McDonnell pulls out of Labour leadership race

John McDonnell stands aside to give Diane Abbott a fighting chance of making the ballot.

Paul Waugh has the news that John McDonnell has withdrawn from the Labour leadership race after failing to secure enough nominations. It's a principled move by the Labour left-winger and, as I argued yesterday, it's Abbott who has the better chance of making the ballot.

Here's his statement:

I stood for the Labour leadership as the candidate of the left and trade union movement so that there could be a proper debate about Labour's future in which all the wings of the party were fully represented.

It is now clear that I am unlikely to secure enough nominations and so I am withdrawing in the hope that we can at least secure a woman on the ballot paper.

Yesterday I wrote to Harriet Harman to urge her to use her position as acting leader in association with the party's national officers to secure a reduction of the qualifying threshold for candidates to be allowed on to the ballot paper. Regrettably this has not occurred and so I have no other option but to withdraw in the interests of the party.

I know that many Labour activists and trade unionists will be disappointed that their candidate will not be on the ballot. I am urging them to continue the fight for democracy within the party so that in future leadership elections rank-and-file members will be represented by the candidate of their choice.

It's worth noting that he doesn't mention Diane Abbott by name (he's never been a fan), merely stating that Labour should have "a woman" on the ballot paper.

Abbott's chances of making the ballot have improved dramatically, and between them the pair have 27 nominations, just six short of the required 33. But, according to Waugh, only eight of McDonnell's 16 supporters will transfer their votes to Abbott.

That doesn't come as a surprise; many Labour MPs have never forgiven Abbott for her decision to send her son to private school and were unhappy that she entered the contest in the first place and split the left.

Still, with 36 Labour MPs yet to nominate a candidate (you can see a list of them here), it would be wrong to write off Abbott just yet.

Ed Balls has already urged his potential supporters to back an alternative candidate and others may follow.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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An alternative Trainspotting script for John Humphrys’ Radio 4 “Choose Life” tribute

Born chippy.

Your mole often has Radio 4’s Today programme babbling away comfortingly in the background while emerging blinking from the burrow. So imagine its horror this morning, when the BBC decided to sully this listening experience with John Humphrys doing the “Choose Life” monologue from Trainspotting.

“I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got Radio 4?” he concluded, as a nation cringed.

Introduced as someone who has “taken issue with modernity”, Humphrys launched into the film character Renton’s iconic rant against the banality of modern life.

But Humphrys’ role as in-studio curmudgeon is neither endearing nor amusing to this mole. Often tasked with stories about modern technology and digital culture by supposedly mischievous editors, Humphrys sounds increasingly cranky and ill-informed. It doesn’t exactly make for enlightening interviews. So your mole has tampered with the script. Here’s what he should have said:

“Choose life. Choose a job and then never retire, ever. Choose a career defined by growling and scoffing. Choose crashing the pips three mornings out of five. Choose a fucking long contract. Choose interrupting your co-hosts, politicians, religious leaders and children. Choose sitting across the desk from Justin Webb at 7.20 wondering what you’re doing with your life. Choose confusion about why Thought for the Day is still a thing. Choose hogging political interviews. Choose anxiety about whether Jim Naughtie’s departure means there’s dwindling demand for grouchy old men on flagship political radio shows. Choose a staunch commitment to misunderstanding stories about video games and emoji. Choose doing those stories anyway. Choose turning on the radio and wondering why the fuck you aren’t on on a Sunday morning as well. Choose sitting on that black leather chair hosting mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows (Mastermind). Choose going over time at the end of it all, pishing your last few seconds on needlessly combative questions, nothing more than an obstacle to that day’s editors being credited. Choose your future. Choose life . . .”

I'm a mole, innit.