British Politics

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 286–316 | Cite as

‘O, brother, where art thou?’ The Labour Party leadership election of 2010

  • Peter Dorey
  • Andrew Denham
Original Article


This article examines the 2010 Labour leadership contest, seeking to explain why Ed Miliband narrowly defeated his brother, and erstwhile favourite, David. The article places this contest in the context of previous Labour leadership contests, and also the historical development of the often controversial electoral college which, on this occasion, meant that the first preferences of the Party's parliamentarians were outweighed by the votes of affiliated bodies, most notably the trade unions. Crucially, though, we argue that while undeniably important, the role of the trade unions in ensuring Ed Miliband's victory has been somewhat exaggerated by his political and media opponents. His success over his brother was also due to the fact that he attracted enough second preference votes cast by MPs/ Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and members of the constituency Labour parties (CLPs) to increase his share of overall support in the electoral college. David Miliband remained more popular than his brother among Labour parliamentarians and CLPs, but Ed Miliband reduced his brother's lead sufficiently over four rounds to ensure that when added to his share of the votes of individual trade union levy-payers, he secured a narrow victory over David Miliband. The votes of the latter were crucial to Ed Miliband, and ultimately decisive, but would still not have been sufficient to secure victory had he not also increased his support, via second preference votes, among Labour MPs/MEPs and CLP members.


Labour Party leadership elections David Miliband Ed Miliband electoral college New Labour 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Dorey
    • 1
  • Andrew Denham
    • 2
  1. 1.Cardiff School of European Studies, Cardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.School of Politics and International Relations, University of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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