Brown ‘crowned’ leader unopposed

Gordon Brown will succeed Tony Blair as Labour leader and prime minister unopposed, having received backing from the vast majority of Labour MPs.

Nominations closed 12.30pm today, but by last night his only challenger John McDonnell had conceded it is “mathematically impossible” for him to secure sufficient nominations to make it onto the ballot.

In total 313 MPs have backed Mr Brown for the leadership. Mr McDonnell had been nominated by just 29, making it impossible for him to receive the necessary 45 signatures.

Mr McDonnell had attempted to liaise with one-time Labour hopeful Michael Meacher to avoid splitting the left-wing vote. Despite this, few of Mr Meacher’s backers transferred their support.

Mr Brown will be confirmed as Labour leader later today, before officially assuming control at a special conference on June 24th.

The chancellor declined to comment, but his campaign manager Jack Straw said: “We are delighted that the party is uniting behind Gordon and giving him such overwhelming support.”

Mr McDonnell congratulated Mr Brown, but said it was a “great shame” Labour party members had been denied the chance to select their leader, and the future direction of the party.

He said: “I had hoped by standing I would have given them a voice in this crucial decision. The demand from Labour party members to debate the issues that confront our country will not go away and we will continue to campaign for a democratic say in that debate.”

Although no longer facing a vote, Mr Brown will still attend ten hustings with the deputy leader candidates. He will use the opportunity to lay out his future policies to Labour party members and hope to gain public support.

All six deputy hopefuls are believed to have secured sufficient backing to make it onto the ballot. As of 6pm on Wednesday the international development secretary Hilary Benn was three signatures short, but it is thought he has secured the additional signatures.

The education secretary Alan Johnson has emerged as MPs’ favourite. He has been nominated by 70 candidates, including David Miliband and confirmed-Brownite Ed Balls.

Mr Blair is standing down as prime minister on June 27th, after which Gordon Brown will be formally appointed prime minister.

Opposition politicians have criticised the so-called Brown coronation, with neither the public nor Labour party members having the chance to elect their new prime minister.

Menzies Campbell said: “As Mr Brown will not face a challenger it is all the more important that there should be a general election now. The country is surely entitled to pass judgement on whether he should become the most powerful politician in the country.

“A coronation is good neither for Labour nor Britain. It is no way to install a prime minister when even his own party doesn’t have a choice.”

David Cameron has also called for a snap election, hoping to repeat the Conservatives’ success in the local elections.

However, the Labour party has fiercely rejected the calls, pointing out John Major did not face a general election after he succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990.