Ed Miliband speaks with David Cameron at the Palace of Westminster on February 27, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Coulson's conviction shows that only Miliband can be trusted to stand up to powerful interests

The British people will form the jury in May next year. There is only one possible verdict.

In recent weeks, David Cameron and his friends in the right-wing media have sought to make the leadership question a central issue in British politics. I say: bring it on.

The issue of leadership boils down to a choice next year between two contenders for No 10: Ed Miliband and David Cameron. The voters will look at both and ask which of these two best represents their own feelings about our future as a country. They will also ask which of them has the character to deliver the changes the country needs.

For the truth is that there is much that needs to change. Above all, the feeling exists that there are millions of people who work hard, play by the rules but feel unable to get on as they would wish, and as they deserve. At the same time, those millions believe that there is another set of rules which applies to the rich and powerful and those vested interests who seem, so often, to behave with impunity.

So, which of the two leaders has the right values and which of them has the character to stand up for ordinary people even if it means taking on powerful vested interests? The decision by the jury to convict Andy Coulson of phone hacking provides us with an answer to both of these questions.

Let us recall that the Murdoch newspapers denied throughout that they had behaved inappropriately in relation to hundreds of ordinary people by illegally hacking their phones. Among these ordinary people were totally innocent victims who had lost a child in the most heart rending circumstances possible. A court of law has now decided that this activity did indeed take place, that it was illegal and that it was organised at the highest levels in the Murdoch newspapers. By all accounts, this criminal activity took place on an unimaginable industrial scale.

A wave of revulsion swept across Britain when news emerged that the News of the World had hacked into the phones of the Dowler family. After a short period for reflection, people began to cancel their subscriptions to the newspaper, very quickly followed by the withdrawal of advertising space.

As it happens, I was with Ed Miliband when the news about the Dowler family emerged. Politicians from other parties must answer for themselves about their relationships with the Murdochs and we will come to Mr Cameron's behaviour in a moment. But I witnessed Ed's reaction. Others might have behaved with caution. But, without hesitation, Ed went public, capturing the British people’s widespread sense of shock and horror at the news. But then he went further. He called out News International and in the face of Cameron and Clegg’s reticence, and that of the whole of the British establishment, he committed our party to support the victims' cries for justice and for press reform.

From the distance of June 2014, Ed Miliband's actions that night still seem bold, but at the time they were a total revelation of the inner steel which he showed in facing up to some of the most powerful people in the land. Now that we have the verdict from a British jury that Mr Coulson was guilty of phone-hacking we are in a position to compare the character and the values of our Prime Minister with those the Leader of the Opposition. 

We know from the court that Rebekah Brooks was wholly innocent of the charges made against her. But we equally know that Mr Cameron was on very close terms with her whilst she was an extremely senior executive in News International. Was it really appropriate for our Prime Minister to be so close to her given the position she occupied? We all remember the slightly odd text messages which he sent her, and who can forget her horse, which the Prime Minister was in the habit of riding? This behaviour is not consistent with a Prime Minister who is determined to stand up to powerful interests on behalf of ordinary citizens.

But when it comes to Andy Coulson, Mr Cameron's behaviour is little short of culpable. He appointed Coulson as his director of communications. Let us recall that Coulson had only just left News International after his paper's royal editor had been found guilty of hacking. The PM was warned privately and publicly that Coulson would prove damaging to the interests of himself, his party and the country. And so it has proved. It was bound to end in tears, and now Mr Cameron has had to make a humiliating apology.

All of this brings us back to the question of leadership. Even the briefest encounter with the facts of the hacking case can leave little doubt about the question of which political leader better represents the values of the British people. And on the much-vaunted issue of character; which of the two has shown he had the personal strength to stand up to powerful interests when the public required it?

Examine the actions of David Cameron and Ed Miliband. And decide for yourself. The British people will form the jury in May next year. There is only one possible verdict.

Jon Trickett is the shadow minister without portfolio, Labour deputy chair and MP for Hemsworth.

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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

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