Liz Kendall supporter John Woodcock hits out at false relationship rumours 'smear'

John Woodcock, a Labour MP, said claims he was in a relationship with Ms Kendall were untrue

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One of Liz Kendall’s supporters has accused allies of her Labour leadership rivals of orchestrating a “smear” campaign against her with false rumours about her personal life.

John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, said circulating claims that he and Ms Kendall are a couple were “not true, have never been true and would never be true”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he said two journalists told him the rumours were being spread by aides campaigning for one of her rivals.

Labour MP John Woodcock said claims he and Ms Kendall were in a relationship were untrue

"People who are spreading these rumours about Liz and me need to remember how much damage these acts of smear can do,” he told the newspaper.

"This is clearly being done systematically, to damage Liz's campaign. It is totally unacceptable and that is why I have decided to talk about this publicly.

"It is hurtful for my family, and it is designed to make things difficult for Liz."

Mr Woodcock, who has recently divorced from his wife, said the ordeal had given him an insight into accusations that women still face linking their professional success to their appearance or sex lives.

His show of support came after Ms Kendall’s camp claimed rivals were attempting to use the fact she is single and has no children against her.

Her campaign manager, Toby Perkins, had picked up on an article by shadow media minister Helen Goodman saying that “as a working mum”, leadership contender Yvette Cooper understood family pressures.

Ms Cooper’s representatives said they were not aware of the article before it went to press and called claims they were attacking Ms Kendall “absurd”.

Andy Burnham is currently the bookies’ favourite to become the next Labour leader, followed by Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Cooper and Ms Kendall in fourth place.

Ballots are being sent out for the election on Friday and the vote will close on 10 September.

Additional reporting by PA