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Owen Smith Will Challenge Corbyn For Labour Leader As Angela Eagle Pulls Out

Just two candidates remain in the contest.

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Owen Smith will take on Jeremy Corbyn in a one-on-one leadership contest for control of the Labour party after Angela Eagle confirmed she was pulling out of the race.

The Welsh MP finished narrowly ahead of Eagle in an early ballot of Labour MPs on Tuesday night, prompting her to pull out of the race to ensure there was a single unity candidate to challenge Corbyn.

Eagle launched her campaign last Monday and officially started the leadership campaign by collecting the required number of signatures to prompt an election.

However, Smith then launched his campaign, stole her thunder, and eventually took the nomination.

"I'd like to thank my own supporters for the faith that they showed in me in this leadership election," Eagle said in a statement to journalists in parliament. "We've finished the first day of nominations, Owen Smith has a lead and I think that it's in the best interests of the Labour party that we now come together so that we can have one candidate. So I'm announcing tonight that I'm withdrawing from this race and supporting Owen.

"We have a Labour party at the moment that is not working, a leader who doesn't have the confidence of his MPs and isn't reaching out to the country. We need to have a strong and united Labour party so that we can be a good opposition, take the fight to the Conservative government, and heal our country."

Eagle also urged all supporters of the Labour party to sign up as a registered supporter for £25 before 5pm on Wednesday.

"I’m supporting Owen," she said. "We are going to be in lockstep together arguing for an effective, united Labour party doing its job as Her Majesty’s Opposition in opposing this government."

She said there was a "narrow gap" between her and Smith but said it was in the interest of the party for there to be a single candidate.

Smith faces a tough challenge to defeat Corbyn. A YouGov poll for The Times showed the existing leader currently has a healthy lead among eligible party members, although many members said they do not know much about Smith.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

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