Hain launches deputy leadership bid

Peter Hain has today launched his campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour party – and expressed his full support for Gordon Brown as leader.

The Northern Ireland secretary said he supported the current deputy prime minister, John Prescott, and would wait for him to step down in his own time.

He also welcomed a possible leadership contest when Tony Blair resigned, but said: “I don’t think anyone could or should beat Gordon – he is a towering figure of our movement, [one of the] twin architects of our success.”

Speaking at a packed meeting at the TUC in Brighton, he said that following the “chaotic noise” of the past week, it was now important for Labour to “take stock”.

He praised the leadership of Mr Blair and Gordon Brown over the past nine years, but said a fourth term was needed to consolidate all the changes they had introduced.

To achieve that “we have to renew ourselves and renewing ourselves in government is always difficult – past Labour and Conservative governments have failed to do that”.

But Mr Hain said the announcement by Mr Blair last week that he would be resigning within a year had given the party an opportunity to begin this process.

“I hope what we will do is use this opportunity and particularly learn from the awfulness of the last week to have a comradely and friendly debate within the party about our future and our ideas,” he said.

“Not a fundamental debate around some contrived ideological schism that frankly isn’t there, whether between Gordon and Tony, or between anybody else in our party – that was settled in the 1990s.”

“What we need to do is have a different debate…We need to look at the future policy challenges we face,” he added.