Barry Gardiner has confirmed he is mulling a shock bid for the Labour leadership to lead the party to an election victory and give Brits a “better life”.
The Shadow Trade Secretary said he is considering becoming the seventh candidate in a phone call with the Mirror from a climate conference in Abu Dhabi.
HuffPost UK broke the surprise news last night that he was considering entering the contest – despite MPs already giving dozens of nominations to frontrunners Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Speaking to us this morning, Mr Gardiner said: “At the moment I am still considering it and I’m going to try and make a decision as soon as I possibly can.
“I’ve got to speak with some more people.
“It’s really a matter of I want to heal the division in our country, I want to help people have a better life in a fairer Britain, it’s as simple as that really.”
Nominations close at 2.30pm on Monday and Mr Gardiner must win support from 22 MPs or MEPs to enter the race.
Mr Gardiner flatly denied he had been approached by either Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, or top Jeremy Corbyn ally Karie Murphy.
He said: “This has been very much my decision – it’s not something I have had discussion with any of what you might call the usual suspects.”
Asked if people have been urging him to stand or it’s a personal decision he said: “Both is the answer. A number of people have urged me to stand and I initially resisted that. I, at that stage, was not ready or prepared to do it.
“That’s both colleagues and also members of the public and people within the wider party.”
Mr Gardiner was a minister under Tony Blair , voted in favour of military action in Iraq in 2003 and nominated David Miliband for leadership in 2010. However, in recent years he has been a loyal defender of Jeremy Corbyn, often picked as the party’s spokesman and media defender in the Shadow Cabinet.
The 62-year-old former City arbitrator, MP for Brent North since 1997, spoke out hours after Rebecca Long-Bailey denied she was the “continuity” candidate for Jeremy Corbyn – but ranked him 10 out of 10 in an interview.
However, he said he was not considering running due to concerns about other candidates.
He said: “No look, I have enormous respect for all my colleagues who are standing.
“I think everyone would make a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson .
“I’m considering it because I believe I would have the best chance of winning at a general election and making sure we get a Labour government to deliver the sort of fairer Britain that I want to see.”
Last night Len McCluskey accused media outlets of “fake news” for reporting claims he had approached Mr Gardiner.
The Unite general secretary said he had spoken to Mr Gardiner in Abu Dhabi and tweeted: “I repeat what I’ve been saying for weeks. There will be no announcement from Unite until our Executive Council meets the candidates on 24 Jan. Claims to the contrary should be dismissed as fake news.”
Mr McCluskey contacted Mr Gardiner last night asking him to “scotch” the claims, Mr Gardiner said.
“That’s the only conversation I’ve had with Len about the matter”, he said today. “I do want to confirm that, that’s absolutely true, he did not phone me.
“He didn’t phone me, he didn’t speak to me in any way to ask me to stand or anything like that.
“He then phoned me last night and said look, why is this out. And I said absolutely I have no idea, it’s not anything that I’ve said to anyone.”