Burnham and Cooper camps deny calling for Labour leadership result to be delayed

Corbyn rivals say they are not behind reported demand to extend contest over missing ballots. 

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On Saturday morning, Labour's three-month long leadership contest will finally end when the result is announced at the QEII Centre in Westminster. But it could yet be delayed? MailOnline reports that one candidate is preparing to call for voting to be extended for three days owing to a significant number not having recieved their ballot papers. 

It is Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper who have a plausible interest in the race being extended. Jeremy Corbyn is on course to finish first and Liz Kendall has long been resigned to finishing fourth. But both camps have denied calling for the result to be delayed. Burnham aide Katie Myler tweeted: "For the record, Andy's campaign has not called for a delay in the voting process." A spokeswoman for Cooper also denied being behind the proposal, telling me that "It's the responsiblility of the Labour Party to ensure all eligible voters receive their ballots. We are not aware at the moment of significant issues with this." Cooper's campaign have said that as much as half of the Labour selectorate have yet to vote, while Burnham's suggest that the figure is closer to a third. Turnout in the 2010 contest was 70 per cent. 

Though most MPs are preparing for a Corbyn victory, several told me that they were hopeful that Cooper could pull off a surprise victory. "The Yvette surge is real," one shadow minister said. But even if Corbyn is denied a first-round victory, most believe he will secure sufficient second preferences to win. Some Kendall supporters are backing Burnham out of fear that his votes would transfer to the left-winger were he eliminated before Cooper. The mood of MPs, just 14 of whom support Corbyn, was summarised by one who told me that they would "give him enough rope" and "let him hang himself". 

George Eaton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.