Labour Uncut's editor Atul Hatwal was a constant source of light relief for me in the days leading up to the general election. He was absolutely convinced he could see signs of recovery for Scottish Labour, mainly because Murphy and co kept saying fatuous things like "nationalism never built a hospital", which we were invited to believe was really cutting through on the doorstep. (Blairism has never built a hospital either, because ideologies don't construct buildings. But nationalist and Blairite governments have both built hospitals, so quite what the soundbite was getting at is a bit of a mystery.)
Atul's latest understated claim is that he knows for a fact that the YouGov poll showing Jeremy Corbyn in the lead is embarrassingly wrong, and that Corbyn will in fact finish a poor fourth, as originally expected. Apparently the Labour membership is just like everyone else, with a "silent majority" that worships quietly at Alan Milburn shrines but never speaks to pollsters. Well, possibly, but I think what Atul has got to answer is this : if the loudmouth Labour members within the YouGov polling panel are so hopelessly skewed towards the traditional left, why didn't the YouGov polls in 2010 show Diane Abbott way in the lead? It's true that those polls did overestimate Abbott, but only very, very slightly. In fact, the second poll correctly showed her in overall fifth place in the electoral college.
It's quite likely that today's poll will turn out to be somewhat wrong in one respect or another, and in any case it's only a snapshot, rather than a prediction. But the degree of error that Atul is expecting is simply beyond the realms of all credibility. I very rarely commit to firm predictions on this blog, but I'll make an exception tonight - based on the information we have, I will be absolutely astonished if Corbyn doesn't finish at least third. Even with the possibility of severe polling errors, and even with the possibility that the Corbyn surge will fade as the election gets underway for real, the gap between him and Liz Kendall is just too enormous for there to be any real risk of him finishing fourth.
* * *
One of the defences of the UK's indefensible voting system is that we don't need coalition governments, because the two "main" parties are coalitions anyway. As the current leadership contest is demonstrating, Labour is certainly a very broad church, but I'm not sure it can reasonably be called a functional coalition if one of the major factions is perpetually marginalised and treated with absolute contempt. Coalition depends on "mutual respect", to use Luke Akehurst's phrase, but what the tactical nominations for Jeremy Corbyn have eventually demonstrated, ironically, is that the "mainstream" of the party has no respect for the left whatever. Oh sure, it's advantageous to make a big show of having respect as long as the left does its duty by losing the argument and then doing the party's donkey-work for the next five years, but as soon as they show any sign that they might conceivably win or have influence, anyone whose fake respect helped give them a fair chance is suddenly a self-confessed "moron". What sort of coalition is it where Liz Kendall is incredulous that someone might suggest, even as a "joke", that an MP from the left could be given a seat in the Shadow Cabinet?
When people can't trust each other with power (even when that power is demonstrably won fair and square by winning the argument in an open election), they shouldn't be in the same coalition, let alone the same party. It's a tell-tale sign that the Big Tent has been stretched beyond its natural limit. The rational course of action might be to stick together long enough to get into office and then immediately introduce PR, so that an amicable divorce wouldn't lead to perpetual Tory rule. But the other thing about the current voting system is that it tends to discourage rationality.