Final face-off in Britain's Labour leadership race

31st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The five candidates vying to suceed former prime minister Gordon Brown as the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party face their final hustings Sunday before voting gets under way.

The five will face questions from an audience of hundreds of party members in Manchester, northwest England.

David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham -- all high-ranking ministers under Brown -- and veteran member of parliament Diane Abbott are contesting the leadership.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband is seen as the favourite. He has comfortably more support from Labour MPs than his rivals, with his younger brother Ed, the former energy secretary, considered his closest challenger.

Labour, in power for 13 years from 1997 under prime minister Tony Blair and then Brown from 2007, has been in limbo since losing the May general election.

Brown resigned as Labour leader and prime minister in the days following the election, triggering the long-running leadership contest.

The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the most seats, but not enough to form a majority. Cameron became prime minister as head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

In the interim, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman has taken over as acting leader.

Under Labour rules, a third of the votes go to each of three sections of the party: its members of the British and European parliaments; grass-roots party members, and the trade unions.

David Miliband has topped support from constituency Labour Party branches. He has the backing of 165; his brother 148; Burnham, 44; Abbott 20, and Balls 17.

However, Ed Miliband easily won the battle for trade union support, with the public backing of six, including the three biggest: Unite, Unison and the GMB.

A YouGov poll of Labour members and trade unionists out Friday said David Miliband was the favourite on 37 percent, with 29 percent backing his brother.

Ballot papers will be sent out on September 1 and the winner announced on September 25, the day before the party's annual conference begins in Manchester.

© 2010 AFP

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