The end game
Winner of the prize for leadership election hubris goes to Dan Hodges for this piece on Labour Uncut: http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/09/21/david-miliband-has-won-says-dan-hodges/ declaring the election result before the voting has finished.
I would be interested to know the electoral college maths by which Dan believes this outcome will have been achieved.
And interested about the number of votes David Miliband has lost through these kind of interventions both in the mass media, social media and verbally. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told David "has to win" because of seniority, status or alleged ideological purity and harangued for "breaking the line" (whose line?). I suspect many Labour members will like me have been rather offended to be told that what we thought was an open contest where we could judge a range of good candidates on their merits, was in fact a contest with a pre-determined anointed winner. Many people will kick against that kind of message.
A veteran CLP Secretary who I know was rung this week by the David Miliband campaign and when she said she was not voting for David was accused by the caller of "wanting Labour to stay in opposition". Maybe it was someone going off script, but whether scripted or not it's not good politics to be using an attack when calling the volunteers who keep local parties functioning which insults both other candidates and the democratic choices those very hard-working volunteers have made.
This sort of messaging has also squandered a political opportunity for the wider Party. Instead of saying "look, Labour is so strong and so united that we have four mainstream candidates who would all knock the socks off David Cameron and are all electable as PM", language has been used that has given ammo to Labour's opponents to attack anyone other than David if they get elected.
I don't actually blame David Miliband for this. I think he probably knows that Labour's electoral college and transferable voting system means he needed to reach out to people in the trade union section of the college, and to offer something to get transfers from supporters of the three lower ranked candidates. But some of the unofficial cheerleaders for his campaign, some of them incredibly senior, have behaved in a way which is crass, counterproductive, and has alienated people.
If he does win despite these antics, then he will need to reach out very fast to build bridges with the rest of the party.
My hunch though is that Dan is wrong because he hasn't done the maths. Labour's electoral system is rightly designed not to anoint the leader of the biggest gang in a multi-candidate election, or the preferred candidate of MPs alone. It is quite deliberately designed to foster party unity by rewarding candidates who can get second preference votes and build a majority, not just a plurality, and to require a broad base of support across all the party's stakeholders. The criticisms that there were of the electoral college when it was set up are now void because the union section has moved from one based on General Secretaries casting block votes to an OMOV ballot where the winner needs to have demonstrated they can win vast numbers of votes from ordinary members of the public who happen to be union members.
If anything will tell you who might be the most electable of the five in a General Election it will be whether they have demonstrated mass appeal in the section that is most like the wider electorate - the TU section.
Ed Miliband's campaign has shown more awareness of the nature of the electoral college, and of Labour's internal AV voting. David's team have been fighting an AV election as though it was First Past The Post. That would only have worked if he was Tony Blair and capable of winning 50% on the first round.
Unlike Dan I think the outcome is still in doubt, but the most likely one based on a rational analysis of the data that's been published and the politics of the campaign is that Ed Miliband will win by a margin of 2 to 4%.