Left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn enters Labour leadership race

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Backbench Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, an early champion of gay rights in Parliament, has entered the race to become leader of the Labour party.

Mr Corbyn, who has been the Member of Parliament for Islington North since 1983, declared his surprise candidacy for the leadership vacancy left after the resignation of Ed Miliband.

Following a number of high-profile withdrawals from the contest, the only remaining candidates were Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh – but Mr Corbyn has now thrown his hat in the ring.

The left-wing MP is a serial rebel, breaking with party line on a number of occasions on issues including austerity.

Mr Corbyn is a less well-known figure than those currently in the race, but has voted unwaveringly in favour of nearly every piece of LGBT rights legislation since the 1980s – though he missed the vote on the repeal of Section 28 in 2003.

He broke ranks with his own party back in 1998 – as the only Labour MP to support a Lib Dem amendment that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexuality, long before 2007’s Equality Act was introduced.

Earlier this year he was a signatory to a motion calling on the Russian government “to end the restriction of freedoms and persecution of the LGBTQ community and instead work towards ensuring that all Russian citizens are given fair opportunities in all sectors of society”.

He is also one of the signatories to an EDM this week, calling on the government to take action “immediately in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK and the island of Ireland where same-sex couples will still be barred from availing of their civil liberties”.

Announcing his campaign, Mr Corbyn said: “This decision to stand is in response to an overwhelming call by Labour Party members who want to see a broader range of candidates and a thorough debate about the future of the party.

“I am standing to give Labour Party members a voice in this debate.

However, he will have to convince 35 MPs to back him in order to get a place on the official ballot in September.

Mr Corbyn added: “We are taking it step by step, and if we get on the ballot paper that’s a good start.”