Keir Starmer has leapt into a big early lead in support from fellow Labour MPs in the party’s leadership race.

The shadow Brexit Secretary has already secured 23 nominations – enough to put him on the ballot paper – leaving rival Rebecca Long Bailey trailing badly with just seven.

The leading leftwing candidate has only one more MP signed up than Jess Phillips (6), with Lisa Nandy (2) and Emily Thornberry (1) also struggling.

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The sixth candidate – another leftwinger, Clive Lewis – has yet to secure a single nomination, the first list released by the Labour party showed.

The level of support at Westminster is not necessarily the best guide to who emerges as Labour leader – as Jeremy Corbyn’s astonishing grassroots triumph in 2015 proved.

However, Sir Keir is also the strong early favourite among Labour members as well, according to the only poll carried out so far.

Furthermore, Ms Long Bailey has faced criticism for a long period of silence after the general election hammering – and for her eye-popping claim that Mr Corbyn’s leadership should be rated “10 out of 10”.

Sir Keir has sought to walk the tightrope between loyalty to the outgoing leader and his “radical” legacy and calls for the party to recognise it lost the trust of voters.

Candidates have until next Monday afternoon to win the support at least 22 MPs or MEPs – ten per cent of the total – to formally enter the contest.

They will then need to win 5 per cent of local party nominations, or 5 per cent of party affiliates such as trade unions or socialist societies, with the winner to be declared on 4 April.

Only one shadow cabinet member, education spokeswoman Angela Rayner – who is backing her close friend Ms Long Bailey – has made a nomination so far.

Sir Keir is backed by, among others, strongly pro-EU MPS such as Ben Bradshaw, Stephen Doughty, David Lammy and Jo Stevens.

Mr Lewis played down the figures, saying: “This doesn't reflect the nominations I've had confirmed, it's just the people who've submitted officially so far.

“Most PLP [parliamentary Labour Party] members were waiting until after hustings. We're in it to win it!”

Earlier, Margaret Hodge, a former Labour minister and fierce Corbyn critic, broke with the friendly nature of the contest so far to warn Ms Long Bailey would be “a disaster” for the party.

“To give 10 out of 10 to Corbyn when we’ve all come back from the election where on the doorstep Corbyn was a huge problem – to deny that is crazy.

“What was so interesting about this election was that people sussed what Labour was about in the offer we were giving, and they voted against it.

“If you don’t hear that, if you don’t listen to that, you are actually condemning the Labour party to history.” 

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