Diane Abbott adds name to leadership contenders

Diane Abbott yesterday put herself forward as a left-wing contender to succeed Gordon Brown, arguing some of her rivals for the role had been "more focussed on winning the leadership battle" than on helping defeat the Tories in the election.

Writing in The Independent today, Ms Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and the first black woman to enter the Commons, also urges her party to move to the left and abandon the policies pursued during 13 years of New Labour rule.

Her plea comes after Liam Byrne, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury warned his party colleagues that the advent of the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition Government meant Labour was now in a "full-on fight for the centre ground of British politics". Ms Abbott's unexpected participation in the leadership battle takes the number of candidates in the race to six. However, it is unlikely that both her and fellow left-winger, John McDonnell, will secure the support of 33 fellow MPs necessary to appear on the ballot paper.

Yesterday, the party's hierarchy tore up part of the timetable for deciding on its next leader after complaints from MPs and activists that contenders had not been given enough time to raise the support needed.

The original deadline of next Thursday has now been extended by 13 days, following complaints to Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC). Andy Burnham, the former Health Secretary, officially launched his leadership campaign yesterday, promising to "reconnect Labour" with the country. Despite a background on the Blairite wing of the party, he hinted he wanted to move the party to the left by taking action over executive pay.

Last night, Labour announced that both Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis had left their posts in the shadow Cabinet. They said it was too difficult to do the jobs from the House of Lords.

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