The shadow secretary of state for international trade Barry Gardiner (Brent North) has confirmed that he is seriously considering joining the race to become the next leader of the Labour Party.
He confirmed to The Guardian that “I am considering running and will decide in the next 24 hours.” With nominations due to close on 13 January, Gardiner will need to decide very shortly where he thinks he has the numbers to launch a serious candidacy. As well as the 22 MPs or MEPs he will require, he will also need to secure five per cent of local party nominations and five per cent of party affiliates.
The news comes after it was reported that Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite the Union had been approaching Gardiner, among other members of the party, to encourage them to stand. McCluskey has strenuously denied these claims asking journalists to “stop claiming that I or Unite have backed anyone for Labour leader so far. To be clear, we haven’t.” Unite is due to make a decision on 24 January, following a meeting of their executive committee.
Gardiner has been seen as a key Corbyn ally and many will see his willingness to at least enter the race as a sign that many on the left of the party have not settled on an alternative to current frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer (Holborn & St Pancras).
Whether or not Gardiner does finally enter the race for the leadership, it is certainly an unnerving development for the Rebecca Long-Bailey campaign. She has been seeking to unite the left of the party in the same manner of Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) had done twice before but this may be increasingly unlikely if there are elements in the upper echelons of Unite that are discontented with her campaign.