Chuka Umunna pulls out of Labour leadership contest

Shadow business secretary had been favourite to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader

Chuka Umunna
(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Chuka Umunna has announced his withdrawal from the Labour leadership race in a move that has surprised party members and political commentators.

Umunna, 36, said he was not enjoying the leadership campaign.

"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," he said in a statement. "I have not found it to be a comfortable experience."

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He also said that he had "very real concerns and worry about this bid's impact on those close to me" and suggested that he had been ambivalent about the contest from the start.

"I know this will come as I surprise to many but I had always wondered whether it was all too soon for me to launch this leadership bid," he said. "I fear it was."

Umunna had put his name forward on Tuesday, and had been the bookmakers' favourite to lead the party. He was expected to argue that Labour should distance itself from Ed Miliband's perceived anti-business stance and seek to broaden the party's appeal amongst aspirational wealth-creators.

Another much-fancied leadership candidate, Dan Jarvis, ruled himself out of the contest last weekend, saying that he did not want to deprive his children of a father after they had already lost their mother.

The Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn suggested that the Conservatives would be delighted that another frontrunner had pulled out of the contest.

"Jarvis, now Chuka," he tweeted. "Fist pumping in No10. Just like with Ed, Tories can't believe their luck again"

Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have now been installed as the bookies' favourites to lead the Labour party.

Umunna's decision to pull out led to widespread speculation about what might have led to his change of heart. Times news reporter John Simpson, said in a tweet that he had been told by a Labour source that "Chuka Umunna withdrew from leadership bid because of an article in a Sunday paper, & it's 'bad'".

However, Richard Woodward, the Press Association's news editor, said: "Sources close to Chuka Umunna say his withdrawal was not due to any negative story expected to appear in the media." Others have said that he would not be staying on as shadow business secretary if he knew that a scandal was about to break.

The Guardian reports speculation that Umunna might put himself forward to replace Boris Johnson as London Mayor. Johnson has said he will stand down in 2016.

Chuka Umunna: the candidate that never was

Name: Chuka Harrison UmunnaSchool: St. Dunstan's CollegeUniversity: University of ManchesterFondness for: music (jazz, garage and funk), London, Crystal Palace FC, Twitter (over 16,000 tweets). And most conspicuously, expensive clothing – Umunna is regarded as one of the best-dressed MPs in the House of Commons.What is Umunna's background?After getting a bachelor's degree in English and French Law from the University of Manchester, Umunna continued his legal studies at Nottingham Law School, before entering a career in employment law. While working in the City of London, he joined left-wing pressure group Compass and began writing political commentary for newspapers. In 2008, it was announced that he would be Labour's candidate in his home constituency of Streatham, and in the 2010 general election he was voted in with a majority of 3,259. Less than 18 months after his election, he ascended to the shadow cabinet, replacing John Denham as Shadow Business Secretary.What about his family life?Chuka Umunna was born in 1978 to Patricia Milmo, an Anglo-Irish probation officer and later solicitor, and Nigerian businessman Bennett Umunna, who was killed in a car accident when Chuka was 13. Umunna grew up in Streatham, south-west London, attending local state schools until the age of 11, when he was enrolled at fee-paying St Dunstan's College, Catford. He has a younger sister, Chinwe, who works as a primary school teacher, and his girlfriend, Alice Sullivan, is an employment lawyer.What does he stand for?The self-described "modern European social democrat" has an internationalist approach to British politics, and warned against the debate surrounding the general election becoming too domestic.Umunna has made no secret of the fact that he thinks his party needs to rework its message to attract a wider base of voters. He has called for more optimism in the left-wing message, painting a vision of a business-friendly but fiscally responsible government promoting high wages and a strong manufacturing base. Taking a pragmatic approach to widening Labour's appeal, he has previously said that he believes a combination of 'Blue' and 'New' Labour is the key to winning over Conservative voters.Could he have won the Labour leadership vote?

Before his unexpected withdrawal, Umunna was the odds-on favourite to succeed Ed Miliband. Many within the party believe that Labour needs a fresh face with none of the Blairite baggage that comes with Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham, and Umunna had seemed to fit the bill.

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