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27 May 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:19am

Stakes rise in most surprising nominations for Labour leadership

Douglas Alexander, Eric Joyce, Frank Field and Kate Hoey.

By Sunder Katwala

With the Labour Party publishing official nominations online as they are made, close Labour watchers will find many MPs nominating the candidate who would seem to fit most naturally with their own political views or personal ties.

There is also an emerging regional theme. Ed Balls’s and Andy Burnham’s early nominations do not just reflect a good many friends in the north, but suggest that they could raise rival White Rose and Red Rose New Labour armies, given their strong centres of gravity in Yorkshire and the north-west, though David Blunkett is leading a Burnhamite incursion in Yorkshire.

But not all of the nominations are going where one might expect. Here are some of the early contenders in the Least Predictable Nomination stakes.

1. Douglas Alexander for David Miliband

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There were four “next-generation Labour” voices most closely associated with Gordon Brown over the past decade. Two of them — Ed Balls and Ed Miliband — are now rival candidates for the leadership, while Yvette Cooper chose not to join a “family fortunes” leadership race, and has instead nominated her husband. That Douglas Alexander, the fourth Brownite, has nominated David Miliband may well demonstrate a welcome desire among this generation to break out of the “sons of Blair and Brown” frame of reference.

Although he may be disappointed not to have secured the Alexander nomination, I can’t see many surprises on the Ed Miliband list of initial nominees.

2. Eric Joyce for Ed Balls

The standout surprise on the Ed Balls list of his first 24 nominations is the MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce, for a long time among the most Blairite members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. As an ex-soldier, Joyce was often put up on Newsnight to defend the government over Iraq when no minister was willing to do so. On that, he and Balls can agree to differ.

3. Frank Field and Kate Hoey for John McDonnell

Asked to identify the most right-leaning member of the PLP, a number of Labour members would put Frank Field and Kate Hoey on their shortlist.

Both are living up to their reputations as freethinking mavericks by being among the first supporters of John McDonnell. Perhaps the stalwart of the Socialist Campaign Group and the candidate of the Labour Representation Committee left will run a Blairite “big-tent” strategy after all?

Ed Miliband is doing well on nominations, but I do not see any great surprises. Perhaps we should challenge him to prise Nick Brown’s nomination from Ed Balls

Finally, Diane Abbott has yet to record any official nominations on the Labour website. David Lammy, who is personally close to David Miliband, has pledged to nominate (but not vote for) her. Though McDonnell has set the bar high, I suspect Abbott may turn out to be the winner in the Least Likely Nominee stakes after all.

Sunder Katwala is general secretary of the Fabian Society.

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