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MP rejects stalking horse claim; POLITICS.

Prominent Labour left-winger John McDonnell last night denied he was planning a "stalking horse" challenge to Gordon Brown's position as leader, with the goal of clearing the way for a more mainstream replacement to come forward.

The Hayes and Harlington MP tried to launch a bid for the leadership after Tony Blair stood down last year, but failed to secure the necessary 45 signatures of Labour MPs to get his name onto the ballot paper.

Mr McDonnell, who chairs the Socialist Campaign Group of left-leaning MPs, said: "I would never stand as a stalking horse.

"Last time when I tried to challenge, it was a genuine attempt to set out a different political direction for the party and to offer Labour Party members a real choice of the way forward after the Blair era. That challenge failed because I could not muster the nominations of 12.5 per cent of the PLP needed to stand under party rules when there is a vacancy for the position of leader.

"While there is an incumbent no contestant can stand without the nomination of 20 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party - currently 70 MPs plus the candidate. That makes it completely impossible for me to contemplate me running as a stalking horse, even if I thought it the right thing to do, which I do not.

"The party does indeed face a very serious challenge following our mauling by the electorate on Thursday, but we need to concentrate on getting our policies right and restoring the trust of our supporters. We cannot spin and relaunch our way back to popularity, nor is the anger we are facing from the electorate going to disappear when recent errors are forgotten."

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Labour left-winger John McDonnell
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 5, 2008
Words:292
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