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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.

UPDATE:

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.

UPDATE 2:

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.)

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