Favourite to lead Britain's Labour may face defeat: poll

12th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former British foreign secretary David Miliband, long the frontrunner to lead the opposition Labour party, may be beaten to the job by his younger brother, a poll suggested Sunday.

David and his brother Ed are considered the two most likely candidates to succeed former prime minister Gordon Brown, who stepped down after Labour was ousted in May elections following 13 years in power.

But while many thought David had the edge in the race, a new poll conducted by YouGov for The Sunday Times newspaper suggested he might lose out.

The poll of 1,011 Labour party members and 718 union members showed Ed Miliband snatching victory by just two points.

It showed David Miliband leading on first choice votes, with 36 percent to his brother's 32 percent, but Ed Miliband came top once lower-ranking candidates had been eliminated and their second choices redistributed.

He scraped through with 51 percent to David Miliband's 49 percent.

Although 45-year-old David Miliband served as foreign minister under Brown, he is seen as closer to former prime minister Tony Blair's New Labour agenda, which moved the party towards the centre ground of politics.

Ed Miliband, 40, a critic of New Labour's market-friendly ideas, is regarded as closer to Brown and to the left-wing of the party.

He told Sky News television the poll confirmed his own impressions.

"I have had a sense of this for some weeks now that we have the momentum in this campaign, that what I have been saying about how we need to change and move on from New Labour is something that has struck a cord with people," he said.

But David Miliband told the BBC he was not ready to concede defeat.

The poll was a "wake-up call" that would keep his supporters from becoming complacent, he said.

Voting began this month, with ballots sent to 160,000 Labour party members, who have a third of the votes, Labour lawmakers in the British and European parliaments, who have another third, and union members, who get the last chunk.

Results of the contest will be announced on September 25, the day before Labour's annual conference.

YouGov interviewed respondents for the poll between Tuesday and Friday.

© 2010 AFP

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