Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Labour Pains

What is likely to be the result of the Labour Leadership election?

Polls – possibly based on slightly shaky sampling – seem to be predicting Jeremy Corbyn as being the first round winner. Whether he gets the required outright majority to win on the first count is less clear.

Ideally the result should be clear-cut.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins outright it is likely that he will win by a clear margin over the second place candidate – probably Andy Burnham. With a first round victory we do not get to know the impact of second and third preferences, so the margin will flatter Jeremy Corbyn.

It becomes more problematic if he does not win outright because that is when the Alternative Vote mechanism kicks in. In this case it might allow a non-Corbyn candidate to gain a majority – which would seem a legitimate democratic opportunity.

In effect this allows support to coalesce around a compromise candidate as the bottom place candidates are knocked out.

Most of the polls seem to be agreed about at least the order of the first count result:

  1. Corbyn
  2. Burnham
  3. Cooper
  4. Kendall

This order follows the generally accepted evaluation of the candidates’ positions on the left-right spectrum.

How Liz Kendall’s supporters are likely to move probably depends on one of three factors:

  1. Political positioning – which would favour Yvette Cooper over Andy Burnham
  2. Gender – which again favours Yvette Cooper
  3. Electability – this may possibly favour Andy Burnham but would require Liz Kendall’s supporters to drastically modify their views about electability (presumably they view Liz Kendall as electable)

Liz Kendall’s supporters – if they express second preferences – are therefore more likely to move to Yvette Cooper than to Andy Burnham. Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to gain many second preferences from Liz Kendall’s supporters.

The consequence of this is that it is unlikely that either Jeremy Corbyn or Andy Burnham will gain enough votes from Liz Kendall’s supporters to win on the second round. Consequently this election – if not decided at the first count – will go all the way with a close final result.

The critical question then is whether Liz Kendall’s second preferences allow Yvette Cooper to overhaul Andy Burnham, because this determines who gets eliminated next and have their supporters votes redistributed.

If Yvette Cooper fails to overhaul Andy Burnham, her supporter’s votes will be redistributed (if further preferences have been expressed). And it is likely that they will go overwhelmingly to Andy Burnham in preference to Jeremy Corbyn – giving Andy Burnham a narrow win over Jeremy Corbyn.

If Yvette Cooper overhauls Andy Burnham, it is then Andy Burnham’s supporters whose votes get redistributed – and they are more likely to split between Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn. Given that Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be just short of a majority, this could give Jeremy Corbyn a narrow win over Yvette Cooper.

So on the above basis the most likely results are:

  • Clear first round win by Jeremy Corbyn, or
  • Narrow third round win by Andy Burnham over Jeremy Corbyn, or
  • Narrow third round win by Jeremy Corbyn over Yvette Cooper.

This is dependent on the following assumptions:

  1. Jeremy Corbyn achieving a majority or being close to one at the first count.
  2. Liz Kendall’s support going mainly to Yvette Cooper
  3. Yvette Cooper’s support (after Liz Kendall’s elimination) going mainly to Andy Burnham
  4. Andy Burnham’s support (after Liz Kendall’s elimination) being split mainly to Yvette Cooper but critically partly to Jeremy Corbyn.

Any of the above results are unfortunately problematic for Labour.

A clear first round victory for Jeremy Corbyn will cause problems with the Parliamentary Party.

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to use the backing of party members to force Labour MPs to support his agenda if he is elected leader.

Calling for “real democracy”, the left-winger said MPs should not “stand in the way” of “empowering party members”.
BBC News Website 20 August 2015 : Labour leadership: Party needs ‘real democracy’, says Corbyn

A Labour for the Common Good group has been formed as a potential resistance faction against a Corbyn leadership. A split between the Parliamentary party and the “party in the country” is a recipe for division.

A narrow win by Andy Burnham, whilst being a relief to the “Labour Establishment” will cause real disappointment on the left. This may be of the same order as the feared disappointment if Barack Obama had not won his first presidential election. A narrow victory will also be a gift to the Conservatives whose mischievous misunderstanding of AV will enable them to claim that Andy Burnham is not really the “winner”, but the second choice.

A narrow third round win by Jeremy Corbyn is possibly the worst of all worlds. His mandate will be portrayed as “suspect” (despite having survived three rounds of voting) and the Labour Establishment will be out to get him.

Perhaps the real lesson to learn is that in party politics two into one does not go. The current debate really should be part of a general election not subsumed within the Labour internal coalition.

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One thought on “Labour Pains

  1. Final Result of the Leadership Election:

    Results 1st Stage Members Registered Supporters Affiliated Supporters Total % of Valid Vote
    BURNHAM, Andy 55,698 6,160 18,604 80,462 19.0%
    COOPER, Yvette 54,470 8,415 9,043 71,928 17.0%
    CORBYN, Jeremy 121,751 88,449 41,217 251,417 59.5%,
    KENDALL, Liz 13,601 2,574 2,682 18,857 4.5%
    TOTAL 245,520 105,598 71,546 422,664

    Looks like a clear majority to me.

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