Manchester diary: The union brothers claim another victim – and it's one of their own

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Indy Politics

'The fact that Ed Miliband owes his position to the unions does not bode well," says an email kindly sent to me by the Conservative Party chairman, Baroness Warsi. We will hear more of this, and not just from the Conservative Party. Some disgruntled Blairites were to be heard muttering similar sentiments in the bars around the Labour conference centre in Manchester yesterday.

So, an early challenge for the relatively inexperienced team around Ed Miliband is to get across to the public somehow that there is no union block in Labour leadership elections. Not any more.

Ed Miliband owes his position to just under 120,000 unions members – that is dinner ladies, metal bashers and the rest – who voted for him individually. So if he gets into a bad argument with one of the big union leaders, he can remind them he has a mandate from their members.

But the union block vote has not completely disappeared from Labour's tortuously complicated election system. This is a fact of which John Prescott should have taken better note in his high-profile campaign to be elected the treasurer of the Labour Party, without clearing his lines with the union bosses.

That is one election in which union general secretaries can cast block votes, and for the past quarter of a century they have looked upon the position as being the preserve of full-time union officers.

In that vote, announced yesterday, 98.86 per cent of the union vote went to Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, who may not be a household name but her fellow union bosses rate her highly. That left just 1.4 per cent of the union for poor old Prezza, who was soundly trounced despite the substantial vote he got from party members.

King Newt rises once again

If it was a bad day for John Prescott, it was an exceptionally good day for Ken Livingstone, who topped the poll in the elections to Labour's National Executive.

His success in that and in beating Oona King to the nomination to be Labour candidate for the London mayoralty goes against the almost universal rule of modern politics: that in any contest where the qualities of the individual candidates make a difference, the younger, newer candidate wins. Ken Livingstone is 65.

What's he not doing here?

The organisers of a conference bookshop optimistically arrived with 100 signed copies of Peter Mandelson's memoir The Third Man. But of Mandy himself there is no sign. He is in Singapore. Which is a shame because the new leader owes him a hearty vote of thanks for the way he backed David M. Every time Mandy opened his mouth, it firmed up Ed M's vote.

And another footballing upset

Congratulations to Labour MPs for their 5-3 victory in the annual football match against the gentlemen of the press, and congratulations to Andy Burnham, who, having come a disappointing fourth in the leadership election, put an impressive shot into the back of the net.

Sad to report, though, that some of the hacks were whinging that they were robbed because late in the game, the MPs sent on substitutes, one of whom was the former England striker Tony Woodcock, in Manchester as an ambassador for the 2018 World Cup bid. Mr Woodcock is 54.

Quote of the day

'I am probably the only person in the country who wanted the leadership election to run for another three months' - Ed Balls, who was trailing in fifth place, but eventually finished third