David Miliband’s campaign to become Labour leader received a boost when he was backed by another party heavyweight.
Shadow justice secretary Jack Straw joined frontbenchers Alan Johnson and Alistair Darling in endorsing Mr Miliband.
Mr Straw, who ran successful leadership campaigns for both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said the shadow foreign secretary had the “strength and depth” to guide Labour to power again.
In a letter to party members in his Blackburn constituency, Mr Straw wrote: “In my view there is one outstanding candidate with the qualities necessary both to be Leader of the Opposition, and then Prime Minister.
“In my judgment it is David Miliband who without doubt should be our next Leader. He will get my vote.
“He has the strength and the depth to stand up to David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions week after week, and he can stand up for the people who will be most badly hit in our communities by the policies of this Con/Lib Dem Government.”
Welcoming the endorsement, Mr Miliband said: “Jack Straw has worked with Labour leaders since Harold Wilson so I am honoured that he should judge that I have the qualities to return Labour to government.”
Mr Straw – who last week followed Mr Darling in announcing he is stepping down from frontline politics – previously nominated Diane Abbott for leader to ensure she made it into the final ballot.