Anas Sarwar has won the support of two big city mayors in his bid to become Scottish Labour Leader.
In a sign the race could be a close-run affair, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and his Liverpool counterpart Steve Rotheram have thrown their weight behind the Glasgow MSP to succeed Kezia Dugdale.
Most significant is securing the backing of Rotheram, a well-known ally of Jeremy Corbyn who most expected to back left-winger Richard Leonard.
In their statement, the Manchester and Liverpool mayors said: “We need Labour back in power in Scotland and across all the regions and nations of the UK.
“Having worked closely with Anas in Westminster and witnessed the passion with which he led the Labour campaign to strengthen Scotland’s place in the UK, it’s clear that he has the energy and experience to lead Labour back to power.”
They added: “Anas is a committed devolutionist and knows that we need to devolve power from Whitehall to our cities and regions.
“In these challenging times, we need to work together to ensure we can increase jobs and grow the economies of our great cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.”
Sarwar, who was ousted from Westminster in 2015 before being elected to Holyrood in 2016, is running against fellow MSP Leonard for the job.
He had a difficult start in the contest, after it emerged his family’s cash-and-carry firm did not pay its workers the “voluntary” real living wage of £8.45-an-hour and did not recognise unions.
Since then, he has relinquished all of his shares in the business.
Leonard, meanwhile, has strong union backing, including from Unite, who is thought to be signing up thousands of affiliates’ votes.
The new leader of the Scottish Labour Party will be announced on November 18.