Britain's Labour Party to appoint new leader
Britain's opposition Labour Party appoints its new leader later on Saturday, with left-leaning Ed Miliband tipped to beat his older brother David after a last-minute surge in support.
Five candidates are competing to succeed ex-premier Gordon Brown, who resigned in May after his government was ousted in a general election that ended Labour's 13 years in office.
Until Friday former foreign secretary David Miliband, a 45-year-old protege of ex-PM Tony Blair, had been the front-runner to win the ballot of Labour lawmakers, party members and trade unionists, after a four-month contest.
But after a surprise boost in support, his sibling Ed, 40, the former energy and climate change minister and part of Brown's inner circle, is now leading the pack, according to bookmakers.
The leadership result will be announced at about 4:45 pm (1545 GMT) in Manchester, northwest England, where the Labour Party's annual conference kicks off on Sunday.
Other runners in the race include former education secretary Ed Balls, ex-health secretary Andy Burnham and leftwing outsider Diane Abbott.
Ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock said he was confident of victory for Ed Miliband.
"He's very bright, hugely energetic (and) totally committed to our country, but he's got the additional skill to be able to relate to people and that is vital as a characteristic of leadership," he told BBC television.
However, Douglas Alexander, who chaired David Miliband's campaign, said he remained upbeat over his candidate.
"I think David is going to win but predictions with only a few hours to go before the result don't matter very much; the truth is we will find out soon enough," he told the BBC Radio 4.
"But whoever wins the Labour leadership should expect, and will get, the support of colleagues in parliament and people right across the Labour Party."
The choice of leader will determine whether the party takes a more centrist or leftwing approach to tackling Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat governing coalition.
David Stevens, a spokesman for Coral bookmakers, said Miliband junior had gained momentum in the final stretch of the race and was now installed as the favourite.
"Ed Miliband is now 2-5 and his brother is out to 7-4, which is basically a complete reversal of where we were 24 hours ago," Stevens told AFP late Friday.
"All the indications would suggest that Ed Miliband is going to be declared the winner."
The new leader must give voters a credible alternative to Conservative leader Cameron, whose coalition government of former political foes emerged after Labour lost its majority at the general election.
The coalition has pledged drastic cuts to rein in Britain's huge deficit and is expected to swing the axe in a comprehensive spending review on October 20.
Labour's new boss will meanwhile face an immediate test as the party kicks off its five-day conference this weekend to thrash out where it stands in the new political landscape.
Labour Party members have a third of the votes, Labour lawmakers in the British and European parliaments have another third, and trade unionists and affiliated groups get the last chunk. The polls closed on Wednesday.
© 2010 AFP