Thursday, July 16, 2015

Could commendable challenger Corbyn conceivably clinch the crown?

Without in any way wanting to "do a Lovatt", I thought it might be interesting to have a quick look at the latest Labour leadership odds on the Betfair exchange...

Andy Burnham : Evens
Yvette Cooper : 16/5
Jeremy Corbyn : 4/1
Liz Kendall : 14/1

Basically what's happened is that Corbyn and Kendall have swapped over, with Kendall now occupying Corbyn's previous role as the oddball outsider.

I think those odds probably represent quite a rational reaction to the reports of private polling that supposedly shows Corbyn in a clear lead.  Obviously he has a better chance than we once thought, but given that the private polls were commissioned by his opponents, you do have to question the motivation for leaking them, and whether they've been reported accurately.  And even if these had been public polls, there would still be a big question mark, because it's notoriously hard to poll internal party elections.  Does a Corbyn lead pass the "smell test"?  Is it really likely that a party membership with a recent track record of voting for out-and-out Blairite leadership candidates would suddenly plump for an MP to the left of Michael Foot?

Ironically, the fact that Kendall seems to be crashing and burning could be a big additional hurdle for Corbyn.  There are probably supporters of both Burnham and Cooper who loathe Blairism sufficiently that they will give Corbyn a higher ranking than Kendall, which might help Corbyn over the line if the final "instant run-off" is between the candidates from the two extremes. But if it boils down to a  Burnham v Corbyn contest, which seems much more plausible, Corbyn will be receiving a negligible amount of transfers from Kendall's supporters.

If by any remote chance Corbyn does win, what would be the consequences?  Firstly there would be utter pandemonium - it would be one of the biggest upsets in British politics for decades, perhaps rivalled only by Scottish Labour's wipeout this year.  We can be pretty sure that the Labour right wouldn't simply reconcile themselves to the result, although in contrast to the early 80s they wouldn't be able to pray in aid a gerrymandered voting system.  Probably their tactic would be to bide their time for a year or two, and then start darkly hinting that it isn't tenable for a party leader - even one with a clear mandate from members and supporters - to remain in office without the support of the parliamentary party.  If that didn't work, we'd then be looking at an SDP-style breakaway, but perhaps on a much bigger scale.  It would be interesting to see what the rebels call themselves, though - they can't really be the Social Democratic Party this time (it wouldn't be true anyway).  Maybe they'd plump for the Hard-Edged Compassion Party, in tribute to their spiritual overlord.

Final thought : it isn't actually irrational that people are thinking of voting for Corbyn.  Setting aside ideology, he's quite simply the most impressive of the four candidates.  This is the sort of thing that happens when someone as uninspiring and dreary as Andy Burnham somehow emerges as the frontrunner to become Leader of the Opposition.

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Public Service Announcement : The new Liberal Democrat leader will be revealed today.  You can probably be forgiven if you weren't aware of that (I must admit I'd almost forgotten).


  1. England needs a Left Wing Party - Corbyn as leader of Labour would be good for them.

    It would perhaps slow down the route to Independence for us here but I would gladly wait a wee bit longer if I thought the poor, unemployed & disabled actually had someone who was prepared to stand up for them.

    1. I'm not sure it would slow down things, Geoff. That horse has already bolted IMO. I do agree that it would be very good to have a Labour leader actually standing up for the least fortunate in society, something that no Labour leader has done for nigh 30 years.

  2. I seem to recall Jeremy saying at the start of the campaign he was in this to broaden the policy debate? Subtitle: I don't want to be leader. Has he really changed his mind?

    1. I suspect it was more that he didn't expect to be elected rather than he didn't want to. Also it might well be that some of those MPs who nominated him might have been less keen if they thought he actually had a chance. Of course the disconect that implies between Labour MPs and those they represent is revealing.

      There was an interesting piece in the New Statesman yesterday which claimed that two 'private polls' showed Corbyn was actually ahead on the first round. In particular those members who have joined during or since the election (maybe 50,000) plus Labour supporters who have also registered (perhaps 50,000 - 30,000 from UNITE alone) may be heavily biased towards Corbyn. Given that Labour's membership was static at around 190,000 for four years, these new people may well have an unpredictable effect on the result.

  3. A new name for breakaway Blairites? Try the "Cabal of Unprincipled Nauseating Troughers" Party

  4. Party insiders say Corbyn musnt win as the right wing English media will monster him. Well, they've been doing the same to the SNP for years, and it doesn't seem to have had much effect.

    1. There is a way, but Labour no longer do grass roots campaigns. They ain't social media savy either. Unless they get up to speed and learn how to outflank the tory press, the Labour left have no chance in England.

  5. New TNS Scottish poll - basically unchanged on last month. Usual long lead time for their poll (conducted June 19th - July 8th).


    SNP 60% =
    Lab 20% +1
    Con 14% -1
    Lib 5% +2
    Other 2% -1


    SNP 51% +1
    Lab 21% +2
    Con 13% -1
    Grn 7% -3
    Lib 5% =

    1. Pre-nastiest budget to date from the Tories too, as per Survation for the DM.

  6. "Is it really likely that a party membership with a recent track record of voting for out-and-out Blairite leadership candidates would suddenly plump for an MP to the left of Michael Foot?"

    I'm not sure that's sound analysis. Surely Ed Milliband was seen as less Blairite than his brother?

    1. The party membership voted for David Miliband, not Ed Miliband. That's the point I was making. They also voted for Jim Murphy.

    2. Didn't David win the members' vote, though? Which this time is all there is.

  7. Isn't Corbyn the only anti-austerity candidate - he's certainly the only one who put in an appearance at the anti-austerity demos recently. And the fact that the MSM are all gunning for him suggests he might be the right man for the job.

    As for the Libdems, does it matter who's captain of the Titanic?

  8. Corbyn is the only candidate imo who has the ability and political approach to rejuvenate the Labour movement in the UK, certainly in England, not sure what effect he would have on Scotland. The rest are really Tory lite/New Labour types. Kendall is going to get put out. Cooper and Burnham are uninspiring New Labour drones.

  9. I suspect Corbyn is what Mhairi might define as a "signpost" candidate. I hope he wins. The Tories need a party in England with sufficient weight to give good opposition, and the working poor, unemployed and other disadvantaged groups need a party to represent them.

  10. I would love him to lead the labour party, at last a 'signpost not a weathercock'. Real opposition is what we need. But I would worry that he would win back support for labour and away from SNP.

  11. If Corbyn wins, the red will start to creep back into the political map of Scotland but will all but disappear from most of England. Suits me.

    I wonder if Kezia Dugdale will just fall into line with a Corbyn leadership, happy to attack the SNP from the left for once? Or will she put up a defence of centrism and moderation within the Scottish wing of the party?

    One would think the first option would be the easier of the two and more instantly rewarding.

    I now believe Corbyn is a dead cert for labour leader. The Blairite old guard have threatened to topple him if it happens. It's an empty threat. Labour don't do regicide. Ever.

    2020 signed, sealed, delivered, in the bag for the tories.