Burnham has won the affection of trade unions and Labour’s rank and file by championing the National Health Service in emotional terms. He won rousing applause at Labour conference by promising to “complete Nye Bevan’s vision” and “put people before profit”. The Tories repeatedly point out that he was the Health Secretary during the Mid Staffs scandal and the New Labour era of increased marketisation. Unite boss Len McCluskey say he is the “person that impresses me most”.
His dogged campaigning on the Hillsborough tragedy has won admiration across Parliament.
Shadow Home Secretary, 45, MP for Pontefract and Castleford
Regarded as the Shadow Cabinet’s most effective performer at the Despatch Box who regularly matches Theresa May. In any contest she would have the mighty machine of Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor and her husband. She is the only candidate with comparable reach into the union movement as Mr Burnham.
Former Home Secretary, 64, MP for Kingston upon Hull
The unity candidate to steer Labour out its darkest hour, the former postman is everything Mr Miliband is not: experienced, at ease, popular with the backbenches and with a compelling life story. His self-deprecating joke about buying a copy of Economics for Dummies when handed the shadow chancellor brief in 2010 gave ammunition to the Tories. Shadow Cabinet sources say his position in recent weeks has shifted from “no way” to “no, but…”.
Shadow business secretary, 36, MP for Streatham
A former City lawyer and disciple of Lord Mandelson, he is one of the few members of the shadow cabinet who can put big business at ease. He wants Labour to talk again about aspiration, and said he could send his children to private school. He has delighted Labour activists, and rebutted critics who say he is overly smooth, by breaking with the silent shadow cabinet to denounce Ukip as vile racists.
Shadow welfare secretary, 35, MP for Leeds West
A former UK junior chess champion and Bank of England economist, her rise has been meteoric, entering Mr Miliband’s shadow cabinet 18 months after her election. She has assiduously built up a base in the party, sending congratulatory letters to every Labour candidate selected. One TV producer dismissed her as “boring-snoring”.