Left-winger to challenge Brown for Labour leadership

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A left-wing Labour MP announced today that he will challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party when Tony Blair quits.

John McDonnell, chairman of the Socialist Campaign Group, said that, following "increasing demands" from sections of the movement, he had decided to declare himself as a candidate.

The MP for Hayes and Harlington said he wanted to make it clear he was not standing as a "stalking horse", but wanted to mount a serious challenge for the party leadership.

Mr McDonnell said: "It is becoming increasingly apparent that Tony Blair will

announce his resignation as leader of the Labour Party over the next 12-18 months.

"Some have argued that instead of an open democratic election for the leader of the party, there should be a smooth transition or virtual coronation of his successor.

"This would deny party members the opportunity of openly debating the issues facing our party and the future direction of the country.

"An election for the leader of the party will allow for a democratic debate on the future of Labour."

Mr McDonnell said he wanted to stand to make sure that thousands of Labour Party members and supporters had the chance to participate in deciding party policies as well as who should take over from Mr Blair.

He went on: "There are many that feel the party has lost its way. Many of the policies being pursued in Government have broken up the broad coalition of support Labour has relied upon throughout its history to bring it to power.

"New Labour has systematically alienated section after section of our supporters - teachers, health workers, students, pensioners, public service workers, trade unionists and people committed to the environment, civil liberties and peace. Spin and allegations of sleaze are causing decent people to lose trust in our party.

"This is reflected in lost votes, lost elections, lost members and a Labour Prime Minister having to rely upon Conservative votes in Parliament to force through legislation.

"There are growing calls from across the party for change. We need to rebuild a progressive consensus, inspiring and giving people hope that another world is possible. We need those who have turned away from Labour to come back home.

"For the first time in decades, people no longer feel they have a political voice. This campaign is a challenge to the present political consensus."

Mr McDonnell said he will now seek support from all sections of the Labour movement.