LONDON - Britain's first black woman MP joined the race to lead Britain's opposition Labour Party yesterday after an election this month ended its 13-year grip on power.

Diane Abbott said it was time to broaden out a contest that critics say has so far focused on white men in their 40s.

"I am going to run. So many people in the past 48 hours have asked me to put my hat in the ring and I have finally agreed to do so. I think we can't go forward with a leadership where there are no women," Abbott told BBC radio.

Former health minister Andy Burnham also said he would stand, bringing the number of contenders to six.

The centre-left Labour party is searching for a new leader to succeed former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who resigned this month.

A conservative-liberal democrat alliance now governs Britain, the first coalition since World War Two.

A Cambridge graduate and former TV reporter, Abbott is an outspoken MP and a regular political TV television pundit. She is in her late 50s and became Britain's first female MP in 1987.

The frontrunner in the race is the cerebral David Miliband, 44, foreign minister under Brown. - Reuters