Labour leadership: End 'Jeremy Corbyn madness', says Alan Johnson
Labour must "end the madness" of recent weeks over Jeremy Corbyn's candidacy and choose Yvette Cooper as its next leader, Alan Johnson has said.
The former home secretary said Ms Cooper was the only candidate able to "unite" different wings of the party.
In an article in the Guardian, he praised Ms Cooper's "intellect, experience and inner steel".
Mr Corbyn has gone from rank outsider to favourite in a matter of weeks as momentum has built behind his campaign.
The veteran left-wing MP, who has been drawing huge crowds to his campaign speeches, has the support of more constituency parties than any of the other three candidates and the backing of four leading unions.
This had led to calls from some within the party for members to rally behind a single "anyone but Corbyn" candidate.
Mr Johnson, who stepped down from frontline politics in 2011 but remains popular in the party, said he believed Ms Cooper was the only candidate able to "unite the party to win again".
In a passionate defence of the last Labour government achievements in office, the former postal union leader criticised as "drivel" claims by the head of the CWU union - one of those to endorse Mr Corbyn - that policies associated with Tony Blair's government were a "virus" that needed to be eradicated.
He said Mr Corbyn had been "cheerfully disloyal" to every Labour leader since he became an MP in 1983 and Labour needed to show "discipline and loyalty" if it was to defend the welfare state, the NHS and other institutions from attack.
Explaining his decision to back Ms Cooper, he said: "I believe that Cooper has the intellect, the experience and the inner steel to succeed in this most difficult of roles
"I've been enormously impressed by her poise, command of her brief as shadow home secretary, and her ideas on tackling inequality, child poverty and a radical programme of genuine devolution."
While the choice should not be made on gender alone, he said it was time for Labour to elect its first permanent female leader.
He concluded: "Those members who can't give her their first preference should give her their second. After over a century of male leaders we have an election where the most qualified candidate to lead our party back to government happens to be a woman. Let's end the madness and elect her."
Mr Johnson, who served in the cabinet under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, was one of the few senior Labour MPs yet to declare any allegiance in the leadership campaign.
Ballots for the election - in which Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall are also standing - will be sent out on 14 August, with the result to be announced at a special conference on 12 September.