Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Either YouGov is completely wrong (again), or Jeremy Corbyn has at least a 50/50 chance of becoming Labour leader

I was extremely sceptical about the reports a few days ago that "private polls" were supposedly showing Jeremy Corbyn in the lead, because it seemed to me that one or more of his opponents might have been leaking half-true information to suit their own agendas.  However, it's much harder to maintain that scepticism now that we have detailed numbers from a public poll telling much the same tale.  Bucket-loads of caution still need to be applied, because internal party elections are notoriously hard to poll accurately, and it could be that the greater enthusiasm of Corbyn's supporters is skewing the results.  But there's no getting away from it - unless YouGov are way out, Corbyn is clearly in with a genuine shout, and that's an extraordinary enough story to be getting on with.

YouGov poll of Labour members and supporters (17th-21st July)

First preferences :

Jeremy Corbyn 43%
Andy Burnham 26%
Yvette Cooper 20%
Liz Kendall 11%

Final run-off :

Jeremy Corbyn 53%
Andy Burnham 47%

I'm going to be very interested to learn more about the methodology used for this poll.  The most obvious question is whether YouGov have been able to interview people who definitely have a vote in the leadership election, or whether the sample is compromised by the inclusion of people who are Labour "supporters", but not registered supporters who have actually paid the token £3 fee.

I'll also be looking to see whether YouGov asked every respondent for an exhaustive list of preferences, or whether they just tested each hypothetical run-off result.  The latter approach would be much less robust than the former.  There was speculation on LabourList the other day that Liz Kendall's second preferences were breaking decisively for Yvette Cooper, and if there's any truth in that, you'd think it might be quite close between Cooper and Burnham for the second place in the run-off, in spite of Burnham's 6% advantage on first preferences.  LabourList also suggested that the second preferences of Burnham supporters seemed to be fairly evenly split between Cooper and Corbyn, whereas Cooper's supporters were breaking heavily for Burnham.  If that's right, Corbyn should be praying that his final opponent is Cooper, because otherwise he won't be getting any of the transfers from Burnham.

Long-term readers of this blog might recall that I was bemused by an article that billed the 2012 Greek general election as "the most important election ever".  I thought that was pushing it slightly, given that an election in Germany in the 1930s led directly to the most catastrophic conflict in human history, and to the extermination of six million Jews.  The Labour leadership election isn't the most important election in history either, but if the result is as finely-balanced as YouGov are suggesting, we're faced with the startling prospect of a relatively small number of voters holding the political destiny of the UK in their hands over the coming weeks.  There are no nuanced outcomes in a leadership race - it's winner-takes-all, and the difference between a Burnham win and a Corbyn win is unimaginably huge.

What we don't know, however, is in exactly what way Labour members and supporters may be shaping our destiny, because the consequences of Corbyn emerging as leader are so hard to predict.  Is there any chance at all that the various factions of the party could hold their noses and unite behind him, perhaps at the cost of a Frankenstein "Dream Team" Shadow Cabinet featuring Blairites in senior positions?  That seems unlikely to me, but if it did happen it could be the nightmare outcome for the SNP, because a viable Corbyn leadership might just get Labour back into the game in Scotland.  More plausibly, will Corbyn be deposed?  If so, will the leadership election be re-run with a broader range of candidates, perhaps including someone who - unlike Andy Burnham - actually looks like a potential alternative Prime Minister?  Or will Corbyn stay in harness, but suffer an SDP-style breakaway?  Would it be a big or a small breakaway?  Might the new party follow the precedent set by the SDP and go into alliance with the Lib Dems?  Would that be an unequal marriage?  Could Tim Farron find himself swallowed up before he even has a chance to get comfy in his chair?

So many questions, and almost no answers at this stage - other than to say that if Corbyn wins, all bets are well and truly off.

