Labour leadership contest

Jim yesterday spotted the extraordinary number of spoiled ballots among the trade unions and affiliated organisations. More than 36,000 ballots were wasted — about 14.6 per cent of the votes cast in this section of the electoral college. The reason is that the voters simply failed to tick a box saying they supported Labour.

An absurd rule, I know. But did it make a difference? There was talk last night among some of the Ed Miliband camp suggesting this was an important factor. One aide claimed the campaign had managed to reduce the spoiled ballot rate in the unions backing their man. The ground campaign apparently handed out thousands of “how to vote” cards making clear that they vote wouldn’t count unless they ticked the box at the end. One Ed aide claimed the effort won them up to 6,000 extra votes. If true, it made a big difference to the result. Was it another Florida hanging-chad moment? 

As Jim just pointed out, there were not many turncoats among MPs. Most voted the way they said they would.

But some MPs still managed to do wonders for their political careers by ranking the new leader Ed Miliband in fourth or fifth place. 

Jim Pickard

Crucial to the Ed Miliband camp’s narrative was the idea that the YouGov poll in early September – which for the first time put him ahead of David, albeit by only 51:49 – gave him the psychological edge. The theory was that ambitious MPs in the elder brother’s camp would jump ship in order to win promotion, as we reported at the time.

This was wrong. Ultimately only one MP quit the David Miliband camp in the last week or two: Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn. And even then it was not to join the Mili-E bandwaggon: he decided to back Ed Balls, whose political reputation – if not his campaign – had been picking up. 

Jim Pickard

Sorry for the delay – have been writing for the main ft.com site, where we have written about the victory of Ed Miliband over David Miliband by the thinnest of margins.

The headline victory is astonishingly close, 50.65 per cent to 49.35 per cent. 

Jim Pickard

I first revealed a few weeks ago that Unite had got around the Ray Collins (Labour general secretary) ban on putting pro-Ed Miliband literature in the same envelope as the ballot papers sent to its members. It had just put the envelope inside a separate envelope; simples.

As I wrote at the time: 

Jim Pickard

At the start of the week I explained that I was having trouble laying off my 7:1 bet on Ed Miliband because the bookies were obstinately keeping David as the clear favourite. That has now changed, and I’ll be placing a bet on the elder brother at 7/4 (Paddy Power) in order to secure a profit.

David is still expected to win the first round of voting today, with strong backing from MPs and activists if not union members. Yet Left Foot Forward, the left-wing political blog, is predicting that the younger brother would edge ahead by a single percentage point with the help of second preference votes. 

Jim Pickard

I am told that at least one of the Miliband camps has already devised some special hand signals to convey to allies in the waiting room who has won the leadership race – 10 minutes or so before the official result.

This type of system has been used before, as Paul Richards* reveals in his excellent new book, “Labour’s Revival” (published by Biteback). 

Jim Pickard

In a keynote speech at Bloomberg HQ on Friday Ed Balls will lay into the coalition in a way that exceeds anything we have heard before.

He will warn that “a hurricane is about to hit” Britain’s economy, in the most dramatic warning yet by a Labour politician that the coalition’s deficit reduction programme could prompt a double-dip recession.

Balls will label George Osborne, chancellor, as a “growth denier”, who is ignoring warning signs of a global slowdown. 

Jim Pickard

Over at Left Foot Forward they have an interview with Labour leadership contender Ed Balls where he has a not-to-subtle dig at the Brothers Mili-E/D.

1] He tells them to stop trying to split the British public into pointless demographic segments. 2] He suggests that he was battling Tory cuts while they were wandering around harvesting CLP backing. 

Jim Pickard

More good news for the David Miliband camp: he has won his second (of two) primaries – where party members are given the chance to nominate their favoured Labour leader.

He’s not overwhelmingly ahead, however. Brother Ed came second with 34 per cent to his 39 per cent. 

Jim Pickard

The FT this morning carried an interview with Ed Miliband with the main news line as his (and his brother’s) advocacy of a higher tax on banks. Intriguingly, he also told me that the two brothers hadn’t had a drink together – or visited one another’s homes – for ages. (I asked him when they last did so, and he just said they had been too busy). It’s slightly curious given that they are appearing at joint hustings 56 times over the summer months.

Listening back through the tape Ed says that he is proud of the fact that the brothers remained “very close” even during the Blair-Brown wars when they were in different trenches. But there was also a telling moment when he was asked if he has a typically fraternal relationship with David: “What is a typical sibling relationship?” he replies. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the famous Prince Charles quote from when he was asked if he was in love with Diana: “Whatever love means“.

Jim Pickard

A postscript to my earlier blog about the Balls campaign being on the ropes.

Here is a YouGov poll of Labour members from mid-way in the deputy leadership race in 2007 which turned out to be spectacularly wrong. It’s worth bearing in mind.