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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Six in race to be Brown's deputy
Deputy leadership contenders
All six contenders have the required backing
All six hopefuls have gained enough support to enter the race to be Gordon Brown's deputy when he takes over as Labour leader from Tony Blair.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn was the last to gain the 45 nominations needed.

The other contenders are Hazel Blears, Peter Hain, Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman and Jon Cruddas.

The six will now take part in a series of hustings around the UK, starting on Sunday in Coventry.

Voting forms will go out to Labour Party members, MEPs and trade unionists from 1 June, with the ballot due to close on Friday, 22 June.

The new deputy leader will be unveiled at a special Labour conference on Sunday, 24 June, when Chancellor Gordon Brown is expected to be crowned the party's new leader.

Mr Brown will not face a contest after his only rival failed to gain enough nominations to get on to the ballot.

'Listening'

Mr Benn was the last of the six deputy hopefuls to gain the required support from Labour MPs - even though a recent YouGov poll suggested he was the most popular with party activists.

DEPUTY NOMINATIONS
Hilary Benn - 47
Hazel Blears - 49
Jon Cruddas - 49
Peter Hain - 51
Harriet Harman - 65
Alan Johnson - 73

A spokeswoman for Mr Benn said: "He is really pleased with the strong support he's had across the Parliamentary Labour Party and looking forward to meeting and listening to members over the coming weeks."

Party chairman Hazel Blears, who came fourth in the race to secure nominations from MPs, with 49, came top in a ballot of party members at a hustings on Thursday, organised by BBC Two's Newsnight.

She said: "I'm delighted to be on the ballot paper and to have won the support from members at last night's hustings ballot."

'Weekend job'

The six contenders were quizzed by Labour activists at the hustings event, jointly organised by think tanks the Fabian Society and Progress.

Mr Cruddas, the only backbencher in the race, said there was a need to separate the roles of deputy leader and deputy prime minister - both currently held by Mr Prescott.

He also said he had a "big problem" with the government's flagship city academies, saying areas that refused to have one were being starved of cash.

Ms Blears, who is currently Labour's chairman, stressed her ability to galvanise activists, saying deputy leader was not a "weekend job" and that she intended to be the party's "campaigner in chief"

"It's going to be a full-time job to get us to win that next election," she said.

Ms Harman said, as a woman, from the south of England, she would make a good team with Gordon Brown as leader.

"We already know the leader is going to be a man. Do we really need another man to be deputy leader? Labour is a party of equality."

Mr Johnson, who received the most support from Labour MPs, with 73 nominations, said the party needed to turn a fresh, invigorated face towards the public and needed a better dialogue with trade unions.

He said trade unions felt they had been treated like "embarrassing elderly relatives" during Labour's first term. "That has to stop," he said.

Mr Benn said he would like to see an end to "yah boo" politics, which he said turned voters - particularly women - off.

Mr Hain said Labour's biggest challenge was regaining voters' trust and reconnecting with the grass roots of the party.

"I think there's a whole section of our party that is very disengaged... unless we bring people back together we will not win."




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