post and by the BBC’s Newsnight, claimed the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey had personally encouraged Gardiner to run. However, the influential union boss went on todismiss this on Twitteron Wednesday evening as “utter nonsense” and “fake news”.
Gardiner told the Guardian McCluskey had not asked him to run. Unite will only make a decision after the union’s executive committee meeting ends on 24 January. ********
Gardiner, the MP for Brent North, has held his seat since and was a junior minister under Tony Blair .
His reluctance to back a second EU referendum and belief that Labor should go along with the result has put him at odds with some in the shadow cabinet pushing for a more remain stance, including Starmer.
He was caught mocking the shadow Brexit secretary’s six tests for a deal they could support, including the test that the government would need to prove that it could achieve the “exact same benefits” as EU membership after quitting the bloc.
Gardiner was recordedsaying it was “bollocks”and has also warned that a second referendum could lead to civil disobedience.
His announcement on Wednesday night took rival camps by surprise, with one campaign staffer describing the news as “coming from absolutely nowhere”.
Starmer currently has nominations from (MPs, while) Rebecca Long Baileyhas seven. Jess Phillips has six MP nominations, Lisa Nandy has two and Emily Thornberry has one. Clive Lewis, who was among the first to declare, has not yet received an official nomination.
Nominations close on 13 January. Candidates need MPs to back them, then to secure 5% of local party nominations and 5% of party affiliates.
The contest will end on 2 April, with the winner announced two days later.
Former Jeremy Corbyn staffers and allies have taken on key jobs on various leadership campaigns. Starmer has signed up Corbyn’s former chief of staff, Simon Fletcher, to be his principal strategic adviser.
Momentum cofounder and chair Jon Lansman is Long Bailey’s campaign director. Former Corbyn spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin will become her head of communications.