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Fraser Nelson on the Labour leadership

For the Labour Party, their leadership question has been a beauty contest without any beauties. It’s pretty depressing stuff.

No saviour has emerged, no Dr Who-style regeneration of Tony Blair. No star has been born. Plenty stars have faded.

But what started as a five-way contest has become a two-geek race. A battle of brothers. And a choice between head and heart.

"David is my best friend in the world. I love him dearly," says Ed Miliband. But he’s going all out to stop his brother running Labour.

Why? Presumably not over some unresolved row over a stolen Karl Marx doll in the 1970s. It’s about a major political difference.

Ed Miliband wants to take Labour to the left, and back to the comfort zone of the hardcore remain members after 13 years.

So he’s become ‘Red Ed’, embracing every lefty cause going. Even pretending that he was against the Iraq war seven years ago.

His mates find this hilarious. Plenty Labour MPs were against the Iraq war, but no one can remember Ed giving so much as a wink of support.

From raises taxes to upping the minimum wage, Ed is telling people what they want to hear. He sounds like David Cameron on a foreign trip.

This ‘Red Ed’ act has brought his campaign a whack of cash from trade unions. Including Unite, the most powerful union of all.

What do they want in return? What they’ve always wanted: to run the Labour Party and make it spout their voter-alienating nonsense.

David Miliband has no interest in this agenda. He’s no Blairite, but hasn’t trashed the Blair reform agenda which union dinosaurs hate.

Rightly so. Last week we saw how City Academies - Tony Blair’s greatest legacy - are rapidly improving GCSE results for THOUSANDS of pupils.

These new schools, mainly in disadvantaged areas, were fought every step of the way by the unions. They are a New Labour triumph.

Under Ed Miliband, there’d be no such thing. Just more banker-bashing and heartfelt singing of the People’s Flag at party conference.

He reckons this will lure back all the lost Labour voters. But why should those who joined under Blair come back under him?

David Miliband rejects all this. He fears this self-indulgence leads back to the wilderness Labour knew in the 1980s.

He’s the only candidate to back Alistair Darling’s sensible plan for cuts. The rest are still in denial about the deficit.

In fact, it’s what David Miliband HASN’T said that makes him the most serious candidate. He has resisted the easy hits.

Now, David is not perfect. That’s putting it politely. Those saying he’s a bit of a dithering plonker have plenty of evidence.

On his rare forays into a pub, he drinks lager by the half pint. And that sums up a lot about him. He never quite goes the whole hog.

After four years in the Cabinet, the most memorable moment was when he was pictured waving a banana in party conference.

Had he moved to get rid of Gordon Brown when he had the chance - two summers ago - Labour might still be in government now.

He looks and talks like a wonk. He has an unfortunate habit of speaking in a way that makes you forget everything he said, instantly.

As one of his supporters told me, "he’s not ideal. But he’s the only way of Labour avoiding a step backwards."

The greatest threat facing the bankrupt, defeated and demoralised Labour Party is being captured by the well-funded unions.

David Mil is the best protection against that threat. He’d rather lose the leadership race than be in hock to union barons.

That’s why David Cameron fears him most. I understand that he thinks Ed is better at opposition, but David better at elections.

As for the other candidates? Just look at the bookies’ odds. We have Ed Balls at 50-1. Andy Burnham at 66-1. Dianne Abbot, 100-1.

Balls has proven that he’s an efficient and tough political fighter. He’s the fiercest pit-bull in the party. But pit-bulls don’t win Crufts.

Whoever wins should make him Shadow Chancellor. The Tories still fear his brains, energy and ability to spin.

As for Andy Burnham, the former Health Secretary admitted during the campaign he’d rather play football than be in No10.

I suspect most Labour voters also would prefer he played football than was in No10. So it’s an early bath for him.

And Dianne Abbot seems not to even know herself why she’s standing. She took the stage, but forgot her lines. If she ever had any.

Which Miliband will win? The race is too close to call. There’s no clear favourite. The hour has come, but not the man.

Yet Labour’s still within striking distance of power. The government has already run out of popularity, and the cuts have yet to come.

The party’s choice is between a lefty gamble with Ed or a duller, but surer road back to power with David.

And Cameron will be hoping that remaining Labour members are in the mood for that gamble.



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