LABOUR members face a “depressing” choice in the leadership election without a left candidate, MP Diane Abbott told the Star yesterday.
The outspoken left MP gave her verdict after three candidates hoping to succeed Ed Miliband gave major speeches on Friday about their vision for the party.
Andy Burnham aped Blairite rivals Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper in a pro-business speech designed to distance himself from Labour’s left. He described assembled bosses as “heroes” and said Labour had been “too easy” on benefit claimants.
Ms Abbott, who finished just 1 per cent behind Mr Burnham in the 2010 leadership contest, described his outbursts as “very depressing.” And Britain’s first black female MP warned that “mimicking the Tories on welfare is not the road to victory at the next election.”
But she predicted the lack of choice in the leadership contest could see party members in London swing behind her bid to become Labour’s candidate in the city’s mayoral election. Ms Abbott said: “I think precisely because the selection for the leadership is quite limited, I think people will find it a relief in London to be able to vote for a genuinely progressive candidate. It’s depressing actually, so all the more reason that, in London at least, we’re planting our flag on a progressive platform.”
Ms Abbott is currently trailing Blairite Tessa Jowell and Unite and GMB-backed Sadiq Khan in the battle to become Labour’s candidate.
Ms Jowell has 31 nominations, ahead of Mr Khan on 23, Tottenham MP David Lammy on eight and Ms Abbott on four.
The Hackney North MP admitted Ms Jowell has a “huge money advantage.”
“She’s got all the New Labour money and she used it to recruit staff who had been working on the general election campaign for the London region,” she explained. But with three-quarters of branches yet to declare their support, Ms Abbott is confident of making up ground on her rivals before nominations close on June 15.
She said: “We are plugging away and we anticipate getting enough nominations to earn a place on the long list. Once we’re on the ballot paper, the whole thing opens up because it’s one member, one vote.”
The Labour hopefuls will find out who has claimed the candidacy on July 31.