Home Tags Posts tagged with "Unite"

Unite

The refinery at Grangemouth is still under long-term threat

It had felt a little like a bad memory of the past – a trade union holding not just an employer but perhaps a nation to ransom. But as in the past, there are always more than one side to a story.

Unite LogoUnite members had been due to begin a 48-hour strike at the oil refinery at Grangemouth on Sunday morning, over the treatment of one of the union convenors, Stephen Deans. The matter has little to do with working conditions or industrial relations in the plant. Rather, it is a question of local Politics. Mr Deans chairs the Labour Party constituency in Falkirk and was involved in the row over the selection of the new candidate there. He was suspended by Ineos but later reinstated. However, he is still facing an internal investigation by the company over issues linked to the controversy.

This morning, the union is presenting itself as the “good guy” by calling off the strike to protect what it calls a “national asset”. It says that representatives from the plant’s owners, Ineos, had “walked away” from talks in Glasgow at the conciliation service ACAS after 16 hours, describing the company’s behaviour as “scandalous”.

Pat Rafferty of Unite

Pat Rafferty of Unite

Unite’s Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, explained that the talks, which began on Tuesday afternoon, had broken up in the early hours of the morning without any resolution. “We are outraged that Ineos representatives walked away from Acas talks,” he said, “after 16 hours of negotiation and on the cusp of an agreement, for the ludicrous reason that Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe instructed his management representatives to demand an apology on his behalf.

“Unite offered Ineos every proposal we could practically make, specifically an offer to enter into negotiations under the auspices of Acas to secure the future of Grangemouth with the immediate call-off of all industrial action and a guarantee of no strikes during these negotiations.

“However at 5am this morning Acas representatives informed us that we could not conclude an agreement to take to our members because a list of fresh demands were placed upon us and because ‘Jim wants an apology’ and that this was ‘a deal-breaker’.

“I have never came across anything like this in over 30 years of employment relations and it is utterly reprehensible. It is absolutely incredible that the future of this site, its workforce – both permanent and contracted employees – and the national interest has been totally compromised by one man’s out of control ego.”

Ineos has so far not made any statement. However, it has previously made it clear that Grangemouth was losing £10m a month and would close in 2017 without investment and cost-cutting.

<em>Picture: Images_of_Money</em>

Picture: Images_of_Money

The take-home pay of the executive directors of FTSE 100 companies rocketed by 49 per cent last year, bringing the value of salary, bonuses and other incentives to an average of £2.7 million. This comes at a time when pay for workers in the private and public sectors is being squeezed, with either low or no increases in pay awarded at all.

The main rise came through bonuses – up by 23 per cent to an average of £906,000; the actual average salary went up by a mere 3.2 per cent. However, chief executives received a little less than their colleagues. Typically, their packages rose by “just” 43 per cent. These figures will fuel the debate around excessive boardroom pay.

The increase in executive pay was highlighted in a report by Incomes Data Services (IDS). The report’s editor, Steve Tatton, pointed out that “at a time when employees are experiencing real wage cuts and risk losing their livelihoods, without further explanation it may be difficult for FTSE 100 companies to justify the significant increase in earnings awarded to their directors.”

The news prompted the prime minister, David Cameron, to describe the increase as an “issue of concern”. Speaking at the Commonwealth summit in Australia, Mr Cameron told reporters that “everyone, whether they are in public life, whether they are in private enterprise, they’ve got to be able to justify the decisions they make about pay.” He called for pay and bonuses to be published, including the difference between the lowest and highest paid in a company.

“The most senior executives are in danger of becoming (or have already become) totally removed from reality,” said Alan Crozier, author of The Engagement Manifesto. “People aren’t stupid; in this scenario, they feel they are being used and abused. They become cynical, distrusting, and morale drops at a time when it needs to remain high.

“At the first opportunity, the most talented employees seek pastures new. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 22 per cent are currently looking for a new employer. That represents a significant potential attrition cost. Nearly half distrust their directors. When trust goes, so does engagement, a significant driver of organisational performance.”

