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

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.