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25 May 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:19am

Reflecting on the Labour leadership contest

The coalition’s agenda means it has yet to come to life. But the smart money remains on a Miliband.

By James Macintyre

There are two parallel stories for political journalists in Westminster: the Con-Lib coalition and (smaller) the Labour leadership. There will come a time, however fleetingly, when the latter will be bigger than the former, but for now the machinations of David Cameron and Nick Clegg dominate the news and the gossip in parliament, no more so than today, after the Prime Minister outlined some of his coalition’s agenda standing next to his deputy.

But, like at a party conference, there are other whispers spreading on the fringes. Anyone who has spoken to Labour MPs this week would agree that it feels like the top opposition job will go to one of the Miliband brothers.

They feel that Andy Burnham, who could be seen locked in an intense chat with Tessa Jowell in the sun outside parliament a moment ago, lacks the momentum to gain much support. And they tend to agree that Ed Balls is the wrong man for the pluralistic age, in which Labour will need to win Lib Dem as well as Middle England voters.

Many in the media now expect Ed Miliband to prevail. I would be the last to rule that out, having first tipped him in the NS in 2008.

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But one senior supporter of David Miliband, who had to make a hard choice between the two brothers, says that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, a long leadership campaign (ending in September) will end up helping the former foreign secretary.

“The party will reflect and conclude that it needs David’s seniority in order to be ready to take on a coalition that is more vulnerable than it appears,” the former cabinet minister says.

In these unpredictable times, however, anything could happen. Ed Miliband has momentum, though . . . and it does still look like the next leader of the Labour Party will be called Miliband or Miliband.

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