Mr Crozier said that at one end of the spectrum those senior executives are in the personal wealth-creation business, while at the other end they are destroying shareholder value. “The CEO and executive directors make promises to shareholders and customers that rely for their fulfilment on employees. The executive team therefore have to be totally invested in engaging their employees in that pursuit.”

Last month, business secretary Vince Cable launched a consultation on the future of narrative reporting, including a discussion paper on executive remuneration. At the time, he said there was a “general disconnect between pay and long-term performance [that] suggests that there is something dysfunctional about the market in executive pay or a failure in corporate governance arrangements.”

The news caused outrage amongst union leaders. Unite said executive pay was “obscene” and called for shareholders to be given more power to hold directors accountable. Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said that the government should consider giving shareholders greater legal powers to question and curb these excessive remuneration packages.

“Institutional shareholders,” he said, “need to exercise much greater scrutiny and control of directors’ pay and bonuses. It’s obscene and it shows that the City has learnt nothing during the financial troubles of the last four years.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said that people were “not against those at the top getting higher rewards if those rewards are earned, if more wealth is created, if more jobs are created. But when people are struggling, when the middle is being squeezed, when people are seeing their living standards fall, it is not fair for those at the top to get runaway rewards not related to the wealth they have created.”

But Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising firm WPP, launched a strong defence of executives’ pay on Today on BBC Radio 4. “Look at what chief executives of media companies are paid in other parts of the world,” he said. “We are a worldwide company; we are the leading company in our industry. The comparison, whether you like it or not, is with other companies in the world.”

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day

HM Treasury in London <em>Picture: JamesF</em>

HM Treasury in London Picture: JamesF

The chancellor, George Osborne, may have delivered as upbeat a budget speech as he could, but it had little impact on the financial markets. The pound, gilts and share prices were all largely unmoved by it.

The FTSE 100 index dropped just two points as analysts listened to the speech, confirmed by the view of one of them that “Budgets don’t usually cause a market impact and this one was typically muted.”

The general view from London is that the markets like what they are hearing from Osborne, and they like his commitment to rein in the UK’s deficit. The one sector to suffer a little was banking. Shares in the major institutions dropped when the government announced it was increasing the levy on bank balance sheets to raise an additional £100 million.

By contrast, house builders saw improvements in their share price when the chancellor unveiled a £250m shared equity scheme to help first-time buyers. The scheme was welcomed by industry body, Homes for Scotland, which warned that any impact in Scotland would depend on how the next Scottish government chose to use any of the new money it received.

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day

According to Homes for Scotland chief executive Jonathan Fair, “First-time buyers are essential to a healthy and well-functioning housing market but they have been particularly hard hit by severe restrictions in mortgage lending. Still the main obstacle to recovery in our sector, it is imperative that this blockage is removed. We therefore wish to work closely with the next Scottish government to develop programmes leveraging private sector investment to increase the flow of finance.”

Mr Fair suggested that a future Scottish administration should be looking at the introduction of a Mortgage Indemnity Guarantee, underwriting lending risk at limited public cost.

“The social and economic benefits increased housing production could deliver are immense,” he explained. “If, for example, build levels could be increased by 10% per annum over the lifetime of the next parliament, we could have 46,000 new homes, 38,000 new jobs and over 1,000 new apprentices.”

The general view of analysts was that, overall, the budget looked good for business. But at CBI Scotland, the chancellor’s speech was given a cautious welcome. In the view of assistant director, David Lonsdale, “Given the dire state of the public finances this budget was never likely to prove to be a bonanza for business. A tough programme of fiscal consolidation and public service reform is still needed in order to eliminate the public spending deficit, let alone address the expanding national debt and interest payments.”

But Mr Lonsdale argued that the budget contained a number of helpful measures, particularly the larger than expected reduction in corporation tax. On top of that, the CBI has been calling for the introduction of enterprise zones, as a means of boosting the private sector economy in parts of the country that are struggling economically or have become overly reliant on the public sector.

“The chancellor has listened,” said Mr Lonsdale, “and has announced there will be 21 new enterprise zones across the UK. With the levers available to an enterprise zone often a mixture of the reserved and devolved, such as reducing business rates or a more business friendly attitude towards planning, it will be crucial that the UK and devolved administrations work together to ensure Scotland does not miss out.”

