Major boost for Keir Starmer as Unison backs his bid to be Labour leader
Keir Starmer has received a huge boost in his bid to become Labour leader after the UK's biggest trade union gave him its support.
Unison made the announcement as it emerged Sir Keir has already received enough backing from Labour MPs to take him through to the next round of the contest.
Dave Prentis, the union's general secretary, said he was the leader "to bring the party together and win back the trust of the thousands of voters who deserted Labour last month".
The endorsement is hugely significant because Unison backed Jeremy Corbyn in the last two leadership contests.
But Mr Prentis said it was not time for a change in direction if Labour is to stand a chance of winning the next election.
He said: "Unions created the Labour Party to give working people a voice in Westminster. But it can only achieve for them, their families, their communities and the country’s public services when in government.
"Keir has a clear vision to get Labour back to the winning ways of the past. He is best placed to take on Boris Johnson, hold his government to account and ensure Labour can return to power and once more change working people’s lives for the better."
Linda Hobson, vice chair of Unison’s Labour Link Committee, said: “Under Keir Starmer’s leadership Labour could move forward and learn the lessons from – and understand the reasons for –the party’s terrible defeat last month.
"With Keir, Labour could also move the country on from Brexit and start to heal the painful divisions created by the referendum."
Meanwhile, Unison has also announced that it is backing Angela Rayner's bid to become deputy leader.
Welcoming the union's backing, Sir Keir said: "I’m honoured to have been backed by Unison to be the next leader of the Labour Party.
“Unison members represent some of the best of our movement and our country. The union represents over a million public servants who dedicate their lives to caring for others: nurses, care workers and teaching assistants.
"I want to lead a Labour Party that will stand side-by-side with trade unionists. United we can rebuild our party, take the fight to the Tories and win."
Under the rules of the Labour leadership contest, candidates must receive the backing of at least 22 MPs and MEPs, plus either 5% of local party branches or three affiliates, which can include trade unions.
Figures released by the party on Wednesday revealed that Sir Keir already has 23 MP nominations, well ahead of second placed Rebecca Long Bailey, who has seven. Jess Phillips is third with six, followed by Lisa Nandy on two and Emily Thornberry with one.
The sixth candidate, Clive Lewis, has yet to receive any nominations.