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Be in no doubt: Jeremy Corbyn could win this contest

Labour Leadership Candidates and now they are 4_edited-1The agreement by Unite, Britain’s biggest union, by a vote of 34 to 14 of its elected executive, to nominate Jeremy Corbyn represents a turning point in this leadership contest. It is important not because of the extent to which Unite wields direct influence in this election: trade union members may comprise less than a third of those eligible to vote following the Collins changes and, with a lower turnout, perhaps 15% or less of those who actually do so. But it demonstrates the credibility that Corbyn has as a candidate in this election.

His potential to come close to winning the contest is confirmed today by no less illustrious a commentator than the Telegraph which concludes that “Jeremy Corbyn is ‘a close second’ in Labour leadership race“, based in part on the objective analysis of former Labour executive member, Luke Akehurst, in an exchange with the Financial Times chief political correspondent, Jim Pickard.

The argument about electability is straightforward as I see it: Andy Burnham is the current favourite, aiming to top the poll in the first ballot. Liz Kendall is likely to be eliminated first and her transfers at the moment appear likely to go mainly to Yvette Cooper.

Burnham may choose to tack right to present himself to Kendall supporters as the second preference most likely to “stop Corbyn” in the hope of maintaining a lead for himself, but he could only do that at the cost of losing support from his left flank to Corbyn.

Or he could tack left which is unlikely to win many first preferences from Corbyn, but could ensure that Yvette took the lead when Kendall is eliminated.

But Burnham certainly cannot assume that Corbyn will be the next eliminated, and even if he was, those Corbyn voters who did transfer would split between Cooper and Burnham anyway – many see little to chose between them and may well favour a female candidate who, unlike Burnham, doesn’t now say the last Labour government was guilty of overspending nor advocate primaries for parliamentary selections.

The fate of Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn when Kendall is eliminated depends on who is in third place and that could be any one of them. But there are very good reasons to doubt that Corbyn is the one who will be eliminated next:

  1. In 2014, Christine Shawcroft – widely seen as the most left-wing member of Labour’s national executive won the backing of about 48% of those individuals who voted (the 2014 turnout figures were not publicly available but, for the anoraks amongst us, we know from the more detailed results in 2012 that people voted on average for 5.235 candidates). The left slate as a whole won 54%. With a higher turnout, this proportion may well slip, but not as far as 33.4% which would be sufficient to guarantee being in the last two places.
  2. Jeremy Corbyn will do better still amongst affiliated supporters, and very much better than this amongst registered supporters – of whom we expect a clear majority will back Jeremy and, having paid their £3 to vote are extremely likely to do so.

I therefore believe that the final round will be between Corbyn and Burnham or Corbyn and Cooper. Either way, Corbyn transfers would be irrelevant. The Unite decision to recommend a second preference for Burnham is therefore of no great importance. There are many more weeks in which this will play out, but my guess is that Burnham support, already soft on its left flank, will be squeezed on both sides.

The Burnham campaign makes great play of his working class origins, his northern accent and not being part of the Westminster elite. He told Murnaghan on Sky that “Labour’s been trapped in the Westminster bubble for far too long.” But that image is a shallow one and it is under attack. Just like Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, after Oxbridge he proceeded swiftly to the life of a SpAd, in his case for Tessa Jowell, before being parachuted into a safe seat. Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who is not and does not look like another classic bubble-dweller.

Many people in that bubble talk of “electoral credibility“. Jeremy lacks it, they say, but does he? Most people thought Jim Murphy had it last November, which why he had backing from right across the spectrum of Labour’s establishment from Ed Miliband to Peter Mandelson to become leader of Scottish Labour. Jim thought he could turn things around in Scotland because he was competent and he had that credibility. He wasn’t stupid, the ‘meritocracy’ all around him that is the New Labour legacy thought he had what was necessary. But what happened was meltdown for Labour in Scotland.

There may not be a single, clear alternative to Labour in England or Wales, but Labour lost voters in May in all directions, to UKIP across its heartlands, to the Greens, to abstention. Our core working class vote has little loyalty to Labour left. A third of union members have gone to UKIP – not because they have abandoned Labour but because they see Labour as having abandoned them. And without a fundamental change in our offer, Labour’s leftish middle class support will continue going to the Greens in droves. We face the serious possibility of meltdown in England and Wales too.

Just as in Scotland, where they voted for a party which espouses policies not so different from those advocated by Jeremy, the sort of “electoral credibility” which bubble-inhabitants believe in is worthless. The authenticity of Jeremy Corbyn, his genuinely values-based approach (may we even call it his ideology?) is worth very much more.

Meritocracy is a myth. It produces group-think that can withstand the crumbling of the pillars on which it is constructed until the very point that the whole edifice comes crashing down. It suffers deeply from the lack of the wide range of experience that Labour used to have at its highest levels. The executive of Unite does not suffer from that problem and we should be grateful for their wisdom.



  1. Mukkinese says:

    I have to be honest and say, what is really being seen is the lack of credibility of the rest of the candidates.

    Never has the party been so wet and lacking any will to fight.

    It really is depressing to watch the leadership wannabes pretend to be Tories with friendlier faces, all the while getting their friends to stage whisper that they really are not “Tory lite”…

  2. Rod says:

    Excellent post, Jon.

    “We face the serious possibility of meltdown in England and Wales too.”

    A Corbyn win will most likely provide the best chance to halt Labour’s decline. But if Corbyn doesn’t win the Labour Left will have to look beyond their comfort zone.

    Valiantly proclaiming solidarity while going down with the Progress/Labour elite is not a sensible option.

