Harman confirms deputy leadership hopes

Harriet Harman has confirmed she will be standing for the deputy leadership of the Labour party, saying the contest must not be an all-male affair.

The constitutional affairs minister is due to launch her campaign at a girls school in Northampton today, where she will stress the need to reconnect with voters.

Her comments come as former Downing Street advisor and Labour MP for Dagenham Jon Cruddas raised speculation that he may also enter the race for deputy leader.

But in an article in The Guardian he argued the role should not be the same as deputy prime minister, saying Labour’s deputy leader take on the responsibilities of party chairman to speak for members and help rebuild grass roots activity.

“Deputy leader of the Labour party is a serious role, and it is time the holder of the post had the space to exercise their duties, free of the burden imposed by being deputy prime minister,” he wrote.

“The post should become the transmission belt between party and government – the holder should not be a minister.”

Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain launched his campaign for the deputy leadership on Tuesday, and education secretary Alan Johnson has also said he would like to stand.

However, Mr Johnson is also the bookies’ second favourite for leader. Questioned about his ambitions earlier this week, he looked embarrassed and refused to answer.

Ms Harman used an interview with today’s Daily Mirror to set out her ambitions, saying: “Labour has changed so much since I first became an MP – there were only ten [women] then compared to 97 now – and we are at all levels.

“If we didn’t have any women in the contest, it would have sent out completely the wrong message about us and give the idea that when the serious jobs are on offer, you send for the men.”

“That’s not at all the way Labour is and there was no way I was going to let that happen.

“Women won us our 1997 landslide and secured Labour 2001 and 2005 election victories too – we’ve got to show there is someone looking out for their interests at the very heart of government.”

In last year’s general election, 38 per cent of women voted Labour, but research by the Fawcett Society last week revealed this has now fallen to 33 per cent. Men’s support remained static in the same period at 34 per cent.

Ms Harman, who has been MP for Camberwell and Peckham since 1982, also said she would support Gordon Brown to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister.

Yesterday, delegates at the TUC in Brighton overwhelmingly backed John McDonnell for the Labour leadership. The left-wing MP is still an outsider, however, and has himself admitted it would be hard to get the parliamentary support to stand.