Barry Gardiner confirms he is 'considering' surprise bid to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader
Barry Gardiner is considering a surprise run for the Labour leadership, he has confirmed.
In an unexpected move, the Shadow International Trade Secretary made clear he was mulling a bid for the top job - a decision that would make him the seventh Labour MP to join the contest.
The Brent North MP confirmed the shock development to PoliticsHome from Abu Dhabi, where he is attending a climate conference.
He is expected to make his mind up over the next 24 hours.
If he does decide to stand, Mr Gardiner faces a race against time to get the 22 MP nominations he needs by Monday to make it through to the next stage of the contest.
According to HuffPost UK, Mr Gardiner has been encouraged to stand by left-wing MPs disappointed in the Rebecca Long-Bailey's own push for the top Labour job.
A source close to the MP had told the site: "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."
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey meanwhile angrily denied reports that his union - Labour's biggest financial backer - had encouraged Mr Gardiner to stand after becoming convinced Ms Long-Bailey cannot win.
The Unite boss tweeted: "This is utter nonsense. I certainly haven't been approached by Barry to support him as leader. Let me also make clear I have not indicated any concerns about RLB's campaign, or anyone else's."
He added: "I repeat what I've been saying for weeks. There will be no announcement from Unite until our EC [Executive Committee] meets the candidates on 24 Jan. Claims to the contrary should be dismissed as fake news."
Meanwhile, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer continued to hoover up leadership nominations from MPs after winning the backing of the UK's biggest union, Unison.
The latest total provided by the party shows Sir Keir with 41 MP nominations, well clear of the threshold required to reach the next stage of the contest.
Ms Long-Bailey, the Shadow Education Secretary has so far picked up 17 nominations, with Jess Phillips on 16, Lisa Nandy on 12, Emily Thornberry on three and Clive Lewis on 1.