Labour ballot: ex MPs back David Miliband
Updated on 20 September 2010
David Miliband has won an overwhelming endorsement from former Labour MPs whose seats will be crucial if Labour is to regain power, an exclusive Channel 4 News survey has found.
The poll of former Labour MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates by Channel 4 News found overwhelming support for David Miliband, with Ed Balls just pipping Mr Miliband's younger brother Ed Miliband for second place.
Channel 4 News spoke to former MPs who lost their marginal seats in May and to candidates who lost, despite standing in seats where there had been a sitting Labour MP.
They all aspire to win back the seats Labour will need to secure if the party is to return to government.
Of the 32 former Labour MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates who responded to the survey, 16 backed David Miliband, eight endorsed Ed Balls, six backed Ed Miliband with Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott getting one vote each.
The poll found that despite the contest being pitched as a battle between the Miliband brothers, Ed Balls was the former foreign secretary's closest rival.
The respondents' views matter because they stood in what are, by definition, marginal seats. Labour will need to win 68 back at the next election to form a majority government.
The survey comes at a critical time for the campaign. Some opinion polls have suggested both Milibands are neck and neck.
Sharon Taylor, who lost her Stevenage seat to the Conservatives in May, said: "I voted for David Miliband because I believe he represents the very best chance that Labour has to win the next General Election.
"In constituencies like mine, as in many parts of the south and south east of England, Labour must appeal to a broad spectrum of voters and I think David has the breadth of vision for our country and my party to attract their support."
But Bob Blizzard, the former MP for Waveney in Suffolk said he was backing Ed Miliband. He said: "Of the candidates, he seems the most able to reach out to the electorate.
"Policy wise, there's not much to choose between them."
Voters can choose more than one candidate in the contest. When Channel 4 News asked them who they would cast their second vote for, respondents again backed David Miliband ahead of Ed Balls with Ed Miliband once more in third place.
As the end of the contest draws near, a survey of Labour voters for the Independent last week gave David Miliband the lead, with Ed Miliband placed second.
However a YouGov poll a week earlier put Ed Miliband in pole position though only by one percentage point.
Just two days of voting remain. The results will be announced on Saturday.