Chuka Umunna makes his play for Labour leadership - and says he can turn round the party in five years

CHUKA UMUNNA ... has confirmed he wants to be the next leader of the Labour Party.
CHUKA UMUNNA ... has confirmed he wants to be the next leader of the Labour Party.

SHADOW Business Secretary Chuka Umunna today confirmed he will join the race to be Labour’s next leader.

He said he believes Labour can win power in five years’ time, adding: “I want to lead that effort as part of a really big Labour team, getting Labour back into office.”

Mr Umunna was speaking ahead of a meeting tomorrow of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) to draw up a timetable for the contest to succeed Ed Miliband.

He is the second candidate to formally throw his hat in the ring after Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendall did so at the weekend.

He said he had held back from making his announcement while he spoke to defeated candidates from the party’s disastrous general election performance.

Mr Umunna declared his intention to stand via a Facebook video recorded on a street in Swindon - one of the English towns where Labour failed to make the gains from the Conservatives it needed to return to power.

He appeared alongside defeated candidate Mark Dempsey, who he said was one of dozens of thwarted would-be MPs in key target seats to whom he had spoken in the days since defeat forced Mr Miliband to quit.

“Of the 80 Conservative seats we were targeting, we made a net gain of just four last Thursday. We have got to do better than that if we are to win next time,” he said - dismissing suggestions from some in the party that it would need a decade to recover sufficiently to pose a threat.

“We can and we should be winning in seats like Swindon. North, South, East, West - we can absolutely do it as a party.

“Some have actually suggested over the last few days that this is now a 10-year project to get the Labour Party back into office. I don’t think we can have any truck with that at all.

“I think the Labour Party can do it in five years. I want to lead that effort as part of a really big team, getting Labour back into office, changing this country and building a fairer, more equal society.

“That is why we all joined the party in the first place.”

Defending his decision to remain coy about his intention in weekend interviews, he said he had wanted to discuss the challenges with defeated candidates first and “get out of London and say what I was going to be doing here”.

Last year, Mr Miliband was embarrassed in the Wiltshire town when he was unable to identify his party’s leader on the local borough council and appeared not to know the authority was Conservative-led during a radio interview.