As Ed Miliband’s allies recover from the disappointment of his failure to become prime minister, they are throwing their support behind Andy Burnham as the best candidate to succeed him as leader. Lucy Powell, Miliband’s former deputy chief of staff, who served as vice chair of Labour’s election campaign, will endorse him, according to sources. Neil Kinnock, who backed Miliband in 2010, is also expected to support Burnham. The former Labour leader patted the shadow health secretary on the back and spoke warmly to him outside Monday night’s PLP meeting.
Burnham has already won the support of Rachel Reeves, Owen Smith, Luciana Berger and Ian Lavery, who endorsed Miliband in 2010, and is in line to win the Unite nomination (as Miliband did). It is partly this crossover of support that has led some in the party to describe Burnham as a “prettier Miliband”. But the shadow health secretary has sought to dispel this impression by rejecting the mansion tax as “symbolism” and “the politics of envy”, and by arguing that Labour should have run a budget surplus before the financial crash. One member of the Miliband circle who is not backing Burnham, however, is Jon Trickett. The shadow cabinet member, who was a senior adviser to the former Labour leader, told me that he still wanted to see a “left candidate” make the ballot.
Meanwhile, having returned from his holiday in Ibiza, I’m told that Miliband has been advising MPs on the lessons to learn from the defeat. The former leader has told colleagues not to listen to figures such as Peter Mandelson and not to turn rightwards, according to sources. “He’s not staying out of it,” one Labour insider told me (although the former leader will not be endorsing a candidate). Miliband is said to have emphasised that his party lost due to the failure of millions of notional supporters to turn out. The pollster Ipsos MORI has used the term “lazy Labour” to the describe the 2.9 million who supported the party in pre-election polling but did not go on to vote. Left-wingers have argued that this demonstrates the need for a more radical offer to enthuse this group, rather than a more moderate pitch aimed at winning over Conservative voters.
Update: A friend of Ed Miliband said: “Ed will keep his counsel for the moment. He will spend some time with his family. He is very unlikely to say anything while there is a leadership election taking place.”
Now listen to George discussing the Labour leadership contest on the NS podcast: