Benn launches deputy leadership campaign

Hilary Benn has officially launched his campaign to become deputy leader of the Labour party and thereby Britain’s next deputy prime minister.

Launching the campaign in Toynbee Hall, in London’s East End, Mr Benn said: “Let the debate begin. Let us discuss ideas. Let us talk straightforwardly about the future we want.

“Let us set out the practical steps we can take together to make Britain a better, fairer country.

“The corridors of power belong to the British people, and making sure your voice is heard along them is why I am standing to be deputy leader.”

Hilary Benn, son of the firebrand left-winger Tony Benn, was the bookies favourite less than a week ago, but over the past few days his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.

After serious concerns that he wouldn’t even make it onto the ballot paper, he finally managed to scrape together 47 nomination – a mere two more than necessary. Of these, sports minister Dick Caborn told the Daily Telegraph he was planning to vote for Alan Johnson.

But there is a widely held view among political commentators that Mr Benn is more popular among grass-roots party members than he is among MPs, many of whom consider him insufficiently experienced. It may be that the hardest part of the international development minister’s campaign is already over.

He will face intense competition, however. He currently stands as the candidate with the fewest nominations, and Jon Cruddas was today establishing himself as the main candidate of the left.

Mr Cruddas received endorsements from the Amicus and Transport and General Workers’ unions and from Ken Livingstone, the popular mayor of London.

Mr Livingstone praised his “tenacity” in fighting the BNP, opposing nuclear weapons, and fighting child poverty and racism. He is due to launch his campaign in the West Midlands next Tuesday.

Mr Benn and Mr Cruddas will face four other candidates – Hazel Blears, Peter Hain, Alan Johnson and Harriet Harman – in a series of hustings around the UK starting on Sunday in Coventry.

Voting starts June 1st and ends on the 22nd. Labour party members, MEPs and trade unionists are entitled to vote.