The next Labour leader will be called Miliband

The first proper poll of Labour members confirms that this is a two-horse race.

My column in the magazine this week is on the subject of the Labour leadership election and the "operation", both inside and outside the party, to target the man with the momentum, Ed Miliband, and portray him as a wild-eyed, left-wing extremist -- a "Bennite", a throwback to the 1980s. (Incidentally, the proud Labour "rightist" and Ed M supporter Luke Akehurst has a rather interesting rebuttal to this ludicrous charge on his blog.)

Meanwhile, the Ed Balls camp has been in touch to firmly deny the report in my column that its man has "privately conceded" that he "cannot win". But Balls's campaign has failed to take off, despite his robust and repeated attacks on the coalition and, in particular, on the surprisingly hapless Michael Gove.

Tthere's more bad news for the shadow education secretary today: the first proper poll in this leadership election, of almost 2,500 Labour members and trade unionists, found Balls trailing in last place, behind Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott -- fifth out of five candidates.

The poll adds weight to the idea that this is now a two-horse race and that the next Labour leader will be called Miliband. From the Press Association:

David Miliband is set to be the new Labour leader, edging out his younger brother Ed in what is becoming a two-horse race, according to a new poll.

The YouGov survey for the Sun predicted that the Milibands will leave rivals Ed Balls, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham trailing to claim the first two places in Labour's electoral college of MPs and MEPs, party members and affiliated organisations including unions.

When the defeated candidates' votes are redistributed, shadow foreign secretary David would beat shadow energy secretary Ed by a margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent, the poll found.

With the race so close, it's no surprise that both Miliband brothers are said to be desperate to have Ed B's second-preference endorsement -- in particular Ed M, who has narrowed the gap with his elder brother but has yet to overtake him or "break through".

Will Balls offer a second-pref endorsement at all? And if so, will it be for his "Blairite" rival of the past decade, David Miliband, or for his once-junior colleague at the Treasury, Ed Miliband? I'm told that the shadow education secretary has yet to make up his mind -- but if/when it comes, such a move could prove to be the turning point in this increasingly dull and drab Labour leadership election.


David Miliband will be delighted that he secured the endorsement of Gillian Duffy, Gordon Brown's nemesis and a member of the Unite union (which endorsed brother Ed). In a semi-dig at his elder sibling's publicity stunt, Ed has been joking with friends that perhaps he should go in search of Sharron Storer's endorsement.


It's worth checking out Jim Pickard's post over at the FT Westminster blog, which examines how the polls were hopelessly wrong in predicting the result of Labour's deputy leadership contest in 2007. (Hat-tip: "Will M" in the comment thread below.)

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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How the row over Jackie Walker triggered a full-blown war in Momentum

Jon Lansman, the organisation's founder, is coming under attack. 

The battle for control within Momentum, which has been brewing for some time, has begun in earnest.

In a sign of the growing unrest within the organisation – established as the continuation of Jeremy Corbyn’s first successful leadership bid, and instrumental in delivering in his re-election -  a critical pamphlet by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), a Trotskyite grouping, has made its way into the pages of the Times, with the “unelected” chiefs of Momentum slated for turning the organisation into a “bland blur”.

The issue of contention: between those who see Momentum as an organisation to engage new members of the Labour party, who have been motivated by Jeremy Corbyn but are not yet Corbynites.

One trade unionist from that tendency described what they see the problem as like this: “you have people who have joined to vote for Jeremy, they’re going to meetings, but they’re voting for the Progress candidates in selections, they’re voting for Eddie Izzard [who stood as an independent but Corbynsceptic candidate] in the NEC”.  

On the other are those who see a fightback by Labour’s right and centre as inevitable, and who are trying to actively create a party within a party for what they see as an inevitable purge. One activist of that opinion wryly described Momentum as “Noah’s Ark”.

For both sides, Momentum, now financially stable thanks to its membership, which now stands at over 20,000, is a great prize. And in the firing line for those who want to turn Momentum into a parallel line is Jon Lansman, the organisation’s founder.

