|Pulled out: Mr Umunna was pictured with his girlfriend Alice Sullivan for the first time on Sunday ahead of his campagn launch - but he says the pressure on his family has become too much already|
Labour leadership frontrunner Chuka Umunna this morning [May 15] dramatically withdrew from the race to succeed Ed Miliband - blaming the 'scrutiny' he faced in the 72 hours since launching his campaign. The 36-year-old MP for Streatham in south London - once described as 'Britain's Barack Obama' - said he could not cope with the 'pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate'.
Mr Umunna had been installed as the early favourite to take over the party after launching his campaign on Tuesday. The shadow business secretary said he was the right man to save the party and insisted he could win the next general election in 2020. But just three days later, Mr Umunna announced he was quitting because he was uncomfortable with the level of scrutiny he and his family were facing - including his new girlfriend Alice Sullivan.
Mr Umunna said he could not cope with the 'pressure that comes with being a leadership candidate'. In a statement released this morning, Mr Umunna apologised to his supporters - and insisted he intended to carry on serving in Labour's shadow cabinet.
Mr Umunna's aides spent all of yesterday trying to convince him to stay in the race, but he was adamant that he wanted to quit. One close ally said he had spoken to Mr Umunna this morning following the announcement. He said: 'You can tell in his voice immediately that it's not something he regrets at all.'
In Mr Umunna's announcement this morning he claimed that the focus on himself and his family had come as a shock to him. He said: 'Shortly before the election campaign, I made the decision, in the event that Labour was defeated and a new Leader was to be elected, to stand for the leadership of the party if there was a desire in the party for me to do so. 'I dearly hoped Labour would win the election and it was a decision I would not have to implement. I also thought I understood the scrutiny and attention a leadership contest would bring.'
But Mr Umunna added: '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. 'I have not found it to be a comfortable experience. Consequently after further reflection I am withdrawing my candidacy.' Sources close to Mr Umunna insisted that his withdrawal was not due to any negative story which he expects to appear in the media.
His team were confident that he would secure the 35 nominations from fellow MPs required to mount a leadership bid, but he decided that it was not the right time for him to press ahead. Mr Umunna is not at this stage endorsing any other candidate for the leadership. He said he wished to continue playing a full role in the shadow cabinet.
The unexpected withdrawal means there are now four declared candidates: Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham; shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh; and shadow health minister Liz Kendall.
- Daily Mail