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? Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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: Read more

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. Read more

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). Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

Jim Pickard

Ed Balls is in a bind.

On the one hand he has been the most effective member of the shadow cabinet in recent weeks, successfully landing punch after punch on the coalition over the Building Schools for the Future programme.

On the other his leadership campaign is running into the sand. In a poll last night for the Sun he came in fifth behind all the other candidates, with just 11 per cent of those polled (against 37 per cent for David M and 29 per cent for Ed M). It seems that Labour supporters haven’t warmed to him.

So what to do? If Balls swings his weight behind one of the brothers he could give significant momentum to that candidate and therefore secure the shadow chancellorship as a reward. If he stays in the contest and comes third he might get that job anyway. But if he comes in fifth the winner is under no obvious obligation to give him that plum role, for which he is qualified and would no doubt want. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband

Unison has become the second big union to back the younger Miliband in the labour leadership contest, following the GMB’s decision to do so last week. Unions carry a third of the vote in the leadership contest, and with two of the biggest now supporting Ed, he is starting to be talked about as a very credible challenger to his brother David, who remains favourite.

Ed said: “To have received the backing of a union representing millions of frontline workers is a real boost for my campaign to lead our party.”

But the big one is still to declare. That is Unite, the combined mega-union which has among its members the BA cabin crew.

It has been assumed that since Charlie Whelan, a former Brown adviser and close friend of Ed Balls, is Unite’s political director, the union would back Balls. But as the Guardian’s Michael White points out, Unite is not particularly, erm, united – and at least one of its general secretaries, Derek Simpson, supports Ed Miliband. If Unite do swing behind Mili-E, his campaign will have all the momentum. Read more

Jim Pickard

The news is in; the first big trade union has put its backing behind Ed Miliband. The GMB. It’s an important endorsement and will feed the growing feeling that Mili-E could still win through with backing from the unions, grassroots and those vital second preferences. Read more

Jim Pickard

David Miliband may or may not have been right to have abstained from toppling Gordon Brown when he had the chance. I sympathise with his view that the subsequent civil war would not have been worth it; as he tells Alex Smith at LabourList today: “I don’t think anyone would have benefited from a second Kamikaze pilot.

Now that Brown has gone, however, Miliband is not holding back. Here are some key lines from this evening’s Keir Hardie speech in Wales: Read more

Jim Pickard

As Britain’s largest union Unite should have considerable influence over the leadership contest; unions make up a third of the total voting. Although unions don’t have single bloc votes they can tell members who they favour.

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Paul Waugh has an intriguing quote from Diane Abbott, the surprise Labour leadership contender, suggesting that David Miliband is already into three figures in terms of MPs’ support:

“David Miliband is hoovering up nominations. Quite rightly, he’s a very able candidate, he’s got over 100. It’s just it squeezes everybody else. There’s a slight tendency – it’s not a tendency which David Miliband encourages – for people to think ‘well, who’s going to win, let me nominate them because I’ll get a job.’” Read more

Jim Pickard

There is a bit of speculation around Westminster that the former schools secretary may not gather the 33 MPs he needs to mount a leadership bid – even with the deadline extended from Thursday to June 9. The theory is that his charms are lost on some members of the PLP. Read more

Jim Pickard

Another hit at the new Labour Uncut blog where founder Sion Simon reveals that Labour’s NEC will extend the leadership nominations process after complaints from figures including Jon Cruddas. The four-day window for nominations would make it much harder for candidates (including new arrival Diane Abbott) to get through to the contest. Read more