Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, has withdrawn from the Labour leadership contest, citing the impact the increased level of attention would have on him and those close to him.
In a statement, Umunna said he thought he understood the level of scrutiny and attention the leadership contest would bring, but that he had found it uncomfortable.
“As a member of the shadow cabinet, I am used to a level of attention which is part and parcel of the job. I witnessed the 2010 leadership election process close up and thought I would be comfortable with what it involved,” he said.
“However 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.
“One can imagine what running for leader can be like, understand its demands and the attention but nothing compares to actually doing it and the impact on the rest of one’s life. Consequently after further reflection I am withdrawing my candidacy.”
A source close to Umunna claimed his mother had been followed home by a reporter and that he had not enjoyed having press outside his home every morning.
He also denied speculation that a newspaper had a negative story about him that was about to be run over the weekend.
“There’s nothing we’re trying to hide,” the source said. “We’ve always had to deal with stupid stories that are not true … We’ve always had that but nothing can really prepare you for it. It was such a big leap in what it means for his family.”
Ben Bradshaw, the Labour former culture secretary, said it was “absolutely tragic” that Umunna was withdrawing and that he hoped that his colleague would consider it again in future.
“We don’t know exactly what the nature of the scrutiny was – I understand it involved an elderly mother and other relatives – and none of us knows what that is like until we actually go through it,” Bradshaw said.
Umunna, who has been MP for Streatham since 2010 and shadow business secretary since 2011, apologised for disappointing those who had supported him and encouraged him to run, adding that he feared it was too soon to launch a leadership bid. “Most importantly, I continued to have very real concerns and worry about this bid’s impact on those close to me.”
The 36-year-old was the second candidate to announce his intention to replace Ed Miliband, who resigned immediately after Labour’s defeat in last week’s general election.
Liz Kendall, the shadow social care minister, was the first to say she would run. That was followed by announcements from the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, and shadow international development secretary, Mary Creagh.
The result of the ballot for Labour’s next leader and deputy leader will be announced on 12 September at a special conference, before the full party conference is held on 27 September. The timing of the ballot means Labour will also delay the election for its candidate for London mayor until September.
Umunna said he intended to continue in his role in the shadow cabinet.
“I also hope to play a leading role in Labour’s campaign to keep the UK in the EU during the forthcoming referendum which is absolutely crucial. Most importantly, I will, as ever, continue to serve the area I know and love – the Streatham parliamentary constituency,” he said. Guardian (UK)