By contrast, the trade unions seemed completely unimpressed. Len McCluskey of Unite said that “George Osborne just re-arranged the furniture, when Britain needed a Plan B. Growth is shrinking, unemployment is on the rise, wages are falling or stagnant and this government is creating a lost generation of young people. No one should be fooled by this budget, it’s a mirage from the architect of the most devastating cuts to jobs and services in generations.”

As for Grahame Smith, STUC general secretary, he stressed that this “certainly wasn’t a budget for those who are looking for a job. The cuts in fuel duty and rise in income tax personal allowances are not nearly enough to offset the decline in real wages and falling household incomes brought about by the government’s own policies.

“Once again,” he said, “the budget made it crystal-clear that we are not ‘all in this together’. Corporations will benefit from substantial tax cuts as unemployment continues to rise. Those who caused the crisis draw large bonuses as ordinary workers suffer growing economic insecurity and inequality. It is difficult to envisage a budget less suited to the problems the country faces at this time”.

There is some concern about the impact on the North Sea oil sector. The chancellor said that the supplementary charge levied on profits from UK oil and gas production would increase at the end of the week from 20 per cent to 32 per cent, more than offseting a gradual in reduction in corporation tax over the next three years.

Oil specialists say this won’t have much of an impact on the UK’s two largest oil companies, BP and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, because they have both reduced their commitments in the North Sea. However, they argue that it will almost certainly affect many of the small and medium-sized firms that now operate in the area.

Small firms welcomed some of the chancellor’s promises, especially those on fuel duty and the amount of red tape. Andy Willox OBE, policy convenor of the Federation of Small Business in Scotland, claimed that “It is obvious that the chancellor has listened to the FSB regarding the cost of fuel, we look forward to seeing the price stabilise at the pump and, hopefully, drop. The key question is whether or not it will stabilise at a level sustainable for Scottish small businesses.”

He was particularly pleased by the moratorium on small business regulation, pointing out that 62 per cent of his members had seen the cost of red tape increase in the last four years, with three in ten calling it one of the main barriers to business success. “While some regulation originates north of the border, many of our members will be pleased with the chancellor’s announcement. While this moratorium is in place, is this not an opportune moment to ensure that all future regulation doesn’t tie our members in knots?”

There was however considerable disappointment in Scotland’s computer games industry which has gone through troubled times recently. Its trade body, TIGA, condemned the government’s failure to introduce games tax relief as a “dismal decision” which would leave the video games industry swimming against the tide internationally.

Dr Richard Wilson, the organisation’s chief executive, described it as showing “a complete lack of imagination. Our key competitors have tax breaks for games production. The UK does not. Competitor countries including Canada are surging ahead while the UK is struggling: between 2008 and 2010 the Canadian games industry grew by 33 per cent while the UK sector declined by 9 per cent.”

Dr Wilson pointed out that a games tax relief was supported by the Scottish government and had cross-party support at Westminster. He said the campaign for such a “crucial measure” would continue because it would “increase employment, investment and innovation in the UK video games sector. Over a five-year period, games tax relief would create or protect 9,519 direct and indirect jobs (including 3,366 jobs in the games industry), £431m investment in development expenditure and £394m in tax receipts to HM Treasury.”

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day

<em>Picture: Swim Parallel</em>

Picture: Swim Parallel

“They still don’t get it,” was turned from a cry of anguish into a tabloid slogan during the MPs’ expenses scandal.

“They still don’t get it,” screamed the papers as MP after MP refused to see they had done anything wrong.

Now let’s look at Scotland’s council workers and their decision to reject a 1.5 per cent pay deal over the next three years – one thing is clear: “they still don’t get it.”

By voting against the pay deal and holding out for more, Scotland’s council workers are voting themselves out of a job. There is a simple choice here for every council worker: accept a tiny pay increase for the next three years and endure harsh job cuts or wring a pay rise out of your employers and watch thousands of your colleagues – and maybe even yourself – thrown out of work.

The country is spending vast amounts more than it is earning. There is a debt the size and depth of Loch Ness in our finances. It has to be plugged. We have to start earning more money and spending less.

