David Miliband tops poll of Labour councillors

Ed Miliband comes second with 43 per cent to his brother’s 57; Ed Balls is eliminated first.

The BBC's Daily Politics show will shortly unveil the results of a new poll of Labour councillors in which David Miliband comes out first with 57 per cent of the vote, compared to his brother's 43.

Diane Abbott came third on first preferences, but the more surprising fact, perhaps, is that Ed Balls was eliminated first, with just 8 per cent, with Andy Burnham bowing out in the next round.

However, it is definitely worth noting that this poll was conducted by ComRes between 23 July and 10 August, so it will not reflect any of the more recent events in the leadership contest, in particular, Balls's recent strong performance opposing the coalition on the deficit, and the Blairites' intervention in the struggle between the Milibands.

And, need one say, a poll of 265 councillors is hardly representative of Labour's electoral college as a whole. But perhaps what this poll does reiterate is how vital second preferences are going to be in determining who becomes Labour's next leader.

Full results (via Left Foot Forward)

First preference votes

88 (33%) David Miliband
69 (26%) Ed Miliband
55 (21%) Diane Abbott
33 (12%) Andy Burnham
20 (8%) Ed Balls

Elimination round 1

96 (36%) David Miliband
74 (28%) Ed Miliband
62 (23%) Diane Abbott
33 (12%) Andy Burnham
1st eliminated: Ed Balls

Elimination round 2

110 (42%) David Miliband
82 (31%) Ed Miliband
73 (28%) Diane Abbott
2nd eliminated: Andy Burnham
1st eliminated: Ed Balls

Elimination round 3

152 (57%) David Miliband
113 (43%) Ed Miliband
3rd eliminated: Diane Abbott
2nd eliminated: Andy Burnham
1st eliminated: Ed Balls

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The Liberal Democrats are back - and the Tories should be worried

A Liberal revival could do Theresa May real damage in the south.

There's life in the Liberal Democrats yet. The Conservative majority in Witney has been slashed, with lawyer and nominative determinism case study Robert Courts elected, but with a much reduced majority.

It's down in both absolute terms, from 25,155 to 5,702, but it's never wise to worry too much about raw numbers in by-elections. The percentages tell us a lot more, and there's considerable cause for alarm in the Tory camp as far as they are concerned: the Conservative vote down from 60 per cent to 45 per cent.

(On a side note, I wouldn’t read much of anything into the fact that Labour slipped to third. It has never been a happy hunting ground for them and their vote was squeezed less by the Liberal Democrats than you’d perhaps expect.)

And what about those Liberal Democrats, eh? They've surged from fourth place to second, a 23.5 per cent increase in their vote, a 19.3 swing from Conservative to Liberal, the biggest towards that party in two decades.

One thing is clear: the "Liberal Democrat fightback" is not just a hashtag. The party has been doing particularly well in affluent Conservative areas that voted to stay in the European Union. (It's worth noting that one seat that very much fits that profile is Theresa May's own stomping ground of Maidenhead.)

It means that if, as looks likely, Zac Goldsmith triggers a by-election over Heathrow, the Liberal Democrats will consider themselves favourites if they can find a top-tier candidate with decent local connections. They also start with their by-election machine having done very well indeed out of what you might call its “open beta” in Witney. The county council elections next year, too, should be low hanging fruit for 

As Sam Coates reports in the Times this morning, there are growing calls from MPs and ministers that May should go to the country while the going's good, calls that will only be intensified by the going-over that the PM got in Brussels last night. And now, for marginal Conservatives in the south-west especially, it's just just the pressure points of the Brexit talks that should worry them - it's that with every day between now and the next election, the Liberal Democrats may have another day to get their feet back under the table.

This originally appeared in Morning Call, my daily guide to what's going on in politics and the papers. It's free, and you can subscribe here. 

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