Could Yvette Cooper be the surprise winner of the Labour leadership race?

Much of the commentary about the Labour leadership race has focused on the battle between the frontrunner Andy Burnham and Blairite insurgent Liz Kendall. But could we all be missing the slow but steady rise of Yvette Cooper?

Cooper, if she has been mentioned at all, has been criticised for running a supposedly 'anonymous' campaign with little clear idea of what she stands for. Both of these may be true, but neither seems to be hurting her very much.

The final list of nominations released by Labour today does confirm Burnham as the frontrunner. However, what is really notable is how close behind him Cooper is.

The shadow home secretary has 59 nominations, eighteen more than Kendall and just nine fewer than Burnham. While all the focus has been on her rivals, Cooper has been quietly scooping up support. Of course nominations are not a perfect indicator of wider support in the party, but they do suggest that Cooper is doing a lot better than the low-key nature of her campaign suggests.

And it is precisely the middle-of-the-road, split-the-difference nature of Cooper's campaign that just might end up winning it for her.  As it stands, there are lots of people in the party who are vehemently opposed to either Burnham, Kendall or Corbyn. There do not appear to be anywhere near as many people who are vehemently opposed to Cooper. In fact contrary to first impressions, could the 'anonymity' of Cooper's campaign actually be its greatest strength? In a battle where second preferences could be crucial, could the inoffensiveness of Cooper's campaign be the very thing that gets her over the line?

Burnham remains the favourite, but there is a large proportion of the party who have big doubts about him. He is also likely to come under sustained attack from the press and others in the coming months and there is a chance he could buckle. Similarly there are also large numbers of Labour supporters who have big doubts about Liz Kendall, whose performances in the media have been pretty mixed so far. Cooper by contrast has had no big controversies or stumbles.

Labour activists are feeling pretty vulnerable right now. It's just possible that the safety-first candidate could win the day.