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Harman leads party for now

Steve Dinneen
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HARRIET HARMAN was yesterday appointed interim leader of the Labour party, minutes after her former boss finally moved his family out of Downing Street.

She steps up from being the party’s deputy leader and leader of the house of commons during Gordon Brown’s reign.

However, she ruled herself out of the running to take the position full time.

She has been MP for Camberwell and Peckham since the 1997 general election. She became deputy leader in 2007, although the deputy Prime Minister position was not allocated after the departure of John Prescott.

She is the second woman to take the reigns of the party. Margaret Beckett was made acting leader in the wake of John Smith’s shock death in 1994. She is the current longest continuously-serving female MP in the house of commons.

Gordon Brown’s departure sparked a flurry of rumours about who will step in to fill the breach.

David Miliband is the hot favourite for the position. He famously backed out of a leadership contest in 2008 but has always coveted the top job.

He could face competition from his brother Ed, who is well respected within the party but has a relatively low profile with the public.

Also mulling a challenge is ultra-Brownite Ed Balls. The pugnacious former education minister has long harboured ambitions for the post. However, he scraped to victory in his constituency after several recounts, which will make a meaningful run difficult. He is also deeply unpopular with some factions of the party.

Andy Burnham has also emerged as a contender after he took a vocal role in playing down the benefits of a Lib-Lab coalition.