Ian Lavery tells Keir Starmer to quit Labour leadership race to make way for a woman
Labour leadership frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer should "stand side" to make way for a woman, the party's chairman has declared.
Ian Lavery, who is backing Sir Keir's main rival Rebecca Long-Bailey, called on the Shadow Brexit Secretary to quit the race so the party can pick its first-ever female leader.
The comments from the key ally of Jeremy Corbyn came at an official campaign event for Ms Long-Bailey, who is one of three women left in the contest.
Mr Lavery - who considered running for the leadership himself - said: "We need a female leader of the Labour Party. Stand aside Keir."
He added: "If we stand with Rebecca Long-Bailey, Baileyism, we'll have a leader who can take the fight to the Tories not in 2024 but in 2020. We've got a woman who is as strong as anyone within the party.
"She's got fantastic vision, she's got a fantastic history and a fantastic background, and she isn't frightened of anybody - she's not even frightened of me. And she is the right person for the job."
The comments come after Mr Lavery drew anger from some Labour MPs for staunchly defending the party's election campaign, which saw it plunge to its lowest number of Commons seats since the 1930s.
But the former president of the National Union of Mineworkers once again urged the party to stick to the course set by Jeremy Corbyn by backing Ms Long-Bailey.
Mr Lavery said: "I’m a bit bruised, battered, disappointed. But you know what, the only way is up. The only way is to continue with the socialist revolution. The only way is to continue to build on what we promised the British people. Comrades, there’s no going back.”
And, taking a swipe at Labour MPs hostile to Mr Corbyn, he added: "I’ll tell you something else: I’m not taking any lectures from some of the people in the party who are now saying we need to draw a line under it and we need to focus on the future when they’ve undermined Jeremy Corbyn."
The fiery comments from the party chairman came as Ms Long-Bailey confirmed that Labour MPs will have to face automatic reselection - a key demand of left-wing activists - before every general election if she becomes leader.
The Shadow Business Secretary said she wanted to "throw open the door to a new generation" of Labour politicians.
Ms Long-Bailey's place in the final round of the contest is likely to be confirmed on Friday when Unite announces who it is endorsing.
Bookies' favourite Sir Keir is already on the ballot paper, while Lisa Nandy's hopes of joining him received a huge boost when the GMB said on Tuesday that it was backing her.