Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Busting some myths that have arisen regarding "potential" Labour leadership candidates

In these feverish times, all sorts of pundits have been touting all sorts of candidates for leadership of the Labour party. The most excited speculation concerns some of the candidates for last years deputy leadership contest - Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson and Jon Cruddas. Let's take a look at the detail of the voting round by round:

Round 1
Candidate Affiliates CLPs MPs and MEPs Total
Jon Cruddas 9.09% 5.67% 4.63% 19.39%
Harriet Harman 4.35% 8.04% 6.54% 18.93%
Alan Johnson 4.55% 5.53% 8.08% 18.16%
Hilary Benn 4.93% 7.21% 4.27% 16.40%
Peter Hain 6.64% 3.87% 4.81% 15.32%
Hazel Blears 3.77% 3% 4.99% 11.77%

Round 2

Candidate Affiliates CLPs MPs and MEPs Total
Alan Johnson 5.91% 6.35% 11.47% 23.74%
Harriet Harman 5.15% 8.80% 7.29% 21.23%
Jon Cruddas 9.64% 6.01% 4.74% 20.39%
Hilary Benn 5.56% 7.93% 4.74% 18.22%
Peter Hain 7.08% 4.24% 5.10% 16.42%

Round 3
Candidate Affiliates CLPs MPs and MEPs Total
Alan Johnson 7.81% 7.31% 12.78% 27.90%
Harriet Harman 7.12% 10.15% 8.61% 25.88%
Jon Cruddas 11.01% 6.58% 6.30% 23.89%
Hilary Benn 7.39% 9.29% 5.65% 22.33%

Round 4

Candidate Affiliates CLPs MPs and MEPs Total
Alan Johnson 10.25% 10.70% 15.39% 36.35%
Harriet Harman 9.46% 13.82% 10.29% 33.58%
Jon Cruddas 13.61% 8.81% 7.65% 30.06%

Round 5

Candidate Affiliates CLPs MPs and MEPs Total
Harriet Harman 16.18% 18.83% 15.42% 50.43%
Alan Johnson 17.15% 14.50% 17.91% 49.56%

First let's look at Cruddas. Note that the affiliates loved him. But the CLP was indifferent as was the PLP. In round 2 among the CLP he was fourth out of five, and among the PLP joint fourth. The CLP places him last in round 3. The only reason he stayed in the game so long was due to the Affiliates giving him such big share of their vote. But you can't win anything in Labour based on the Affiliates alone.

There is no reason to believe that any of this has changed. If the CLP and PLP didn't rate him for deputy then they won't for Labour leader and PM - or even deputy again.

Next let's look at Harriet Harman. The first thing to note is that the Affiliates didn't like her at all! Only Hazel Blears was rated worse by them in round 1. Harriet's support came from the CLP. And crucially, she makes a good showing among the PLP (they place her second out of six in the first round). And then she continues to pick up votes from the CLP - it wasn't just the Cruddas people who placed her second, Hain people, and Benn people did too. Among the affiliates, the Cruddas transfers split evenly between her and Johnson, and among the PLP, it was transfers from Cruddas that helped her close the gap and run Johnson close.

She won because she managed to get a near draw from the affiliates, a 4.33% win from the CLP, which cancelled Johnson's 2.49% lead among the PLP.

But how would this transfer to contesting the leadership of the Labour party? In the PLP, she got endorsements from people like Gisela Stuart, Patricia Hewitt, Ed Miliband, Denis McShane, Geoff Hoon, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander and Yvette Cooper. But would they really endorse her for PM? Some of those names will drop off. If she falls behind sharply among the PLP, she loses. She won't get the same level of vote from the CLP either - they were voting for a deputy to balance Gordon Brown. And the affiliates will dislike her as much as ever.

Lastly, let's look at Alan Johnson. From the first round it's clear the PLP liked him (he got 90 nominations, including David Miliband) - but the affiliates and CLP were indifferent. As described above, he lost due to the CLP not really rating him. But they may warm to him if he was up against a cooler character, say David Miliband. But then again, it depends on how hard Miliband decided to campaign. Johnson was very lazy last time and didn't really bother to tour the constituencies. But if Miliband cuddles up to hate figures like Milburn, he's stuffed. So many buts. The CLP vote is up for grabs here.

If the leadership contest was between Harman, Johnson and Miliband, then Harman would drop back among the CLP and PLP (and the affiliates never rated her anyway). Johnson would win the Affiliates. Among the PLP, Johnson might pick up some of the people Harman loses, but lose some of the people who voted for him in the deputy leadership contest. Some people excitedly think that Johnson has more backing in parliament than Miliband. But the PLP will choose whoever polls better, and the latest YouGov poll showed Miliband ahead of Johnson by some way. So if the Affiliates go for Johnson, and the PLP for Miliband, then the CLP will decide.

The CLP wasn't that thrilled with Johnson in the deputy leadership contest. There is no evidence that they are thrilled with Miliband. They are feeling tired and unenthused by the whole business and wish the MPs weren't washing dirty laundry in public. Now is the time for another much better candidate to show their hand - or for Gordon Brown to make the mother of all comebacks.

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