It had to happen eventually. After a very cordial start to the Labour Leadership race things are turning nasty. The Independent is reporting this morning that Andy Burnham, who has strengthened as this race has progressed, has accused supporters of a rival camp of using “malicious briefing” tactics in the hope of getting him to drop out early.
Burnham’s camp is not saying who exactly, but the finger appears to be pointing to supporters of Ed Balls who are thought to have been briefing against rival candidates. For that read Charlie Whelan, political director of Unite and long time friend, who is closely involved in the Balls campaign. Balls would be the main winner if Burnham dropped out and he needs those votes if he is to challenge the frontrunner David Miliband.
Balls and Burnham are both looking for the same votes from the same section of the Labour Party and Burnham is being seen as a threat to Balls who could be squeezed out and knocked into fourth place. Soft indications of support for Burnham have seen the number of supporters signing up to his website doubling in the past week to more than 1,000.
The former health secretary Burnham was the least well known when the race began, but he has impressed while out of Gordon Brown’s shadow Balls hasn’t shone. He doesn’t look or sound like a leadership contender. If this story reported by the Independent today is correct then there are early signs of desperation in the Balls camp.
All this as support for David Miliband grows. He picked up another trade union this week as the Community Union joined USDAW in backing the senior Miliband. It was also the only union to back Tony Blair in 1994.