Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband was first to jump into the race for the leadership of Britain's Labour Party on Wednesday after Gordon Brown resigned as prime minister and leader of the centre-left party.
The cerebral, articulate Miliband, 44, is strong favourite with the bookmakers to take over as leader of the party, now in opposition for the first time in 13 years after losing last Thursday's election.
"I am standing for the leadership because I believe that I can lead Labour to rebuild itself as the great reforming champion of social and economic change in this country," Miliband told reporters outside parliament.
Miliband launched his bid after the Conservative party formed a coalition government with the smaller Liberal Democrats, in Britain's first power-sharing administration since 1945.
The Labour leadership race is likely to turn into a battle between the left and right wings of the party, both of which will read different lessons into its defeat at the polls.
The party, which grew out of the trade union movement and was founded in 1900, swung to the left in the 1980s and lost a string of elections before Tony Blair moved the party to the centre. He became prime minister for a decade from 1997 before handing over to Brown.
Miliband, regarded as a "Blairite", is the favourite of the right of the Labour Party but is likely to face a challenge from a left-leaning candidate, such as former schools secretary Ed Balls, who is likely to have strong trade union backing.
The leadership race could turn into a family affair. Miliband's closest potential challenger, based on the betting, is his younger brother Ed, 40, former energy and climate change minister, although he has not yet announced his intentions.
Former interior minister Alan Johnson, who had been seen as potentially a strong challenger, said on Wednesday he would not be running and threw his support behind David Miliband.
Praising Miliband as a "remarkable politician", he told the BBC: "His talent is to put very complex ideas into clear language."
Long-serving Labour minister Harriet Harman, who has taken over as temporary leader of the party after Brown's resignation, has not said if she intends to stand for the leadership.
Miliband said the decision by the centrist Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government with the centre-right Conservatives was a "momentous moment in British politics."
"It places an enormous responsibility on the Labour party, to be the great unifying force for all shades of centre and centre-left opinion in this country," said Miliband, who said he would embark on a tour of the country to talk to voters and draw the lessons from Labour's election defeat.
ReutersLast Mod: 13 Mayıs 2010, 09:01