Ed Milliband wins UK Labour leadership


In a remarkably close result, Ed Milliband has won the vote of Labour MPs, Labour Party members and union members to become the next leader of the Labour Party, in the first close-run result under the hybrid electoral system.

The UK Labour Party elects its leader using an electoral college where votes are weighted, with one third of votes going to MPs and MEPs, one third to members of Constituency Labour Parties, and one third to members of affiliated organisations (mainly being unions).

The primary results had David Milliband leading with 37% to his younger brother Ed Milliband on 34%. After three rounds of elimination the final two-party result of 50.65% for Ed Milliband.

Amongst MPs and MEPs, David won 140 to Ed’s 122 in the final round. David also won 54.4% amongst Labour Party members. Ed overcame this deficit with 59.8% of the  vote amongst union members.

The result is a challenge for the party. The Labour electoral system pretty much prevents the loser in a close contest to challenge again, as you would expect in Australia (as happened with Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, and many earlier leadership contests). Having said that, the younger Milliband ran on a platform of rejecting New Labour, and managed to win only with the support of union members, with slim majorities of MPs and party members going for David. This will make him vulnerable to attacks from the Conservatives as a puppet of the unions, although it is worth noting that the union vote comes from individual members (with 211,000 voting) rather than from union leadership.

The UK Labour website provides a remarkable level of detail on the result, which I hope to analyse for another post tomorrow. They include primary vote breakdowns for each Constituency Labour Party and for each affiliated organisation, and the entire preference flow for every MP.

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  1. It’s a mark of how little of “Old Labour” remains within the party that the constituency party members went more with the more right-wing Miliband brother. Ed is hardly a left-winger (he rejects only some parts of the New Labour agenda) but this result will create a space for the idea that the Con-Dem government’s slash & burn approach can be resisted. David campaigned much more on the basis that Labour could only become electable if it moved further to the Right.

    It’s a psephologically ridiculous argument that the right-wing New Labour principles have made the party electable after the dark years of Tory rule from 1979-97. Even prior to Blair’s election as leader and the scrapping of Clause 4 (the “socialist objective) the Tories had collapsed at the polls and there was no sign of recovery. It’s been all downhill for New Labour ever since: Labour’s vote in 1997 was 13.5 million, in 2001 10.7 million, in 2005 9.6 million and in 2010 just 8.6 million.

    It’s worth reading this 1989 critique by, er, Gordon Brown, of arguments that Labour needed to move Right to win power: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v11/n03/gordon-brown/thatcherism

    It is summarised and placed in context here: http://leninology.blogspot.com/2010/08/gordon-brown-on-thatcherism.html

    New Labour represented Labour’s decision to embrace Thatcherism just as its traditional constituency was turning against Thatcherite ideology and policies. A similar thing is happening here, but partly masked by compulsory voting laws which minimise the drop in working-class voter turnout that has marked recent British elections. See here: http://left-flank.blogspot.com/2010/09/desperately-seeking-authority.html

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