Major boost for Rebecca Long-Bailey as Unite backs her bid to be next Labour leader
Rebecca Long-Bailey's campaign to be Labour leader has received a huge boost after she won the backing of Unite, who said she has "the brains and the brilliance to beat Boris Johnson".
The trade union's ruling executive announced its decision after hearing presentations from all bar one of the four MPs still in the running to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
Sir Keir Starmer, who has cancelled all his campaigning activity until next week after an accident left his mother-in-law critically ill, was represented by Labour MP Chris Matheson.
Unite's decision means Ms Long-Bailey is on the verge of making it through to the final round of the contest, having already received the backing of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union.
She only needs the support of one more Labour affiliate organisation to guarantee her place on the ballot paper alongside Sir Keir and Lisa Nandy.
A source said the result from its executive council was “overwhelmingly" in favour of the shadow business secretary for leader, with the union also backing Richard Burgon to become the new deputy leader.
Len McCluskey, Unite's general secretary, said: "This has been a day of vibrant discussion by the chief decision-making body in the union, the Labour party's biggest affiliate, about where next for the party.
"The conclusion of this thorough debate was that Rebecca Long-Bailey is the candidate best-placed to take the fight to the Tory party on behalf of Unite members and their communities looking for a leader who is one hundred per cent on their side.
"Above all, Becky has the brains and the brilliance to beat Boris Johnson. She is standing for unity, socialism and the determination to make Johnson's term in office short-lived.
"Unite is also confident that Richard will make a superb deputy to Becky, displaying the qualities that have long been absent from that post - pride in our values, a passion for our party to succeed and, above all, loyalty to their leader.
"On behalf of Unite, I want to thank all the candidates for their time and contributions today. They are a credit to our party and a reminder of the breadth and depth of talent Labour possesses."
Unite's endorsement means the union will now throw its organisational weight behind the Salford and Eccles MP's campaign.
Election leaflets will be sent to the union's members urging them to vote for Ms Long-Bailey, who also has the backing of the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group Momentum.
However, she still faces a huge challenge to defeat Sir Keir, after the most recent poll of Labour members showed he enjoyed a commanding lead over her.