Ed Miliband wins backing of Unite

The support of the UK’s largest union will give a major boost to his campaign.

The Labour leadership contest intensified even further this weekend as it was revealed that the shadow energy secretary, Ed Miliband, had won the support of the UK's biggest trade union, Unite.

Yesterday, the union's national policy committee voted in favour of Ed Miliband, giving him 24 nominations. It will now recommend that when the national executive meets on Monday it vote publicly to back the Doncaster North MP's candidacy for the party leadership.

Miliband -- younger brother to the favourite, David -- already has support from Unison and the GMB. With Unite's decision, he now has the three largest trade unions behind him.

Meanwhile, David Miliband has won the support of two unions -- Community and Usdaw -- and the shadow education secretary, Ed Balls, is being backed by the Communication Workers Union. Diane Abbott has the backing of the Transport Salaried Staff Association and Aslef, the train drivers' union.

No union has come out in support of the fifth candidate, Andy Burnham.

Unite's backing of Ed Miliband is a particular blow to Ed Balls, who is now rumoured to be considering pulling out of the race.

Read exclusive interviews with all five candidates in this week's New Statesman.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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