POLITICS

Tristram Hunt Won't Run For Labour Leadership, Backs Liz Kendall And Takes A Swipe At Unite

20/05/2015 10:37 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 11:59 BST

Tristram Hunt has decided not to run for the Labour leadership, after realising he did not have have sufficient backing from his fellow Labour MPs.

Hunt had been considering a bid to succeed Ed Miliband, however today he backed Liz Kendall for the party's top job. "In trying to gather the names I need, there was real risk I might help restrict the choice for the party," he said.

In order to get on the ballot, candidates need the backing of 35 Labour MPs. Hunt's decision will be seen as an attempt to unite the 2010 intake Blairite wing of the party against frontrunner Andy Burnham.

"Today I am offering my endorsement to my college Liz Kendall," he said today. "She has the confidence and courage to be leader of our party."

In a speech in central London this morning, Hunt also said he supported calls for a change in party rules that would allow the leadership to be reconsidered again before the 2020 election.

He also issued a warning that the Unite union must not exert too much influence over the leadership contest. "We need less dictation by individuals and individual factions that still seek to wield and influence that is both disproportionate to what they deserve and contrary to the egalitarian principle of one member, one vote," he said.

The leadership race is now between four Labour MPs: Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, Burnham and Kendall. However Creagh, another candidate from the 2010 intake, may struggle to stay in contention.

Hunt said: "Like other potential candidates in recent days I have made a lot of calls to potential supporters among my parliamentary colleagues.

"I found that the bulk of MPs are already committed to just a couple of candidates. It is surprising that the nomination process to select a leader for at least the next five years appears to have been largely decided within at most five days of a devastating General Election defeat.

Hunt said of Kendall: "I believe she has learnt the right lessons from our time in office and opposition. She is open to the big challenges confronting our party and our country. And I believe she has the right leadership mettle to lead Labour."

liz kendall

Liz Kendall, far right, at a leadership hustings

In his speech this morning, Hunt criticised the "timid, institutionalised caution" of the party's campaign under Miliband. All the candidates have, to some degree, distanced themselves from Labour's failed general election campaign.

The shadow education secretary called for the adoption of a "100% strategy" to gain support across the country rather the so-called "35% strategy" aimed at winning just enough voters to get them back into Downing Street.

And he warned that if the party turns "further inwards" it could "wither away" altogether. However he said the leadership campaign must let voters see a "proper political argument" take place in the leadership battle.

"We did not lack for political ideas, what we lacked was political courage. In our strategic straitjacket we refused to accept them, to make the argument for them, or to build them into a new sense of mission," he said in an address to the Demos political think-tank.

"You need to demonstrate you are on people's side and earn the right to be trusted with their future. I believe that only comes when we offer a broad-based, forward-looking Labour project. A 100% strategy. Not the timid, institutionalised caution which led so many to believe we had a 35% strategy."

Hunt said: "Of course we need to stop haemorrhaging support in our traditional heartlands. But we must ensure that same heart sends our message - pumps the blood - to parts of our country we no longer reach.

"We need to win in Scotland. We need to win against Ukip. And we need to win whole swathes of southern England where, early New Labour aside, we have long since lost any pretence at an emotional connection."

In a swipe at Burnham, the frontrunner in the leadership contest, Hunt said Labour needed to do more than simply rediscover the “beating heart of Labour" - a phrase shadow health secretary has adopted as a campaign slogan.

On Tuesday evening a close ally of Miliband, Jon Trickett, warned the leadership contenders not to move to the right. The party, he said, did not lose because it was "too left wing". He said: "I don’t believe for a minute our policies were vote losers."