Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has won the crucial support of the Unite union.
The decision means the shadow business secretary, who is the favourite of the current leadership to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, is one step closer to securing her place in the final round of the contest.
Announcing the decision, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite’s executive council has voted overwhelmingly to back Rebecca Long-Bailey to become the next leader of the Labour party, and Richard Burgon to become the deputy leader.
“The conclusion of this thorough debate was that Rebecca Long-Bailey is the candidate best-placed to take the fight to the Tory party on behalf of Unite members and their communities looking for a leader who is one hundred per cent on their side.”
Keir Starmer, the frontrunner in the race as it stands, is already through to the next stage, as is backbencher Lisa Nandy.
Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “I am honoured to receive Unite’s nomination. I didn’t see myself as the kind of person who could ever become an MP. It was Unite, my trade union, that supported me to realise my potential
“In unions, working people came together to secure a better life for themselves through achievements like the weekend, better wages, and parental leave. The Labour Party must draw inspiration from this legacy by giving economic power back to communities and enabling them to take charge of their own futures.”
To make it onto the final ballot, candidates have to win the backing of three Labour affiliates - including at least two trade unions.
Alternatively they can proceed by securing the nomination of 33 constituency Labour parties (CLPs).
Labour’s 500,000-strong membership will then vote, with the result announced on April 4.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, will likely have to take the second route to the ballot but so far appears to be struggling to win support.
Thornberry admitted to ITV it would be a “squeeze” to get on to the ballot paper due to Starmer and Long-Bailey dominating on opposing wings of the party.
Starmer was forced to cancel Labour leadership campaign events this week as his mother-in-law was taken critically ill in hospital.