Final thought : There are a number of right-wing journalists who seem to think that the Labour rank-and-file has taken leave of its senses, and that a Corbyn victory would be the most insane outcome to a leadership election in modern British history.  Can I just gently remind them that in 2001, Iain Duncan Smith defeated Ken Clarke for the leadership of the Conservative party.  I'll just say that again to let it sink in - IAIN DUNCAN SMITH defeated KEN CLARKE.  Until someone invents a time machine and erases that mind-boggling event from history, I think we can safely say that Jeremy Corbyn defeating the dismal Andy Burnham would not be the most irrational result in recent times.


  1. Well that would certainly stir things up a bit. Maybe they'd even turn out and actually feckin vote for something positive once in a while too.

  2. Can't agree that Corbyn victory would be a nightmare for SNP (my party). It would give us the alliance in England we need - good for Scotland too to have a left-wing Labour UK leader. Your line of reasoning reminiscent of 'we'd prefer Tories cos it hastens indy' - bollocks unless you're just a tactical nerd and have no heart - people are suffering; stopping that with a broad political alliance is the most important task, not tactics. Don't sweat the party stuff - look to what really matters!

    1. Oh, go away. My tolerance for that kind of stupid comment is rapidly diminishing.

    2. James I am surprised by this reaction - please say why you think this comment is stupid. I have always admired your preference for reason and rejection of abusive responses...

    3. Oh wonderful. It's apparently perfectly OK for an anonymous commenter to say that I'm either talking "bollocks" or that I'm a "tactical nerd with no heart", but if I describe that comment as stupid, suddenly I'm being "abusive".

      No. Not going to wash.

    4. OK I'm sorry my original comment was too strongly-worded; the terms used were not meant personally. I am genuinely interested in why you think a Corbyn victory in whatever form would be a nightmare for the SNP. Wouldn't it increase the chances of a progressive alliance, currently impossible with a right-wing Labour party, which could only help Scotland? Please accept my apology - I admire your blog tremendously!

    5. You're zeroing in on what was practically a throwaway line in the middle of a long paragraph, and talking as if it was the central thrust of the whole blogpost. Regardless of whether a more constructive relationship with Labour is a good thing in itself, I presume we can agree on the fact that the SNP will be aiming to win the election next year, and will be bitterly disappointed if they fail to do so. In that sense it would be a nightmare. Kezia Dugdale as First Minister would be a sub-optimal outcome.

      In any case, it's very much an open question whether a Corbyn victory would lead to the alleviation of suffering - the last time Labour drifted to the left, it brought about the SDP split, which helped the Tories stay in power for eighteen years. An alternative scenario is that Corbyn is quickly deposed and replaced by a "moderate" who didn't even stand in the current contest (like Umunna or Jarvis).

  3. Corbyn is good news for the SNP. Labour will lose seats in England and Wales at the next election if he were to become leader and the Tories will increase their majority. The prospect of a non-Tory UK government would fade into the far distance. That's one of the key pieces of the jigsaw needed to win a second referendum. It may mean waiting a couple of years longer than some would want, but it would make the final result a lot more certain.

  4. I'm no conspiracy theorist, although I'm nowhere near as skeptical than I was a year or two ago, but I can't believe Corbyn will be allowed to win under any circumstances.

    The feeding frenzy of the right wing media (note the upcoming speech by Blair, to warn the party against a swing to the left) shouting loony lefties and irresponsible spending will terrify the blairites.

  5. Many people in England were looking to what happened in Scotland, the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon and, at least I got the impression, thought we could do that.
    (Add in Osborne's budget and the lack of opposition from Labour.)
    But there is a problem for Corbyn in that; Nicola Sturgeon is a proven leader and we've known her for a long time. Anybody who see her in action can vouch for her leadership abilities. The SNP party is absolutely behind her, and she carries a very large following and popularity across the country.
    This is not the case for Corbyn. The Labour party is divided.
    The Tories were in power before the GE, they showed what they were going to do by their actions before the GE.
    Yet still people didn't flock to Labour. Labour voters who went to UKIP did so because of immigration issues, at least the people I talked to in Doncaster thought that way, so Corbyn isn't going to satisfy that.

