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16 September 2010

How Labour’s leadership conference will work

How events of 25 September will unfold.

By James Macintyre

We know that the result of the Labour leadership contest will be announced between 4pm and 5pm on Saturday 25 September, at the start of the party’s annual conference in Manchester. We do not, however, know much more than that. The Labour party is being understandably vague about the details of who will know what when, and how exactly the announcement will be made.

The party’s press office indicates it will be putting out a fuller statement in due course. Privately, leadership candidates — including those most likely to win — are confused and apparently in the dark about the details. At least they say they are. Most people expect them to be sitting in a row, with other politicians and the media, at Manchester Central, in an Oscars-style ceremony as they announcement is made, probably by the party’s General Secretary, Ray Collins.

However, I’m told that around ten minutes before the announcement is made public the contenders will be ushered into a room backstage to be told first. I’m told, too, that they are each allowed a “plus one” to accompany them, quickly to think through the political implications of the result and practice the message each candidate — including the winner — will have to deliver to the party and the public (all candidates will have to have prepared a speech). I gather that Ed Miliband has chosen his aide Stuart Wood, the former adviser to Gordon Brown, to be his plus one. David Miliband will be accompanied by his long-standing aide, Madlin Sadler. The other camps are remaining tight-lipped. What is clear however, is that it will be worth looking out for the faces of not just the candidates but their aides.

Meanwhile, a senior Labour source declines to comment on rumours that Gordon Brown wants to be involved in the announcement, passing on the Labour torch as Tony Blair did to him in 2007. But the source does confirm that, “Gordon will be involved in the conference in some way. The party will be given the opportunity to thank him for his years as prime minister and his many years as chancellor.”

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UPDATE: a Labour source has called back to confirm that the candidates will hear the result before the official announcement, with plus ones.