In Brief

Is Barry Gardiner joining the Labour leadership race?

Left-winger says he will make decision today after contradictory reports

Barry Gardiner says he is considering running for the Labour party's leadership.

The shadow international trade spokesman told the BBC he will make a decision whether to enter the race shortly. The Guardian says the news has “shocked” Labour.

However, Gardiner has denied reports that Unite union boss Len McClusky had called him to encourage him to stand. McCluskey had earlier disputed a report in the Huffington Post that he has asked left-leaning frontbenchers to enter the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

McCluskey tweeted: “This is utter nonsense. I certainly haven't been approached by Barry to support him as leader. Let me also make clear I have not indicated any concerns about RLB's campaign, or anyone else's.

“I repeat what I've been saying for weeks. There will be no announcement from Unite until our EC meets the candidates on 24 Jan. Claims to the contrary should be dismissed as fake news.”

With questions mounting over the issue, The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman asks: “Is Barry Gardiner running for Labour leader or not? The question is almost as confusing as whether Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have resigned from the Royal Family.”

She writes that “there have been mutterings from those on the left of the party that they aren’t fully happy with Rebecca Long-Bailey’s campaign,” adding: “Whether one of those unhappy people is Len McCluskey isn’t clear.”

Gardiner has been Brent North MP since 1997. He has argued that Labour should abide by the 2016 general election result, pitting him against other shadow cabinet members who have pushed for a second referendum.

The other candidates to replace Jeremy Corbyn are shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow treasury minister Clive Lewis, Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy.

The hopefuls have until 13 January to win the backing of the 22 MPs and MEPs needed to get on the ballot paper.

Keir Starmer has become the first candidate to pass this threshold, attracting 41 nominations. He also won the backing of the UK's largest union Unison, the first union to state a preference.

Dave Prentis, the Unison general secretary, told The Independent: “This is a pivotal time for Labour. We believe – if elected by the membership – Keir Starmer would be a leader to bring the party together and win back the trust of the thousands of voters who deserted Labour last month.”

The party's new leader will be announced on 4 April.

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