'Len, if you're watching': Barry Gardiner pleas for union backing on live TV

PUBLISHED: 15:16 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:16 09 January 2020

Barry Gardiner used a spot on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire to make a direct appeal to Unite boss Len McCluskey. Picture: BBC

Barry Gardiner used a spot on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire to make a direct appeal to Unite boss Len McCluskey. Picture: BBC

BBC

After suggesting that he may run for the Labour leadership, Barry Gardiner made an appeal for support from a union boss via a live TV interview.

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The shadow international trade secretary, who has promised to announce his decision on a leadership run within the next 24 hours, addressed Unite chief Len McClusky directly to camera during a BBC interview.

"I would say, of course, Len, if you're watching, I'd be very pleased to get a phone call from you," said Gardiner via a Skype linkup to the BBC studio. "I'd like to talk through, with you, how we can improve employment rights in this country, how we can have safer standards at work, all the things that we care about, both of us, in terms of creating a good and dynamic economy, and I would of course love to have your support."

McCluskey has yet to declare his union's support in the leadership race but is currently expected to back leftwinger Rebecca Long-Bailey, seen as the Corbyn 'continuity candidate'.

He earlier dismissed claims that he had encouraged Gardiner to run in a tweet saying the rumour was "utter nonsense".

Meanwhile, the largest union Unison has given Sir Kier Starmer the weight of its backing.

MORE: Unions split over next Labour leader as Unison backs Starmer

But Gardiner's position towards the left of the party could provide a challenge to Long-Bailey's bid in particular.

He also was a minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's governments, which may reduce his appeal to those who might otherwise support Long-Bailey.

Talking to Derbyshire, Gardiner claimed: "I can win a general election."

He said that many colleagues have enouraged him to stand and claimed that they "believe I have the ability to communicate, to bring that dynamism of debate that is necessary in order to go out to the country."

WATCH: Barry Gardiner considers Labour leadership bid saying he can 'heal division'

Saying that the ten candidates currently standing are "eminently capable of being a better prime minister than Boris Johnson", he added: "The key thing is that we have to win the keys to Downing Street. We have to become a Labour government. We've got to stop talking to ourselves and start talking to the country."

Candidates need a minimum of 22 nominations each to stand by the coming Monday.

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