Love and war as Milibands pull clear in leadership fight

The Miliband brothers poured warm words on each other yesterday in an effort to prevent their political rivalry from degenerating into a family feud.

As the deadline for Labour leadership nominations closed yesterday, the contest looked increasingly like a family affair, with David Miliband in the lead, Ed Miliband close behind, and the other three candidates trailing.

David Miliband is reputedly angry with his younger brother for challenging him, while his younger brother makes no secret of the fact that he thinks the Blairite wing of the party, to which his brother belongs, takes a heavy share of responsibility for the decline in Labour's support over the past five years.

But yesterday both brothers insisted that blood is thicker than water, even when political ambitions clash. "There's only one other candidate in this contest who I love and that love is going to come through this contest strong," David Miliband insisted.

Ed Miliband justified his decision to run against his older brother by hinting at the years of glowering resentment that followed Gordon Brown's decision to pull out of the 1994 leadership contest, to give Tony Blair a clear run. He said experience showed that it was better if those who wanted to enter a contest did so.

As nominations closed, David Miliband was ahead in two of out three sections that make up Labour's electoral college, with backing from 81 Labour MPs and 165 constituency Labour parties. Ed Miliband has been nominated by 63 MPs and 148 local parties.

David Miliband was also the clear winner of an experimental ballot organised by the Labour MP John Mann who organised a "primary" in his constituency of Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire. The former Foreign Secretary won just over 50 per cent of the first preference votes, compared with his brother's 20 per cent.

But Ed Miliband is ahead of his brother in collecting backing from trade unions. Yesterday, Britain's biggest union, Unite, confirmed that they were going to nominate the younger Miliband. The former climate change secretary was nominated by six trade unions altogether, compared with two which are backing his brother.

The other three candidates Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott, were each nominated by 33 MPs, the minimum needed to get on the ballot paper. Andy Burnham, the former Health Secretary, was nominated by 44 local parties, Mrs Abbott by 33 parties and two unions and Mr Balls by 17 local parties and one trade union.

The nominations are only an indicator with no direct impact on the vote, but the figures strongly suggest that the older Miliband brother will top the poll in the first round of voting when results are announced on 25 September. His brother's best hope is that he will pick up the lion's share of second preference votes as other candidates are eliminated.

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