That means the vast amount we spend on our public services (the majority of which goes on wages) has to be cut. If not, tens of thousands of jobs will go, and go soon.

Any move to cut the wage bill will save jobs, it is simple as that and yet, according to the results of the ballot announced yesterday, our council workers just don’t get it.

They would rather hold out for more money and increase the wage bill than accept the gravity of the situation we are facing.

Three unions, the GMB, Unite and Unison have now all decided to reject a 1.5 per cent pay offer over three years. In the final ballot result, announced yesterday, Unison members rejected the pay off by 80 per cent to 20 per cent.

Interestingly, though, a total of 25,500 Unison members voted but 57,000 failed to respond. The union blamed the summer holidays for the low turnout but many of those members who didn’t bother to vote might regret that decision if the dispute escalates into industrial action by the autumn.

Instead of the 1.5 per cent on offer, Unison wants a one-year deal worth three per cent or £600, whichever is the greatest, plus a £7 minimum wage (the current level is £5.80 an hour except in Glasgow where it is £7).

Early forecasts suggest that meeting the unions’ demands would cost £100 million or at least 6,500 job cuts.

It is the job of a trade union to fight for better pay and conditions for its members. But there comes a time when any union has to weigh up the options and, faced with massive jobs losses or a pay rise, the unions have chosen the wrong one.

They wouldn’t accept that it is such a straight choice. They wouldn’t accept that there have to be job cuts. But they are wrong. There have to be job cuts and there will be job cuts. It is as simple and as brutal as that.

By holding out for more money, they are condemning more of their members to a future on the dole.

The argument that the unions have used to justify their demands for more money are based, in part, around the pay deals awarded to teachers and council chiefs.

Union officials have claimed that local authorities recently got a 2.5 per cent award and teachers got a 2.4 per cent rise.

They are right. These were wrong. They were totally unacceptable in the current climate and should never have been agreed. Even if they were part of long-term package agreements, those should have been torn up and thrown away. There is no way anybody in the public sector should be getting those sort of awards, particularly when those at the bottom are being offered very little.

But just because one set of awards was wrong doesn’t make it right for everybody else to believe they should get the same thing. That would make the situation even worse.

In England, a two-year public sector pay freeze is on its way. Those earning £21,000 or less will get an annual rise of £250. Everybody else will get nothing – which amounts to a real terms pay cut.

In Scotland, council workers were offered a better deal than that, one per cent this year followed by 0 per cent in 2011-12 and 0.5 per cent in 2012-13.

It obviously looked so paltry to Scotland’s council workers that they decided to reject it, despite the fact it is better than that offered to council workers in England and far better than many in the private sector – tens of thousands of whom have already lost their jobs in this recession and tens of thousands of others have had indefinite pay freezes (or even reductions) imposed by managers.

It really appears as if many council workers don’t know how good their pay and conditions are.

The last time I mentioned this, on that occasion to do with gold-plated public sector pensions, one public sector reader commented on the piece to say that he contributed a lot to his own pension: a whopping ten per cent.

Let me put that in perspective. If I, as someone self-employed in the private sector, want a pension, I have to pay for all of it. I have to contribute 100 per cent. Even when I was employed by a relatively generous private sector employer, I paid at least 50 per cent of my pension and often more. Ten per cent? Most people working in the private sector can’t even dream about such deals.

Public sector workers are now paid, on average, more than private sector employees. On average, they also enjoy more generous pension provision and more generous redundancy deals.

I don’t begrudge them these benefits, all I ask is that they recognise the advantages of the position they are in and, when asked to accept a minimal pay rise in times of absolute austerity, they should accept that they have to share some of the pain – alongside the private sector which has been suffering for the past two years.

One of the arguments that has been hammered around the public sector in the last couple of years has been this: “We didn’t cause the recession, the bankers did. Why should we have to suffer when it was all the fault of the bankers?”

Yes, the bankers did cause the recession but nobody is asking the public sector to suffer just for the bankers. The whole country is suffering, more than that, the private sector has taken such a huge hit over the past two years – just ask anyone in the construction industry – that is clear that everyone is suffering, everyone is being asked to shoulder a share of the pain.

