Anneliese Dodds, the Labour and Co-Operative MP for Oxford East, has nominated Keir Starmer for Leader of the Labour Party in the coming leadership election.

Announcing the decision on Twitter, Dodds said: “All candidates have a lot to offer. But Keir Starmer has [a] proven ability to communicate and empathise with people right across the UK. He’s determined to tackle our unfair, unsustainable economy.”

Starmer was the victor in the nominations contest, receiving the backing of 88 MPs. He is joined on the final ballot by his closest challengers, Rebecca Long-Bailey, with 33 nominations, and Lisa Nandy with 31. Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry round out the candidates, both with 23 nominations apiece.

Explaining her reasoning for backing Starmer, Dodds said in an interview with TalkRadio: “Keir is somebody who, wherever you’re talking to people in the whole country, … people know and who many many people respect even if they haven’t agreed with every single position that he’s taken.”

She said Starmer “has a message that can resonate right across the country.”

Starmer outlined his message to return Labour to power in a launch piece for The Sunday Mirror in early January.

He wrote: “We cannot bury our heads in the sand – Labour must rebuild and fast. We have to restore trust in our party as a force for change and a force for good. The millions of people who needed change at the last election still need change. The moral fight against poverty, inequality and injustice must continue.”

Positioning himself as the candidate best placed to unite the Party, Starmer wrote, “as we rebuild, we must not lose sight of our values or retreat from the radicalism of the past few years. We must be the party of anti-austerity and investment in our public services.”

Following Dodds’ endorsement, Starmer visited Oxford last Wednesday, touring sites including the Rose Hill Council Estate and the Council’s new homeless shelter on Floyds Row.

Dodds introduced Starmer in a meeting with activists that evening as “the best candidate not just to be the next Labour leader but the next Labour Prime Minister.”

Starmer said: “we have a mountain to climb. I want to climb that mountain.” Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, has been criticised in some quarters for his involvement in crafting Labour’s second referendum policy, which has been seen as a key reason for the Party’s election defeat last month.

Responding to this criticism, Dodds said the Party’s Brexit position was the “right way forward.”

“I don’t think we should tie what happened in the North of England just down to Brexit … Whatever attitude Labour took on that issue, we would have lost some people’s support.” Dodds was re-elected in Oxford East with a reduced majority of 17,832 over the Conservatives, down from 23,284 in 2017. She has served as a Shadow Minister for the Treasury since July 2017.

Starmer goes forward to a membership vote in the leadership contest. Labour members will rank the candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the least number of first placed votes will be eliminated in each round, with their votes redistributed to the candidate ranked second on each ballot. This process will continue until a candidate receives a majority of the vote.

Recent YouGov polling showed Starmer defeating Long-Bailey, the candidate of the Party’s Left, in the final round by 61-39%.