Jess Phillips has dropped out of the Labour leadership contest after struggling to win support.
The MP for Birmingham Yardley, a longtime critic of Jeremy Corbyn, admitted on Tuesday afternoon she would not be able to “unite” the party behind her.
“The Labour Party will need to select a candidate who can unite all parts of our movement, the union movement, members and elected representatives,” she said.
“And I have to also be honest with myself, as I said I always would be throughout this campaign. At this time, that person is not me.”
HuffPost UK understands Phillips would now like to see Lisa Nandy win the race, but of the two frontrunners she would prefer Keir Starmer over Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Phillips added: “I truly believe that unless we talk to the country on their terms, not just on ours, that we won’t be able to make the gains we need to win an election - and do what everyone in the Labour movement wants to do, and that is make people’s lives better.
“In order to win the country, we are going to have to find a candidate, in this race, who can do all of that, and then take that message out to the country.”
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Starmer has taken an early edge in the campaign and yesterday secured the backing of the support of the shop workers’ union USDAW, which had been tipped as one of Phillips’s few potential backers.
It means the shadow Brexit secretary is first of the candidates to make the ballot in the second round of the contest
But Long-Bailey is the favourite of the current leadership and also has the support of the grassroots leftwing Momentum campaign group.
According to YouGov, Phillips’ decision to drop out of the race would see Starmer win the race on the first round of voting as he would secure over 50% of the vote.
The candidates are pitching to win the backing of the remaining big unions, which include Unite, GMB and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).
Unite’s close links to the left of the party are thought to make Long-Bailey the favourite for its tip.
Nandy is being touted as the front-runner for the support of the GMB, with its executives meeting in London today to decide which of the five candidates to rally behind.
However, even if GMB does decide in Nandy’s favour, the Wigan MP would still require another nomination from an affiliated group to get her through to the last round.
Candidates are required to have won the nomination of three Labour affiliates, including at least two unions.
The only other route on to the ballot paper is by receiving nominations from at least 5% of constituency Labour parties (CLPs), meaning Thornberry faces an uphill battle to ensure she continues in the race having so far won the backing of just two.