Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery has urged Sir Keir Starmer to stand aside as a contender in the leadership race so the party can have its first female leader.
The intervention from the senior Labour figure came as he introduced the left-wing candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey at a rally in London, where she outlined plans to introduce open selections for all MPs ahead of the next general election.
Ms Long-Bailey’s place in the final round, alongside Sir Keir, could be secured on Friday if one of the UK’s biggest unions, Unite, endorses her bid to to succeed Jeremy Corbyn and take the party into the 2024 election.
“She’s got the determination, the compassion, the passion that we need in a leader. And I’ll tell you something else: we need a female leader of the Labour Party… stand aside, Keir.”
The Labour chairman added: “I’m a bit bruised, battered, disappointed. But you know what, the only way is up. The only way is to continue with the socialist revolution. The only way is to continue to build on what we promised the British people. Comrades, there’s no going back.”
Turning his comments to members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, he went on: “I’ll tell you something else: I’m not taking any lectures from some of the people in the party who are now saying we need to draw a line under it and we need to focus on the future when they’ve undermined Jeremy Corbyn.”
Appearing moments later, Ms Long-Bailey announced her backing for a drastic change in the way Labour selects its parliamentary candidates as she urged the party to “break out of the bunker” and rip up its outdated rulebook.
In her speech to supporters in Hackney, east London, the shadow business secretary said she backed “open selections” and claimed the current system of trigger ballots had produced a culture where party members have to campaign negatively against an incumbent MP.
The pro-Corbyn group Momentum, which is backing Ms Long-Bailey’s campaign, has previously advocated the changes, also known as mandatory reselection, arguing that the current rules are outdated and “divisive”.
The latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox
Under the current system, MPs under go a “trigger ballot” process and a selection process can only be if a third of local Labour branches vote in favour. An open selection process, however, would mean all MPs automatically face a reselection contest every general election.
“I want to start a frank conversation with our movement about where we go next,” Ms Long-Bailey told activists. “We need to rip up our outdated rule book that has held back our members for too long and throw open the door to a new generation of MPs and candidates.
“Being an MP or elected representative is a privilege that must be earned, and I want to open the discussion now on how our candidates should be selected, how we nurture and bring through talent in our movement, while recognising and valuing the experience of sitting MPs.
“We all know that person. That talented, selfless and hardworking person who’d make a brilliant MP but would never dream of putting themselves forward. It’s those people I want to raise up.”
But responding to her plans, the Labour MP West Streeting said: “This political project did quite enough to get rid of Labour MPs at the 2019 general election with their poor political leadership.
“How about we concentrate on winning new ones, rather than getting rid of the ones we’ve got left?”