May 15, 2007 / 5:32 PM / in 11 years

McDonnell short for leadership race

LONDON (Reuters) - John McDonnell, the left-wing MP who wants to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour Party leadership, said on Tuesday he had 27 nominations of support, still far short of the quota needed to take part in the race.

Potential Labour leadership contender John McDonnell leaves after a news conference with Michael Meacher in London May 14, 2007. McDonnell, the left-wing MP who wants to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour Party leadership, said on Tuesday he had 27 nominations of support, still far short of the quota needed to take part in the race. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

McDonnell, who opposed the Iraq war, has until Thursday at 12:30 p.m. to produce 45 nominations from MPs to make it on to the ballot paper.

If not, Brown will succeed Prime Minister Tony Blair when he steps down on June 27 without a contest.

McDonnell said he was still confident of drumming up the necessary support, despite his failure to win a greater number of nominations even after fellow challenger Michael Meacher withdrew from the race on Monday.

“This is really good progress. It’s not even half-time yet and we’re over half-way in terms of nominations with some MPs out of the country and others finalising their position,” McDonnell said in a statement.

“This confirms that we’re well on course for getting on the ballot paper,” he added.

Fellow MP Meacher pulled out of the contest on Monday after both men failed to get the 45 nominations needed to take part in the race. Meacher has urged his followers to support McDonnell.

Brown has 282 nominations, Labour said on its website.

Brown is by far the frontrunner to become Labour leader and prime minister but McDonnell could get support from Labour’s grassroots and trade unionists if he makes it on to the ballot.

The results will be declared on June 24.

In the race for Labour’s deputy leadership, four candidates have already got the required nominations to take part in the race. Harriet Harmen, Hazel Blears, Peter Hain and Alan Johnson all have more than 45 names behind them.

Hilary Benn has 34 nominations and Jon Cruddas has 44.

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