Jess Phillips backs Labour deputy contender Ian Muray to 'fight tooth and nail' for the union

The campaign by Scottish Labour's only MP, Ian Murray, to be the next deputy leader of the UK party, received a boost today when he won the backing of two leading female Labour MPs.

Jess Phillips, the Birmingham MP, who withdrew from the leadership race yesterday, said Mr Murray was the best candidate to deliver change and take the party forward."

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Her endorsement came after Liz Kendall - who stood against Jeremy Corbyn to be party leader in 2015 - said Mr Murray would "fight tooth and nail" to secure the union.

Ian Murray has secured the backing of Jess Phillips and Liz Kendall.

Speaking on the BBC, Ms Kendall said she feared that Labour's "catastrophic" failure to win in the December general election could result in the break up of the UK.

"One of the things I want to see from any future labour leader is an absolute commitment to fight for the future of the UK," she said. "Not just because I believe we are better when we work together, that we are stronger, but Labour will never get bak into power if we don't win back those seats in Scotland.

"The truth is the person who is the biggest threat to the union is Boris Johnson of the Conservative and Unionist party, because of the problems we're seeing over Brexit, because of proposals to put a border down the Irish Sea, I want to see the Labour party to fight with all its might to protect that union, and that is one of the reasons I'm supporting Ian Murray as deputy leader as he'll fight tooth and nail for it."

Giving her support Jess Phillips said that Labour needed to be a "party for every region and nation of the UK, standing up for our values of solidarity and working together, and Ian is the candidate who best understands that."

She added: "He recognises that we can’t just talk to ourselves - we must listen to voters in seats we held, seats we lost and seats we have never held. People didn’t trust Labour in the last election because they weren’t sure where we stood on the big issues of the day, and Ian is right that this can never happen again."

Mr Murray, who nominated Ms Phillips to ensure she won through to the second round of the leadership contest, has so far not revealed who he would back to be Labour's next leader.

He said he was "honoured" to have Ms Phillips support, and believes she will have "a pivotal role" in the party.