Chuka Umunna withdraws from Labour leadership race

Chuka Umunna pictured on the Andrew Marr show last weekend. Picture: Getty
Chuka Umunna pictured on the Andrew Marr show last weekend. Picture: Getty
Share this article
30
Have your say

SHADOW business secretary Chuka Umunna has pulled out of the Labour Party leadership election, in a shock move by the MP who was seen as one of the frontrunners in the contest to succeed Ed Miliband.

Mr Umunna, 36, made the dramatic announcement yesterday, just three days after declaring his candidature, citing “very real concerns and worry about this bid’s impact on those close to me”.

“I apologise to all those who kindly supported me”

Chuka Umunna

The shadow minister launched his leadership campaign shortly after appearing on TV alongside Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, when the two called for a new policy direction for the party following its disastrous election defeat last week.

Then Mr Umunna was pictured arriving at TV studios hand in hand with his girlfriend, who had previously remained out of the public eye.

However, yesterday he stated that he had underestimated the level of scrutiny to which he and his family would be subjected, which is understood to have seen his mother doorstepped by the media since he emerged as a frontrunner to be Labour’s next leader.

In a statement, he blamed the “added level of pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate” and said: “I have not found it to be a comfortable experience.”

Sources close to Mr Umunna insisted that his withdrawal was not due to any negative story which he expects to appear in the media.

His supporters had been confident that he would secure the 35 nominations from fellow Labour MPs required to mount a leadership bid, but he decided that it was not the right time for him to press ahead.

Mr Umunna is not at this stage endorsing any other candidate for the leadership but said he wished to continue playing a full role in the shadow cabinet and serving as an MP.

He said: “As a member of the shadow cabinet, I am used to a level of attention which is part and parcel of the job. I witnessed the 2010 leadership election process close up and thought I would be comfortable with what it involved.

“However, since the night of our defeat last week, I have been subject to the added level of pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate.

“I have not found it to be a comfortable experience.

“One can imagine what running for leader can be like, understand its demands and the attention, but nothing compares to actually doing it and the impact on the rest of one’s life.

“Consequently, after further reflection, I am withdrawing my candidacy.”

Mr Umunna had apologised to those who supported his bid and said he had always harboured doubts about whether he was ready to step up to the party’s biggest role.

“I apologise to all those who have kindly supported and encouraged me to do this and for disappointing them. I know this will come as a surprise to many but I had always wondered whether it was all too soon for me to launch this leadership bid. I fear it was.

“Most importantly, I continued to have very real concerns and worry about this bid’s impact on those close to me.”

He added: “I intend to carry on playing my full role as a proud member of our shadow cabinet taking on the Tories.

“I also hope to play a leading role in Labour’s campaign to keep the UK in the EU during the forthcoming referendum, which is absolutely crucial. Most importantly, I will as ever continue to serve the area I know and love – the Streatham parliamentary constituency.”

Mr Umunna said he had decided before the campaign started that he would pitch for the leadership if Mr Miliband failed to win power.

He added: “I dearly hoped Labour would win the election and it was a decision I would not have to implement. I also thought I understood the scrutiny and attention a leadership contest would bring.”

His unexpected withdrawal means there are now four declared candidates: shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh and shadow health minister Liz Kendall.

Ms Creagh said the “huge pressures” placed on modern politicians could be tough on their families and friends.

“I have huge respect and genuine affection for Chuka and for all my shadow cabinet colleagues who are in this leadership race,” she said.

“Chuka is a ‘big beast’ – he has a huge amount to offer his party and his country and this is a decision that I am sure he has not taken lightly.

“But Chuka’s decision is the one that he has made and we need to look forward and move forward.”

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said he was “continuing to listen to colleagues” as he weighed up whether to join the race. He said: “We must use this leadership election to ask some very profound questions.

“No one individual has the answer to meet the enormous challenge of how we renew and rebuild our party, to earn the trust of the British people once again.”

Mr Hunt will today join the four declared candidates at a high-profile debate at the annual conference of the Blairite think-tank Progress.

His statement’s key passages

As a member of the shadow cabinet, I am used to a level of attention which is part and parcel of the job. I witnessed the 2010 leadership election process close up and thought I would be comfortable with what it involved.

However, since the night of our defeat last week I have been subject to the added level of pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate.

I have not found it to be a comfortable experience.

One can imagine what running for leader can be like, understand its demands and the attention but nothing compares to actually doing it and the impact on the rest of one’s life.

Consequently, after further reflection I am withdrawing my candidacy.

I apologise to all those who have kindly supported and encouraged me to do this and for disappointing them. I know this will come as a surprise to many but I had always wondered whether it was all too soon for me to launch this leadership bid – I fear it was.