  3. peter willsman says:

    In JC’s favour amongst trade unionists is the fact that for many years he was a hard working regional official for NUPE(now Unison).
    And in his favour amongst everyone is the fact that at the time of the MPs’
    expenses scandal JC had the lowest claim of
    all,a mere £8. JC is the most left wing MP in Parl.and he is about to wipe the floor with the Blairite champion.F****** Marvellous!!!The Blairites will be where they belong,in the dustbin of history.

    1. swatantra says:

      Famous last words Pete! The Progressives are a pretty resilient bunch.
      There is no question that JayCee is as honest as the day is long, but is he Leadership material, stuck away on the backbenches for 30+ years, anti everything?
      And, is being a TU Official now being regarded as a ‘proper job’?

      1. Sue says:

        I dont think he needs to be leadership material in the sense we have come to mean it. JC will do it differently. He will talk to everyone and get as many people actively involved in govt as possible. Basically he is not in it to be “leader”. He is in it to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. He will create a radical and very active movement to change the country we live in. He’s an activist and a campaigner ——- both perfect qualities for standing against the filth (and their ideas some of which have even penetrated the labour party!) of this Tory govt. The right have had their chance and look where we are?

  4. David Pavett says:

    A Jeremy Corbyn win. Now that would be interesting. And “interesting” is not a word I use much when talking of Labour Party politics.

    Whatever Corbyn’s shortcomings his election as leader would take us into uncharted territory and the confusion it would generate would open up space for some creative thinking (again, a phrase Labour politics rarely brings to mind).

    The Progress people would scheme for a palace coup and failing that would consider taking their nasty little right-wing nostrums elsewhere. It would be great, before all that panned out, to see the likes of Tristram Hunt and Liz Kendall given socialist policies to defend in the media. They would probably resign rather than hint that capitalism may in anyway not be the final phase of social evolution.

    Just a dream perhaps to imagine such a burst of dynamism and creativity inside the Labour Party but without such dreams …

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Love it David, If Labour is to succeed it has to change, Margaret Thatcher said back in the 80s that she was going to roll back socialism, what we in the Labour Party did not know then was that it would happen from within as well as outside.

      There are those who say they would vote for Jeremy but think that he would be unelectable, forgetting of course that people have left the party and others did not vote because New Labour are no longer relevant.

      If we are to win back support for Labour then we have to provide an alternative, TINA has been tried over the last two elections without success.

      The real question is, why didn’t they expose the deficit lie, I asked our local candidate at her husting meeting; how she would envisage Labour paying down the deficit, and the stock answer came back that Ed had dreamed up and later dropped.

      I had previously supplied her information about what was happening in the NHS only to find she did nothing to raise the issues. We were also stonewalled by councillors that appeared to be following a very tight party line, and that information outside the Labour party would be ignored; and they did.

      What I am really saying is that neither local or national politicians, with exceptions of course, used their own initiative, referred everything upwards, and nothing came back as positive action, hence if they had wanted to expose what the Tories were doing to the NHS, then they missed every opportunity we put before them.

  5. Jon Williams says:

    Oh dear – you can’t be serious…

    Corbyn for Labour Leader reminds me of the 1983 election.

    If elected it will be another decade in the wilderness?

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Wasn’t that when Thatcher rode to power on the backs of dead soldiers in the Falklands war?

      But then we have tried your approach twice since the crash, and you have been found wanting.

      Ed Miliband was a Neo-Liberal, the proof of that is writ large, look who he had as Chancellor, he didn’t even retain his own seat.

      We need change in the party, we need real integrity, there is only one candidate with those credentials and the Blairites have had their day.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Actually thatcher went 1% a ahead in polls a week before the Falklands, all be it 32% to SDP on 31% labour in 30% and the Falklands was a year later, a time who thinks labour would have won in 1983 on a manifesto to leave the EEC and unilatralism, is daft.

  6. Timmy says:

    I think you missed:
    3. All those Tories who have paid their £3 in the hope of making Labour unelectable for a generation by voting in Corbyn as leader

  7. Sue says:

    I agree that Corbyn is the answer to Labours problems. He is as honest as the day is long. He is an active campaigner even though he is an MP. He gets out on marches and mixes with real people with real problems. I think Corbyn could transform our party to the massive social movement, where we all have a chance to have a real voice, that we need to win back people to voting for a real alternative to austerity. It would be out with the machine and in with us, the grass roots, owning the party.

  8. David Ellis says:

    Corbyn’s campaign will need to quickly move on from being simply anti-austerity and start developing a positive programme for working class power and the transition to socialism. Austerity and capitalism are now synonymous and that can only deepen capitalism having run its historic course. There are no technical fixes because austerity is about class struggle.

  9. swatantra says:

    Pretty appropriate that this is the week of ‘Marxism 2015’ in London, at the IoE.

  10. Carl says:

    I can’t imagine Corbyn winning personally. 2nd place would be pretty earth-shattering and would at least give the left a lot more inflluence in the post-leadership situation.

    I’m predicting a Burnham/Cooper face-off for the final round which could go either way depending on Jezza’s transfers. I think Burnham will likely lead before that final round regardless. I think Jezza needs to beat Cooper to get 2nd and in doing so would also secure Burnham’s win.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Don’t co-op ,Fabians even Christian friends of labour get additional votes, as my Union RMT isn’t affiliated not sure if unions got a vote on the NEC in 2014

    The NEC elections don’t represent leadership, look at the Centre right on the NEC Nominations, Akehurst, reeves Wheeler, they backed Ed miliband , was publicly against Iraq,in 2010′ the Lefts NEC man Ken Livingstone ,voted for Ed balls for leader ,who was pro Iraq

    Do agree with this article there’s no such thing as the core vote, as the last 3 elections (2of which we lost) were the first 3 ever elections that we got more middle calls votes, than working class ones

  12. Paul says:

    Well I hope you are right.

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