Johnson rules himself out of leadership race

Education secretary Alan Johnson has ruled himself out of the race to replace Tony Blair as leader of the Labour party and prime minister.

The MP for Kingston-upon-Hull West and Hessle will instead be standing to become deputy leader and supporting Gordon Brown in the leadership race.

“It is, of course, a matter for the party to decide who the leader’s going to be, but my view is Gordon [Brown] is a towering political figure,” Mr Johnson said in an interview with the BBC.

“I didn’t want to do it [stand as leader], and there is someone vastly superior in political stature [standing].”

“I made it clear.that my interest was in deputy leadership and at the right time – i.e. when John Prescott had made it clear he was not standing – and that’s the job I want to focus on,” he said.

Mr Johnson would use the deputy leadership to “stand up” to the party leader when needed as well as to “complement, help, cajole and assist” the leader.

“I think that it’s an important role and one I want to put myself forward for,” he said.

Left-winger John McDonnell is currently the only Labour MP who has declared he will stand against Mr Brown, if only in the interests of democracy to prevent an outright coronation. He is backed by many trade union leaders, but there are questions about his support among MPs.

By contrast, the race for deputy leader is hotting up, with Mr Johnson joined by Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, international development secretary Hilary Benn, backbench MP Jon Cruddas and Department for Constitutional Affairs minister Harriet Harman.