What is wrong is to expect that one section of society should be exempt.

So, when it comes down to being offered a small pay deal which means a virtual pay cut, council workers should really think long and hard before rejecting it.

The alternative is job losses, tens of thousands of them.

Unison lead negotiator Dougie Black said yesterday: “Industrial action is one of a range of possible options we will be considering.”

Go ahead, take strike action, keep demanding unrealistic and ludicrously expensive pay deals: see what happens. You have already lost the support of the vast majority of ordinary those in the private sector, people who have either lost their jobs, been given pay freezes or endured pay cuts, people who have taken on extra, part-time jobs and cut back everywhere to make ends meet.

You have already lost their support and “you still don’t get it”.

Be my guest, vote for industrial action and I’ll see many, many more of you on the dole queues than would have been the case had you swallowed your pride and taken the sensible option.

<em>Picture: Swim Parallel</em>

Picture: Swim Parallel

“They still don’t get it,” was turned from a cry of anguish into a tabloid slogan during the MPs’ expenses scandal.

“They still don’t get it,” screamed the papers as MP after MP refused to see they had done anything wrong.

Now let’s look at Scotland’s council workers and their decision to reject a 1.5 per cent pay deal over the next three years – one thing is clear: “they still don’t get it.”

By voting against the pay deal and holding out for more, Scotland’s council workers are voting themselves out of a job. There is a simple choice here for every council worker: accept a tiny pay increase for the next three years and endure harsh job cuts or wring a pay rise out of your employers and watch thousands of your colleagues – and maybe even yourself – thrown out of work.

The country is spending vast amounts more than it is earning. There is a debt the size and depth of Loch Ness in our finances. It has to be plugged. We have to start earning more money and spending less.

That means the vast amount we spend on our public services (the majority of which goes on wages) has to be cut. If not, tens of thousands of jobs will go, and go soon.

Any move to cut the wage bill will save jobs, it is simple as that and yet, according to the results of the ballot announced yesterday, our council workers just don’t get it.

They would rather hold out for more money and increase the wage bill than accept the gravity of the situation we are facing.

Three unions, the GMB, Unite and Unison have now all decided to reject a 1.5 per cent pay offer over three years. In the final ballot result, announced yesterday, Unison members rejected the pay off by 80 per cent to 20 per cent.

Interestingly, though, a total of 25,500 Unison members voted but 57,000 failed to respond. The union blamed the summer holidays for the low turnout but many of those members who didn’t bother to vote might regret that decision if the dispute escalates into industrial action by the autumn.

Instead of the 1.5 per cent on offer, Unison wants a one-year deal worth three per cent or £600, whichever is the greatest, plus a £7 minimum wage (the current level is £5.80 an hour except in Glasgow where it is £7).

Early forecasts suggest that meeting the unions’ demands would cost £100 million or at least 6,500 job cuts.

It is the job of a trade union to fight for better pay and conditions for its members. But there comes a time when any union has to weigh up the options and, faced with massive jobs losses or a pay rise, the unions have chosen the wrong one.

They wouldn’t accept that it is such a straight choice. They wouldn’t accept that there have to be job cuts. But they are wrong. There have to be job cuts and there will be job cuts. It is as simple and as brutal as that.

By holding out for more money, they are condemning more of their members to a future on the dole.

The argument that the unions have used to justify their demands for more money are based, in part, around the pay deals awarded to teachers and council chiefs.

Union officials have claimed that local authorities recently got a 2.5 per cent award and teachers got a 2.4 per cent rise.

They are right. These were wrong. They were totally unacceptable in the current climate and should never have been agreed. Even if they were part of long-term package agreements, those should have been torn up and thrown away. There is no way anybody in the public sector should be getting those sort of awards, particularly when those at the bottom are being offered very little.

But just because one set of awards was wrong doesn’t make it right for everybody else to believe they should get the same thing. That would make the situation even worse.

In England, a two-year public sector pay freeze is on its way. Those earning £21,000 or less will get an annual rise of £250. Everybody else will get nothing – which amounts to a real terms pay cut.

