The Labour leadership contest has been a bitterly fought battle but last night Streatham MP and former contender Chuka Umunna seemed to offer an olive branch to embattled front-runner Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Umunna, an outspoken member of the shadow cabinet, said ‘solidarity is key’ to returning Labour to office, in a move commentators read as a promise to back Mr Corbyn should he win.
With results of the contest due on September 12 and the four leadership candidates campaigning hard, the move by an influential Labour figure appears to reflect an acceptance of the so-called ‘Corbynmania’.
Despite warnings from former PMs Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the former criticising Mr Corbyn’s ‘Alice in Wonderland politics’ and the latter throwing his weight behind Yvette Cooper, hundreds of thousands people have joined Labour to support Mr Corbyn’s bid.
Mr Umunna said: “Over half a million people are now members, supporters or affiliated supporters of our party, with hundreds of thousands joining in the last few weeks.
“Some have joined in order to thwart the pursuit of Labour values but many more have joined to further the pursuit of those values, including lots of young people.
“At a time when so many are walking away from centre left parties across the Western world and many young people do not vote let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate.”
He said it was ‘vital’ that Labour harnessed the energy of new supporters, especially in grassroots doorstep campaigning, and that a weakness of New Labour was that it ‘did not develop leaders from the communities it represented’.
Mr Umunna made the comments in a speech in Amsterdam at a Policy Network event on the future of Dutch and UK labour, alongside Dutch deputy PM Lodewijk Asscher.
Mr Umunna, who dropped out of the leadership race in May, was rumoured to be organising a resistant faction against front-runner Mr Corbyn but dismissed the claims as ‘ridiculous’.
In a letter to fellow Labour MPs Umunna defended the newly-founded ‘Labour for the Common Good’ Parliamentary group that he founded with Tristram Hunt.
He said: “There is just one “gang” as far as I’m concerned and that is the Labour Party – end of story.
“As I said publicly several weeks ago, a split of our party – which has always been a broad church – is completely out of the question and would be totally counter-productive, as is any talk of a coup after we learn of the result.”
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