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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Local Labour parties 'back Benn'
Deputy leadership contenders
The deputy leader will be announced on 24 June
Hilary Benn is the most popular deputy leadership contender among local Labour parties, figures suggest.

Mr Benn came top of the six contenders after the formal close of nominations with the backing of 77 constituency parties, with Jon Cruddas next on 68.

Harriet Harman got 60, Alan Johnson 45, Hazel Blears 36 and Peter Hain 23.

The figures could offer a guide to the strength of support in the ballot of party members, MPs, MEPs and trade unionists which starts next week.

The winner will be announced at a special Labour conference on 24 June.

In total, 309 local Labour executive committees - fewer than half the total number - said they backed one deputy leadership candidate over the others.

The nomination figures also show Chancellor Gordon Brown received 407 nominations from local parties, out of a possible 633, for the Labour leadership.

'Unite'

The party claimed this was an "unprecedented" level of support for a would-be leader, with the 1994 leadership elections seeing just 109 nominations cast by local parties in total.

I am really excited by the amazing support our campaign has been getting
Jon Cruddas, Labour deputy contender

Peter Watt, Labour's general secretary, said: "Not only are hundreds of members attending each of our hustings but across the country local activists in 407 constituencies have attended selection meetings and have chosen to nominate Gordon Brown.

"The message coming out of all those meetings is clear: Labour Party members have united behind Gordon Brown as the man to lead our Party and our country."

But some local parties are thought to have supported Mr Brown's left wing rival John McDonnell, who failed to gain enough nominations from MPs to enter the contest.

Councillor Susan Press, of Calder Valley Constituency Labour Party (CLP), said: "The mood of my constituency was once the person we wanted to nominate had gone out of the race it seemed pointless to nominate Gordon Brown."

She said activists did not want "some sham show of unity," adding Mr Brown "didn't have the support of all the constituency Labour parties".

'Momentum'

She said Calder Valley CLP had wanted to nominate Mr McDonnell, although their MP, Christine McCafferty, nominated Mr Brown.

Mr Brown will be crowned leader without a contest - but the contest to be his deputy is still thought by most pundits to be wide open, with Mr Benn and Mr Johnson trading places as favourite at the bookmakers.

Mr Cruddas, the only backbencher in the contest, won the first televised debate on Tuesday, according to a poll on Newsnight's website, followed by Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson.

Giving his reaction to the constituency party nominations, Mr Cruddas said: "I am really excited by the amazing support our campaign has been getting.

"This support isn't on my profile, it is based on the arguments and ideas I have been putting forward. The fact that we're picking up such momentum is down to the fact that members want change."




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