Labour Party,  UK Politics

Balls to drop leadership bid as Unite backs Ed Miliband

The Sunday Mirror reports that Ed Balls is reported to be considering a decision to abandon his lacklustre Labour leadership bid after he failed to win the backing of Britain’s biggest union Unite. The union has thrown its weight behind Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband is now backed by Unite and the GMB. With Balls doing poorly in the race the Brownites have clearly decided to cut their losses and throw their support behind Ed Miliband. That support, however, has come at a price.

This reduces the battle for the Labour leadership to a straight two way fight between the two Milibands, between the less reformed minded Brownites and to those who want change and re-energise the party and take Labour forward.

Evidence of this price, and that lack of vision for change, emerged last night detailing how Ed Miliband won the backing of Unite. It is being alleged he bought the union’s backing by promising “pro-union legislation” and to “put the era of New Labour behind us”.

While Ed Miliband picks tunes from the out of print old Labour hymn book David Miliband pushes his convincing lead forward. Crucially, this is a lead that is growing not in union offices, but in the grass roots which any potential leader needs more than anything. He has now added to that the support of more than 100 council and Labour group leaders including 18 out of 29 London councils.

The response of Ed Miliband campaign is according to various reports a dirty tricks campaign. It is a reminder of where Ed Miliband is coming from and the close ties he has had with the Gordon Brown team of Charlie Whelan, who clearly played a key role in winning Unite’s backing, and the disgraced Damian McBride.

In the Observer today, Nick Cohen writes; “There is the faint but distinct smell of a deniable smear operation under way. You can see it in the New Statesman, which was the Brownites’ best friend in the left-wing press, and hear it in the briefings given by Ed Miliband’s supporters to journalists, myself included, and MPs. David is arrogant, supercilious, snippy and out of touch, the whisperers say. He is claiming the leadership out of an unwarranted sense of entitlement just as Hillary Clinton did – and yes I am sorry to say that they do go on to compare the wonkish Ed to the insurgent Barack without so much as a blush.”

This is the second report of smears during the leadership campaign and so far both have emerged from those around Brown. Earlier the Balls team launched an attacked against Andy Burnham whose low key campaign has managed to outshine that of Balls.

David Miliband has led from the start, talked honestly about the issues and his desire to reform and rebuild the Labour Party.

That has not been the story from Ed Miliband’s campaign that looks to be willing to say whatever people want to hear. Whether it is the left, and the surprising news he was against the war in Iraq, or the unions. There is as Cohen says today a question about his sincerity and the compromises he is willing to make to win. That is not what the party needs in a leader.

These questions only help to clarify the fact that there is only person in the Labour leadership race who is ready and able to lead the party in opposition.