9 Jun 2010

Labour leadership: David Miliband’s frustration with his brother

I just asked David Miliband why both Miliband brothers were running and he said: “I think that’s a question you’d have to ask to Ed.”

The only glimmer of a frustration that is generally very well hidden. But I am told it is keenly felt.

On the occasions when David Miliband was tempted to topple Gordon Brown it was, I hear, his brother Ed who “begged and begged and begged” him not to try to topple Gordon Brown and to wait for a vacancy. Now there is a vacancy I am told that David Miliband felt pained that his brother decided to join in the contest.

Much could depend on second, third and fourth preferences under the contest rules… assuming, surely correctly, that no one gets enough votes to get more than 50 per cent of the electoral college in the first round, the key thing could be what happens when the eliminated bottom candidates’ second preferences get redistributed.

Let’s say Diane Abbott came last in first preferences (this is far from certain, by the way – one former minister just told me he thought she might come third), her voters probably wouldn’t lend their second preference to the most Blairite candidates, Andy Burnham or David Miliband, but would give a boost to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

In the deputy leadership contest of 2007 none of the six candidates got more than 20 per cent in the first round and the second preferences of eliminated candidates were critical to the result. Even if the top candidate, at the moment assumed to be David Miliband, got well into the 20’s or even low 30’s percentage share of the vote, he would likely face a nail-biting few rounds of elimination and redistribution.

In the deputy leadership contest, of course, there was a bit of tactical alliance building where candidates tried to get their supporters to agree a line on mutually supportive second preference swaps.

Ballot papers will go out in September, the NEC Procedure Committee decided this morning. There was a worry that if the ballot papers went out in August many folk would sweep them up with the post-holiday junk mail and accidentally put the lot in the bin.

This just in:

Ed Miliband groupies at the New Statesman debate! “There will be Greg Clarke groupies next!” a friendly viewer just texted me.

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