Benn may stand for deputy leadership

Hilary Benn has joined the race to become deputy leader of the Labour party, reports suggest.

The international development secretary has reportedly begun instructing his supports to begin canvassing MPs to secure the 44 nominations he needs to stand for John Prescott’s job.

The reports in the Independent come after former junior defence minister Tom Watson wrote in his blog last week that he believed Mr Benn would stand.

“A very reliable source has just told me that Hilary Benn is definitely standing for deputy leader,” the Labour MP, who quit his government job after signing a letter calling on Tony Blair to resign, wrote three days ago.

“A less reliable source tells me that a former cabinet minister will be in charge of his bid and that a professional sounding campaign team has already been put in place.

“This could all be Westminster rumour but a ‘Benn for Deputy’ campaign would certainly liven things up.”

The newspaper claims this former cabinet minister is Ian McCartney, who was Labour party chairman for two years and is now trade minister.

Former Downing Street aide Jon Cruddas has already announced he will be running for the deputy leadership job, and has won the support of several trade union leaders.

Constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman and Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain have declared their candidacies. Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary and now leader of the Commons, and education secretary Alan Johnson are also expected to stand.