Saturday, 15 May 2010

Then there were two

Four days after Gordon Brown's resignation, three days after his brother declared his candidacy, Ed Miliband announced he would stand for Labour's leadership.

The Labour party finds itself in a much better position than it had expect just a few months ago when there had been a fear of 1997 in reverse. In fact, Labour received a lower share of vote in this election than John Major in 1997, but due to the Labour bias in the electoral system their number of seats remained respectably high.

With a potentially fragile coalition government, which has difficult and unpopular decisions to make, this could be a very good time to be the Leader of Opposition. Yet Labour's leadership contenders, with the exception of David Miliband, seem tentative to declare.

This might be due to the complexity of Labour's system of electing a leader. Not only do candidates have to compete for the votes of three very different constituencies in the electoral college, but they also have to win a majority of the vote through an instant-runoff system, also known as AV.

For all those wondering how they might vote in the promised AV referendum for elections to the House of Commons, you might want to look at how the votes fall for the next Labour leadership election. AV normally leads to the least objectionable candidate winning, so you don't want to look too eager or be too propionate too soon, lest you want supporters of other candidates to see you as a threat to their guy and deliberately give you a low preference vote.

Three years ago, Alan Johnson was the clear favourite to win the Deputy Leadership race, but in the end it was the virtually unnoticed Harriet Harman who narrowly won the day. So perhaps the most likely result is a surprise.

Ed Miliband joked that his mother will probably support outsider Jon Cruddas. You never know, Mrs. Miliband might get her favoured candidate after all.

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