  6. Vince Diaz: Hi James. Have you seen this?


    Vince Diaz

  7. Iain Duncan Smith defeated Ken Clarke. My all-time boggle is that John Major defeated Michael Heseltine.

  8. It would be refreshing if he won, I'd hope it would awaken the mass of voters that no longer bother to vote in England as well, he would be something to vote for and give England something to think about, which can only be good.

    1. Well yeah but that would actually take some hard work chalks and the top of the Labour party is still looks liek it's being run by an Islington dinner party set hopelessly out of touch with the real world.

      The truth is most of the Blairites and Brownites are just very lazy indeed and would run a mile from a five year long grass-roots focused campaign of public engagement. Their amusing westmisnter bubble advisors and cheerleaders charge by the column inch remember. (Speaking of moneygrubbbers, the incompetent fop thinks Jack Straw is the ideal man to jointly head a Freedom of Information review after his public disgrace and corruption. Not a joke!)

      The Blairites and Browintes didn't actually have any over-riding principles to fight over. Their's was and is a simple battle for power with minute differences in triangulation which barely cloaked that more basic clash of personalities.

      So Corbyn would be faced with the rage and dirty tricks from the two Labour groupings we know for a fact don't give a shit about party unity or have the slightest qualm about anti-democratic practices.

      True, the public doesn't care about the right-wing press any more, but the Blairites and Browinets do. They would spend all their time on the BBC and elsewhere undermining Corbyn because it's about the only thing they know how to do. Plots would be hatched and the PLP would go back to it's usual state of internecine warfare. Just like 'scottish' Labour was before they were annhilated.

      It's also amusing how fast the Blairites had to dump the pitiful Kendall and switch their support elsewhere after she showed herself to be about as toxic to the voters as Clegg was.

  9. I would like to see Corbyn win. If only to see the New Labour fan club and the MSM self combust at the same time...

    1. The westminster bubble twits are already in a state of amusing hysteria.

      Just today Blair has somehow found the time - between charging £330,000 for a 20 min speech on world hunger - to weigh in on Corbyn while attacking 60% of the scottish electorate with Pouter level insults and stupidity.

      Corbyn did have an excellent riposte for the most avaricious, unprincipled and corrupt PM of modern times. Pointing out that the Sanited Tony was likely getting worried about a certain Chilcot Report.

      Just as remarkable is the complete memory loss from the westmisnter bubble over the Blair Brown infighting as they stand about hilariously denouncing Corbyn for causing a split in Labour. Newsflash fuckwits, the Blairites NEVER stopped and indeed were briefing against little Ed from the beginning to the very end of his tenure. It was little Ed's weakness in giving in to them that kept them coming back again and again and again. It was also that weakness and ineffectual manner that made little Ed such a laughing stock to the public.

      We've only just experienced how 'effective' the uber-Blairite Murphy was with the electorate - so you'll forgive us for laughing very hard indeed at the out of touch pronouncements of those who thought we "feared" Murphy and how great an ultra-Blairite would be for Labour.

      #MorePandasthanLabourMPs :-D

    2. John McTernan was actually on Newsnight describing MPs who nominated Corbyn as "morons" who don't know how to win elections. The man's brass neck must be visible from Pluto.

    3. McTernan should not be allowed anywhere near a TV studio. Mind you, Rifkind and Straw are still commenting on politics in the UK, just a short while after disgracing themselves, so maybe we should all encourage poor old John McTernan to continue in the same vein!

  10. Corbyn's said stuff which gives the distinct impression that he doesn't actually want the leadership:

    "We had a discussion among a group of us on the left about how we might influence future developments of the party. All of us felt the leadership contest was not a good idea – there should have been a policy debate first. There wasn’t, so we decided somebody should put their hat in the ring in order to promote that debate. And, unfortunately, it’s my hat in the ring."

    I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing in a potential PM.

  11. Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me Keaton. Not wanting power is an excellent indicator of being less likely to abuse it, if he should get that far.

  12. Should Corbyn become labour leader, two things will happen.

    1) Labour will surge back into contention again in Scotland.

    2) Labour will be annihilated in England.

    So, as a unionist and conservative, I'm all for a Corbyn leadership of labour.

    I may even sign up, pay the 3 quid and vote for him!