In Scotland, council workers were offered a better deal than that, one per cent this year followed by 0 per cent in 2011-12 and 0.5 per cent in 2012-13.

It obviously looked so paltry to Scotland’s council workers that they decided to reject it, despite the fact it is better than that offered to council workers in England and far better than many in the private sector – tens of thousands of whom have already lost their jobs in this recession and tens of thousands of others have had indefinite pay freezes (or even reductions) imposed by managers.

It really appears as if many council workers don’t know how good their pay and conditions are.

The last time I mentioned this, on that occasion to do with gold-plated public sector pensions, one public sector reader commented on the piece to say that he contributed a lot to his own pension: a whopping ten per cent.

Let me put that in perspective. If I, as someone self-employed in the private sector, want a pension, I have to pay for all of it. I have to contribute 100 per cent. Even when I was employed by a relatively generous private sector employer, I paid at least 50 per cent of my pension and often more. Ten per cent? Most people working in the private sector can’t even dream about such deals.

Public sector workers are now paid, on average, more than private sector employees. On average, they also enjoy more generous pension provision and more generous redundancy deals.

I don’t begrudge them these benefits, all I ask is that they recognise the advantages of the position they are in and, when asked to accept a minimal pay rise in times of absolute austerity, they should accept that they have to share some of the pain – alongside the private sector which has been suffering for the past two years.

One of the arguments that has been hammered around the public sector in the last couple of years has been this: “We didn’t cause the recession, the bankers did. Why should we have to suffer when it was all the fault of the bankers?”

Yes, the bankers did cause the recession but nobody is asking the public sector to suffer just for the bankers. The whole country is suffering, more than that, the private sector has taken such a huge hit over the past two years – just ask anyone in the construction industry – that is clear that everyone is suffering, everyone is being asked to shoulder a share of the pain.

What is wrong is to expect that one section of society should be exempt.

So, when it comes down to being offered a small pay deal which means a virtual pay cut, council workers should really think long and hard before rejecting it.

The alternative is job losses, tens of thousands of them.

Unison lead negotiator Dougie Black said yesterday: “Industrial action is one of a range of possible options we will be considering.”

Go ahead, take strike action, keep demanding unrealistic and ludicrously expensive pay deals: see what happens. You have already lost the support of the vast majority of ordinary those in the private sector, people who have either lost their jobs, been given pay freezes or endured pay cuts, people who have taken on extra, part-time jobs and cut back everywhere to make ends meet.

You have already lost their support and “you still don’t get it”.

Be my guest, vote for industrial action and I’ll see many, many more of you on the dole queues than would have been the case had you swallowed your pride and taken the sensible option.

Ed Miliband. <em>Picture: Christian Guthier</em>

Ed Miliband. Picture: Christian Guthier

During the height of the 1999 Scottish election campaign, Donald Dewar was under pressure over persistent rumours that he wasn’t really running the campaign, the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was.

Dewar denied it and the story faded away until a group of hacks bumped into a young man coming out of Labour’s Glasgow headquarters one evening.

“Hi, I’m Ed Miliband, I work for Gordon Brown,” he said and that was that. From then on, the Labour campaign was characterised in the press as the “London-Labour” or “Brown-controlled” campaign.

The younger Miliband has clearly learned a great deal from that episode. Last weekend he came to Scotland and promised more autonomy for the Scottish Labour Party. London Labour should adopt a “hand’s off” approach to Scotland and let the Scottish party run its own affairs.

For the person who was ostensibly sent north to help run the 1999 campaign, that was some move.

It has also helped explain why the Ed Miliband bandwagon is gathering momentum in Scotland, particularly among the MSPs.

Some MSPs, like David Whitton, remember Ed Miliband from 1999 and were so impressed with his work, his analysis and his approach to politics from then that they are keen supporters of him to this day.

Others have seen how he has changed and adapted and taken on board the lessons he learned from his Scottish experience 11 years ago and is now clearly aware of the different dynamics in Scotland.

But there is another, far more fundamental, reason why Ed Miliband is edging ahead of his rivals in Scotland: he speaks the right language, the Labour language.

