So, who might persuade you how to cast your vote?

While the leadership campaign has not been covered in great detail in the media, several newspapers are likely to offer a verdict on the campaign as the voting papers go out. Here are a few to watch.

The New Statesman has declared its support for Ed Miliband, while publishing Jon Cruddas’ endorsement of his elder brother, showing that the Labour leadership contest has reached the moment where those hoping to influence the voters must now show their hand, with members receiving their ballot papers next week. Almost all of the party’s political heavyweights have now declared – except acting leader Harriet Harman, who is expected to remain neutral.

So the endorsement politics left in the leadership race involves the dance of second preferences among the five candidates.

Most attention focused on the idea that Ed Balls could yet be a “king-maker” in a Miliband run-off. Balls suggested he would leave this as late as possible in his Left Foot Forward interview yesterday, though it is now widely anticipated among political observers that his own second preference will go to David Miliband.

Will this prove a vital moment in the race – boosting the elder Miliband’s leadership credentials – or could it even backfire, if seen as the last political deal of the Blair-Brown era? The Balls vote itself is of value in the electoral college, even if it can not be assumed it is in his power to “deliver” all of his nominating MPs or wider support among members.

Andy Burnham will almost certainly cast his own second preference for his close friend David Miliband. Diane Abbott’s intentions are less clear. She disagrees more with David Miliband, who helped her onto the ballot paper, over future political strategy, but any second preference for Ed Miliband may be less than whole-hearted.

While the leadership campaign has not been covered in great detail in the media, several newspapers are likely to offer a verdict on the campaign as the voting papers go out. Here are a few to watch.

The Mirror

The only Labour-supporting national in the 2010 general election is widely expected in Westminster to endorse very soon – and to come out for David Miliband. There is a good argument that a Mirror endorsement may be more influential than that of the Guardian: the tabloid may particularly reach a larger proportion of trade union levy payers, where three-quarters of a million votes may be returned, and has not covered the candidates and the race in similar detail to the broadsheet.

But the main value of the Mirror endorsement could be a momentum factor: it may mainly reflect the judgement of the paper’s political team about who they think he is most likely to win a close race, and so a desire for the paper to back the winner.

The Guardian

The Guardian is likely to express pros and cons across a range of candidates when it reviews the campaign. In theory, the newspaper could declare for either Miliband. It called on David Miliband to lead a Cabinet coup against Gordon Brown, so was most disappointed when the Cabinet’s daggers remained undrawn. The newspaper’s editorial line must currently manage some tricky tensions between an enthusiastic endorsement of the LibDems at the election; nuanced disappointment at their decision to form a Tory-led Coalition they chose, and dismay at George Osborne’s economic strategy.

Expect a concern for a more pluralistic Labour engagement with LibDems and deeper political reform than any of the leadership contenders has shown. The paper’s concern with issues of civil liberties, the Iraq legacy and a greater willingness to admit New Labour mistakes and reach out to liberal opinion make an Ed Miliband verdict most likely.

The Independent

The liberal Independent – as the name suggests – does not have as strong a historic association with the Labour Party as The Guardian, but is likely to deliver a verdict on which candidate can best present a credible alternative to the government, and particularly engage with liberal opinion. Having been very critical of New Labour over Iraq and its perceived authoritarianism, it is likely to find Ed Miliband’s pitch convincing, while warning that the next leader will have to construct a more coherent approach to the budget deficit.

The Times

The Times will probably offer an endorsement – and obviously prefers David Miliband to his rivals. The newspaper’s “no left turn” editorial warned against the candidate’s lurching to the (centre)-left during the leadership campaign, offering almost precisely the same critique of David Miliband that some of his Blairite supporters offer of his brother’s campaign.

The David Miliband camp were extremely relaxed about and even somewhat amused about this critique. Had the editorial been more widely noticed, it could have helped their argument inside the party that their candidate should not be painted into a Blairite corner. But The Times being behind a paywall online further reduces the likelihood of influencing the party electorate beyond the print edition, making its views much less likely to be discussed in the blogosphere and on twitter.

Polly Toynbee

The Guardian columnist enthusiastically championed Gordon Brown’s claims during the late Blair period, having advocated voting Labour with a nose-peg in 2005, before leading calls for Brown to be ditched, enthusiastically championing David Miliband during the leadership coup that never came off.

These changes of view have reduced Toynbee’s influence in Westminser  and with critical voices to Labour’s left – but her instincts chime strongly with party members, making her still the single columnist most likely to sway votes among the party grassroots. Toynbee’s judgement will be based on who she thinks most likely to win for Labour, but Ed Miliband’s argument that this means turning the page on New Labour is closest to her own view.

Compass

The soft left activist group is balloting around 2000 members and will announce the results of its ballot at the end of next week. Ed Miliband is expected to win comfortably, though it may be interesting to see how well Diane Abbott does.

As with Progress’ announcement for David Miliband (where few had not realised they had yet to formally endorse him), the announcement is much more likely to reinforce than persuade opinion – both for and against the favoured candidate. A strong Ed Miliband victory could reinforce a sense that Jon Cruddas’ personal endorsement is unlikely to deliver swathes of votes from the Cruddasite base to David Miliband. But the vote tallies may prove most interesting by offering the first comparable snapshot of how far Compass Labour members have similar or different views to party members as a whole.

(Compass is not among the party’s fifteen affiliated socialist societies – such as the Fabians, Co-operative party, Christian Socialist Movement, SERA and so on – so the Compass vote is a public expression of support, while the affiliated societies’ members will be balloted alongside trade unionists in the election itself).

ps. Left Foot Forward will not endorse any candidate. The Fabian Society having published all of the candidates will, as always, leave it to members to make up their own minds about how to cast their ballots in the affiliated section.

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