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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Deputy contenders claim support
Peter Hain
Peter Hain said he had more than enough support to run
Two contenders to be Labour deputy leader have said they have the backing of 45 MPs needed to enter the contest.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said he had 48 votes, while Harriet Harman said she had more than enough supporters.

Alan Johnson and Hazel Blears are also thought likely to have the necessary backing of 45 Labour MPs.

Jon Cruddas says he is confident he will be on the ballot paper. Hilary Benn has yet to declare his backing in the race to succeed John Prescott.

The post will become vacant when Mr Prescott stands down about the same time as PM Tony Blair goes on 27 June.

'I'm the first'

Mr Hain said he was pleased to get such support as it was not possible - mathematically speaking - for all six declared contenders to get on the ballot paper.

"I'm very grateful indeed to parliamentary colleagues who've put me there. Because you need to win at least that proportion to actually be in the contest, and I'm the first able to say that I'm in that contest," he told BBC News 24.

Mr Hain said the deputy leadership position, which John Prescott has held for 13 years, including 10 years as deputy prime minister, should "bind" the government with backbenchers, the party at large and the country, but admitted that it was up to the next Labour Party leader to decide on the specific tasks.

Speaking to his constituency party at Neath in South Wales later, he said: "We've had too much policy bounced on us, haven't we. We've had not enough listening, and there's been too much lecturing.

"We've got to work together, build a strong partnership together and renew our party from top to bottom and revitalise our government after 10 years in power when there's a bit of grumpiness as regards our Labour government. We've got to turn it all around and I believe we can do so."

Cabinet support

Ms Harman's team said among her supporters were the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, and Europe Minister Geoff Hoon.

"I am very encouraged by the backing I have got to be part of the leadership team," she said.

Heavyweight support for Mr Benn includes the Justice Secretary Lord Falconer and chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms.

Home Secretary John Reid's spokesman said he was backing Ms Blears, with Pensions Secretary John Hutton also behind her.

Mr Cruddas told the BBC he was confident he would have enough support to enter the official contest - he said his campaign was backed by the UK's biggest union, Unite.

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