Tristram Hunt
Tristram Hunt made an unexpected move after throwing his support behind Liz Kendall (Getty)

Tristram Hunt has dramatically thrown his support behind Liz Kendall in Labour's leadership race after the shadow education secretary was expected to throw his own name into the hat.

The historian and high-profile politician made the shock announcement when he spoke at left-leaning think-tank Demos on 20 May.

Hunt admitted he was not able to drum up "sufficient support" from potential party allies and argued Kendall's "confidence and courage" meant she was the right woman for the job.

The speech is the latest twist in the Labour leadership race after Chuka Umunna dropped out of the contest just days after entering it.

Hunt, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, has been doing the media rounds since Ed Miliband quit as Labour leader after the party's disappointing showing at the general election.

The Cambridge graduate revealed he was considering running for the top Labour job, sparking speculation he was going to enter the hotly contested race.

Those assumptions have now been quashed after Hunt backed shadow care minister Kendall, who is up against Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Mary Creagh.

Kendall, the MP for Leicester West, received some strong support on 19 May when LabourList editor Mark Ferguson resigned from his role and joined the 43-year-old's team.

But Burnham, who served in Gordon Brown's government, is a party favourite and was recently bolstered after former Army officer Dan Jarvis backed his campaign.

Each candidate will have to secure the signatures of 35 MPs to proceed to the next stage of the contest.