In Brief

Union boss backs Emily Thornberry as next Labour leader

Len McCluskey says the next leader must be a woman and calls the shadow foreign secretary a 'unifying figure'

Emily Thornberry has been tipped to be the next Labour leader by the head of Britain's biggest union.

According to the HuffPost, Unite's General Secretary Len McCluskey told friends the party's next leader has to be a woman and said he sees the shadow foreign secretary as "a tough cookie who isn't afraid of taking big decisions".

Labour has never had a female leader.

According to The Guardian, McCluskey said Thornberry was a "unifying figure" and tipped her for the job, whenever a vacancy might arise.

A Unite spokesman insited the union boss fully supports current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Thornberry, who is also shadow first secretary of state, has impressed Labour members when standing in for Corbyn at Prime Minister's Questions. She has won favour for her blunt attacks on Tory cabinet ministers and assured media performances in the run-up to the election.

Although a close ally of Corbyn - the pair represent neighbouring constituencies Islington North and Islington South - Thornberry does not have a long association with the hard left of her party, unlike other touted successors.

Following Labour's better-than-expected performance in June's election, "Corbyn's backers now believe there is time for other potential candidates – including Rebecca Long-Bailey, a close ally of the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, as well as Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary – to build up more experience," says The Guardian.

Nevertheless, says the Daily Telegraph, "given Unite is one of the biggest donors to the labour party and a key ally in terms of winning conference votes, McCluskey's opinion is a powerful one".

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