Peter Hoskin

The Whelan factor

The Whelan factor
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Is Ed Miliband is in cahoots with the unions? My guess is that he will have to be – and perhaps is – more centrist than all that. But, in any case, this kind of testimony from Charlie Whelan, speaking to the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland, is hardly going to defuse the issue:

"The former spokesman for Gordon Brown told me in the Radisson hotel how the 'Big Four' union leaders had sat together in the summer working out who was best placed to be the 'stop David' candidate. Their own personal preference would probably have been Ed Balls, but a lack of initial support among MPs suggested his chances were limited. "I'm pragmatic," Whelan said, explaining that the union men then came to the swift, unsentimental view that Ed Miliband was the likeliest to thwart his older brother, whom they regarded as too Blairite.

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The effort reached its climax at the Trade Union Congress earlier this month. Whelan targeted a dozen union-backed MPs who were at the TUC, putting pressure on them to switch their second preference to Ed Miliband. He had, he says, a 50 percent success rate, converting six of the 12. Run the maths and, under Labour's weighted electoral college system, the votes of those six MPs may have been just enough to have given the younger Miliband his one-point margin of victory."