Harman backs Abbott for Labour leadership

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Diane Abbott received a boost to her candidacy for the Labour Party leadership when Harriet Harman, the party's deputy leader, nominated her yesterday.

Ms Harman said she was doing so in the hope of helping to ensure there is a woman on the ballot paper, and will not cast her vote in the election this September.

Her move brings Ms Abbott up to 10 nominations – well short of the 33 she must secure by today's deadline if she is to join David Miliband, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in the battle to succeed Gordon Brown.

Ms Harman has made clear that she wishes to remain deputy leader alongside whoever is named leader on 25 September.

A source close to Ms Harman said: "The Labour Party knows that whoever wins the leadership contest, there will not be a men-only leadership at the top of the Labour Party as Harriet will continue in her role as deputy leader.

"However, she feels that the party does not want the leadership election, and the debate that it will generate, to be men only. She will continue to serve as deputy leader alongside whoever wins. Therefore, she has nominated Diane."

Mr Balls also encouraged MPs yet to decide who to nominate to lend their support to Ms Abbott.

His surprise plea came during an appearance before the GMB union conference yesterday.

Andy Burnham looks set to make it on to the ballot paper, needing just two more supporters. In reality, he just needs to find one more colleague to support him as he has already been promised a nomination from his leadership rival, David Miliband. The shadow Foreign Secretary leads the battle for nominations by some way with the backing of 74 MPs.

A sixth contender, the left-wing candidate, John McDonnell, also needed a flurry of late support to reach the necessary number of nominations by the deadline.