LONDON (Reuters) - Chuka Umunna, one of the favourites in the race for the leadership of Britain's recently defeated opposition Labour Party, unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy on Friday, citing uncomfortable scrutiny.
Umunna announced his decision to run only three days ago, saying he thought he could put the centre-left party back on its feet after it suffered a crushing election defeat to Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives last week.
But on Friday, the London lawmaker and shadow Business Secretary said he was pulling out of a race bookies had tipped him to win, fuelling speculation that Britain's Sunday newspapers may have been planning to run an awkward story about him or someone close to him.
"Since the night of our defeat last week I have been subject to the added level of pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate," Umunna said in a statement.
"I have not found it to be a comfortable experience. Consequently after further reflection I am withdrawing my candidacy."
Umunna, 36, said he feared it had been too early to challenge for the top job and said his biggest concern was about the impact of his bid on those close to him.
Ed Miliband, the previous Labour leader, quit last Friday, saying he took responsibility for the rout which saw the party virtually wiped out in Scotland and fail to win key swing seats in England.
Labour has said it will announce its new leader on Sept. 12 after a process which has already triggered a battle to shift its political stance.
Candidates remaining in the Labour leadership contest include Yvette Cooper, the party's home affairs spokeswoman, Andy Burnham, the party's health spokesman, Liz Kendall, a health spokeswoman, and Mary Creagh, a spokeswoman for international development.
Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Stephen Addison