Lansman, who came into politics as an aide to Tony Benn, is a figure of suspicion on parts of the broad left due to his decades-long commitment to the Labour party. His major opposition within Momentum and on its ruling executive comes from the AWL.

The removal of Jackie Walker as a vice-chair of Momentum after she said that Holocaust Memorial Day belittled victims of other genocides has boosted the AWL, although the AWL's Jill Mountford, who sits on Momentum's ruling executive, voted to remove Walker as vice-chair. (Walker remains on the NEC, as she has been elected by members). But despite that, the AWL, who have been critical of the process whereby Walker lost her post, have felt the benefit across the country.

Why? Because that battle has triggered a series of serious splits, not only in Momentum’s executive but its grassroots. A raft of local groups have thrown out the local leadership, mostly veterans of Corbyn’s campaign for the leadership, for what the friend of one defeated representative described as “people who believe the Canary [a pro-Corbyn politics website that is regularly accused of indulging and promoting conspiracy theories]”.

In a further series of reverses for the Lansmanite caucus, the North West, a Momentum stronghold since the organisation was founded just under a year ago, is slipping away from old allies of Lansman and towards the “new” left. As one insider put it, the transition is from longstanding members towards people who had been kicked out in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Neil Kinnock. The constituency party of Wallasey in particular is giving senior figures in Momentum headaches just as it is their opponents on the right of the party, with one lamenting that they have “lost control” of the group.

It now means that planned changes to Momentum’s structure, which the leadership had hoped to be rubberstamped by members, now face a fraught path to passage.

Adding to the organisation’s difficulties is the expected capture of James Schneider by the leader’s office. Schneider, who appears widely on television and radio as the public face of Momentum and is well-liked by journalists, has an offer on the table to join Jeremy Corbyn’s team at Westminster as a junior to Seumas Milne.

The move, while a coup for Corbyn, is one that Momentum – and some of Corbyn’s allies in the trade union movement – are keen to resist. Taking a job in the leader’s office would reduce still further the numbers of TV-friendly loyalists who can go on the airwaves and defend the leadership. There is frustration among the leader’s office that as well as Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, who are both considered to be both polished media performers and loyalists, TV bookers turn to Ken Livingstone, who is retired and unreliable, and Paul Mason, about whom opinions are divided within Momentum. Some regard Mason as a box office performer who needs a bigger role, others as a liability.

But all are agreed that Schneider’s expected departure will weaken the media presence of Corbyn loyalists and also damage Momentum. Schneider has spent much of his time not wrangling journalists but mediating in local branches and is regarded as instrumental in the places “where Momentum is working well” in the words of one trade unionist. (Cornwall is regarded as a particular example of what the organisation should be aiming towards)

It comes at a time when Momentum’s leadership is keen to focus both on its external campaigns but the struggle for control in the Labour party. Although Corbyn has never been stronger within the party, no Corbynite candidate has yet prevailed in a by-election, with the lack of available candidates at a council level regarded as part of the problem. Councilors face mandatory reselection as a matter of course, and the hope is that a bumper crop of pro-Corbyn local politicians will go on to form the bulk of the talent pool for vacant seats in future by-elections and in marginal seats at the general election.

But at present, a draining internal battle is sapping Momentum of much of its vitality. But Lansman retains two trump cards. The first is that as well as being the founder of the organisation, he is its de facto owner: the data from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns, without which much of the organisation could not properly run, is owned by a limited company of which he is sole director. But “rolling it up and starting again” is very much the nuclear option, that would further delay the left’s hopes of consolidating its power base in the party.

The second trump card, however, is the tribalism of many of the key players at a local level, who will resist infiltration by groups to Labour’s left just as fiercely as many on the right. As one veteran of both Corbyn’s campaigns reflected: “If those who have spent 20 years attacking our party think they have waiting allies in the left of Labour, they are woefully mistaken”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.