Boost for Richard Burgon as John McDonnell backs his Labour deputy leadership bid
John McDonnell has thrown his weight behind Richard Burgon's bid to be Labour's next deputy leader.
The Shadow Chancellor said he was "trying to keep out of" the leadership contests, but would be voting for the Shadow Justice Secretary to be the new second-in-command.
His comments are a blow for Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, who is the clear favourite to win the deputy leadership race.
Mr McDonnell also confirmed that he is backing Rebecca Long Bailey's campaign to be leader.
He said: "I thought she was superb on the Today programme this morning. I thought she came across as an extremely warm human being on top of her game, I thought she was excellent. But all of them have been good, we've got a really good team of candidates."
Asked if he would therefore be supporting Ms Rayner's bid to be deputy leader, given her close friendship with Ms Long Bailey, Mr McDonnell said: "Richard Burgon. But I'm trying to keep out of it. I'm trying to quietly drift into the role of an elder statesman making pompous statements every now and again."
Announcing his deputy leadership bid last week, Mr Burgon insisted it was Brexit, rather than Labour's policies, which was to blame for the party's election defeat.
He said: "In 2017 we won 3.5 million extra votes, making huge strides in winning back the 5 million votes lost between 1997 and 2010 after backing war and proposing austerity.
"But something significant obviously changed between 2017 and last week. Given that we had the same leader in Jeremy Corbyn and a similar manifesto to 2017, I think it is mistaken to focus blame there.
"Of course, Jeremy came up on the doorstep. But this is the fourth leader I’ve campaigned for and each time – whether it was Tony Blair and Iraq, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband or Jeremy – the leader always came up."
In order to win again, he said Labour "must be the champion of the whole working-class: whether in towns and cities, whether Remain or Leave, and ensure we are a party that reflects the diversity of the working-class in 21st century multicultural Britain".
As well as Mr Burgon and Ms Rayner, Labour MPs Ian Murray, Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler and Khalid Mahmood are also campaigning to be deputy leader.