John Park, seen by many as a future leader of the Scottish Labour Party, is another Ed Miliband supporter and he believes Ed Miliband’s willingness to speak out strongly in more Old Labour terms is striking a chord with many in Scottish Labour.

Most Labour MSPs are still keeping their voting intentions to themselves but, of the dozen or so who are willing to declare their favoured candidate, seven support Ed Miliband with four backing his brother David and two supporting Andy Burnham. At the last count, there were none prepared to publicly support either Diane Abbott or Ed Balls.

Part of this strong support for Ed MIliband comes from his slightly “Old Labour” credentials. He is not defiantly Left-wing, like Ms Abbott, nor is he stridently union-backed, like Mr Balls. Ed Miliband is seen as a traditional, solid Labour politician of the sort Scots like.

There is more to it, too, though. The Blairite-Brownite axis still cuts through the Labour Party despite the departure of its eponymous leaders. As a result, David Miliband is seen by many as the Blairite candidate and Mr Balls as the Brownite candidate – something which is not helped by the Charlie Whelan/Unite backing Mr Balls is expected to receive.

Ed Miliband is not viewed through this filter at all so comes across as fresh and untarnished.

The one problem for Ed Miliband was his performance at the Scottish hustings event last Sunday. Even his supporters admit that he appeared hesitant, slightly uneasy and not as confident as his rivals. And with many Labour members in Scotland – and MSPs – still undecided, that cannot have helped.

There is, though, a tale his supporters are keen to relate which comes from the problematic Copenhagen climate change conference last year. It was 2am in the morning and the whole conference was on the verge of meltdown. All the NGOs and environmental groups were about to walk out. Somebody roused Ed Miliband from his bed. He spoke to the groups concerned and such was his passion, eloquence and commitment, they all stayed and got involved again. The conference may not have resulted in the sort-of landmark deal they wanted, but Ed Miliband’s supporters use that example to show that their man does have the leadership and debating skills necessary – even if he does not show them as readily as his brother.

He also has two other, important, factors in his favour. The first is that there is still a long way to go before the election itself.

One senior figure in Scottish Labour admitted that there was now a “caucus” on the Labour corridor at Holyrood actively pushing Ed Miliband’s chances. Even those who want Mr Burnham to succeed admit quietly they may now back Ed Miliband to prevent his brother getting the leadership.

This form of politics, building a caucus that works behind the scenes to persuade, cajole and generate support, is the sort of politics Labour members are used to but the one now growing in support of the younger Miliband is stronger, more influential and better organised than any other, particularly that for David Miliband – despite his high-profile visit to the parliament last week.

A long run-in to the leadership election will work in Ed Miliband’s favour because he supporters will use that time to build a body of backers inside the Scottish Parliament and beyond.

The second factor is the complexity of the Labour leadership contest itself. The use of single transferable vote to decide the outcome makes it more likely that the eventual winner will come from the middle of the pack.

The system has only been used twice before and only on one of these occasions was it used for the sort of widely spread field we have now, and that was the Deputy Leadership election in 2007.

Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson were in second and third place after the first round and Ms Harman never got higher than second place – until after the final allocation of the last set of transferable votes, when she emerged on top.

This means that huge importance will be placed on the ability of candidates to secure second choice support from Labour members. The Ed Miliband camp will hope to pick up second choice votes from both David Miliband and Mr Balls so that, even if their man comes third in the first round, he might be able to edge ahead because of the transfers.

There is also the Abbott factor to consider. David Miliband’s decision to give her the vital nomination allowing her to enter the contest is being widely seen as astute, because it was expected to rob his nearest rivals of vital left-wing support.

But David Miliband could end up suffering too. There may be many Labour Party members out there – particularly women, members of ethnic minorities and members who still harbour a desire for radicalism – who would have backed David Miliband as their second choice but who will now give their second-choice vote to Ms Abbott.

The only certainty at this stage is that this leadership election will come down to second and third preferences. The winning candidate will need enough first-choice votes to get a solid start then more second and third choices than their rivals.

To do that, the winning candidate has to be able to secure widespread support across the party and not alienate anybody. If you listen to Ed Miliband’s supporters at Holyrood, they certainly believe their man has both of these qualities. It will be a fascinating race.