Labour prepares for leadership contest

By Ian Dunt

Labour is preparing itself for a leadership contest which will define the party in the years ahead.

The formal leadership contest will not begin until after negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and the two other parties are complete, but analysts are expecting Ed Balls and David Miliband to form the two major contenders.

Mr Miliband, who failed to take up two previous attempts at the leadership, would represent the Blairite wing of the party, although he is likely to make a more left-wing pitch.

Mr Balls, a long-time confidant of Gordon Brown, will make a pitch to the left of the party. He is expected to find support among union members.

Ed Miliband is also likely to make a pitch, raising the prospect of two brothers running against each other.

Jon Cruddas, the left-wing backbencher who impressed many Labour members with his run for deputy leader three years ago, is another contender, although some sources suggest he would be willing to form a ‘dream ticket’ with Mr Miliband, who he enjoys decent personal relations with.

That may be complicated by the suggestion yesterday that Harriet Harman would not run for leader on the basis that she wants to stay on in the deputy leader role.

Andy Burnham, health secretary, and Alan Johnson, home secretary, are also possible contenders.

The national executive committee will set out the rules and a timetable for the leadership contest after a conference call today.

Candidates need the support of 12.5% of the parliamentary party – 32 MPs under the party’s current level of representation.

The leader is then selected by three separate groups: MPs and MEPs, party members and affiliated organisations, including the unions. Only union members who pay political levies are entitled to vote, however.

The election would be decided under a transferable vote, whereby the person in last place has their second preference votes redistributed to the other candidates until a winner emerges.