As Labour leader Ed Miliband resigns after a crushing defeat in the general election, there are several likely successors, including Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna.
Opinion polls throughout the election campaign showed Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck, with a hung parliament beckoning. But what unfolded was very different.
David Cameron is on course for a majority, without the need to form another coalition with the Liberal Democrats; Labour endured a “difficult and disappointing” night, in Ed Miliband’s words, and was wiped out by the SNP in Scotland (a result the polls correctly predicted).
Mr Miliband succeeded Gordon Brown in 2010, after Labour lost the general election, famously standing against his brother David, who had been considered the frontrunner. The choice of Ed Miliband was significant: he represented a break from the Blair/Brown New Labour project, personified by his brother David.
Mr Miliband said today: “I take absolute and total responsibility for the result and our defeat at this election. I am so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats – Ed Balls, Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Douglas Alexander – and all the MPs and indeed candidates who were defeated. They’re friends, colleagues and standard bearers for our party, they always have been and they always will be.”
To Labour voters he added: “While we may have lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away. The issue of our unequal country will not go away. This is the issue of our time, the fight goes on and, whoever is our new leader, I know Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again.”
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, stood against Ed Miliband – and his brother David – after Gordon Brown stood down as Labour leader in 2010.
The Liverpudlian, who appeared comfortable with Ed Miliband’s decision to move the party to the left, held several cabinet posts in Mr Brown’s 2007-10 government, including chief secretary to the Treasury, culture secretary and health secretary.
Despite his credentials, he came fourth out of five in the leadership election to succeed Gordon Brown, with 8.68 per cent of the vote.
He represents Leigh in the north west of England, and supports Everton.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will be particularly disappointed by Labour’s showing as her husband Ed Balls – the shadow chancellor – lost his seat. Mr Balls stood for the Labour leadership in 2010, but was eclipsed by the Miliband brothers.
Ms Cooper was a cabinet minister from 2008-10 under Gordon Brown, serving as chief secretary to the Treasury and work and pensions secretary.
Ms Cooper is steeped in Labour party politics, as well as being fiercely intelligent. Her father was a trade unionist and she worked as an economic policy researcher for shadow chancellor John Smith in 1990.
A job as economics correspondent at the Independent followed, before she she was elected to parliament as MP for Pontefract and Castleford in west Yorkshire.
Chuka Umunna is the shadow business secretary and grew up in south London, where he is MP for Streatham. He is seen as a Blairite who is close to the business world.
His father died in a road accident in Nigeria in 1992. Like his mother, he is a solicitor and is renowned for his good looks and dapper dress sense.
Other Labour figures who could throw their hats into the ring include Dan Jarvis, the shadow justice minister, and shadow health minister Liz Kendall, who is often described as a Blairite.
The telegenic Blarite Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, is another possibility. Ed Miliband’s brother David, who works in the US, is no longer an MP, so would not be eligible.
Ed Miliband’s deputy Harriet Harman will take over as leader while a successor is chosen.