Woman wants Labour's top job

2010-05-20 14:37

London - A left-wing lawmaker who was Britain's first black woman member of Parliament announced on Thursday she is standing to become leader of the opposition Labour party defeated in elections this month.

Diane Abbott, who has been a deputy since 1987, became the sixth candidate for the job, including four former ministers, after ex-prime minister Gordon Brown quit as party leader last week following its poll defeat.

"We need to speak to our supporters and speak to our members in a way that we are not speaking to them up until now," she told BBC radio, adding that she was confident of gaining the 33 nominations needed to become a candidate.

Abbott, who is also a regular contributor to media talk shows, said the Labour party had to renew and reposition itself after Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives took power in a coalition government.


"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," she said.

"The Labour movement has changed, the majority of members of our big industrial unions are women, we need to talk directly towards women and women workers," she added.

Frontrunner for the Labour job so far is former foreign secretary David Miliband, who was first to announce his candidacy after Brown resigned following his party's defeat in the close-fought May 6 elections.

The others are Miliband's brother Ed, former climate change minister; ex-schools minister Ed Balls; former health minister Andy Burnham; and left-wing deputy John McDonnell.

Labour has been plunged back into opposition after 13 years in power, facing a possible five years fighting the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition led by Cameron.

The Labour leadership campaign will take several months with ballots due in August and September, in time for a new leader to take over at Labour's annual conference which starts on September 25.