Abbott enters Labour race

DIANE Abbott has saved the Labour Party from embarrassment by announcing she is to be a candidate for the party’s vacant leadership.

She becomes the sixth participant in the contest, after David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, John McDonnell and Andy Burnham.

Ms Abbott’s intervention removes the concern in the party at the lack of a female challenger to take over from Gordon Brown as Labour leader.

Labour’s two most prominent figures in the Commons Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper have said they will not stand. Abbott, 56, was the first black woman MP when she was elected to the Commons in 1987.

She suggested that most of the other leadership candidates, as former ministers, were incapable of accepting where the party had made mistakes in government.

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“We have to stop allowing the Tories to position themselves to the left of us on civil liberties, we have to bring back democracy to the party.”

Abbott is a well known face on television, appearing weekly with Michael Portillo on a late night politics show. Burnham insisted he could be a “unifying’’ force for the party, suggesting that - unlike most of his rivals - he had never taken sides in the Blair-Brown in-ighting.

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“We must become a new kind of Party that involves and consults its members on a daily basis - truly a People’s Party - and reduces the influence of small elites at the top,’’ he insisted.

“We should bring down the final curtain on the era of stage-management in politics, making our party conference a forum for real debate and drama once again.’’

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