Obama's Mandate

Ashish Prashar asks New Statesman readers: if Obama wins on Tuesday what - besides change - will his

I want to throw this open for debate amongst you New Statesman readers, but up front let me say that talk of political mandates is one of those political parlour games that often doesn't mean very much (remember people wanted Gordon Brown to call an election in the autumn of 2007 so he could establish his own mandate, was it necessary, no.) In the America they'll probably refer to the 1990s as the Bill Clinton era for a long time, even though he never won a majority of the popular vote. George W. Bush showed that you can aggressively, and for a time successfully, seize the reins of power even if you barely ascended to the presidency.

It's been a generation since Reagan's 1984 landslide, and I think there's a tendency to forget the impact, real and imagined, of a sweeping victory of the kind Obama appears poised to win. (It's worth noting too that in 1984, while the America just come through a recession and the Cold War was still hot, there was nothing like the unsettledness that the financial crisis and overseas military engagements are causing now.)

You're already seeing signs of the impact of the expectation of an Obama win. McCain is going all out to try to win this thing, but let's be honest, his party isn't. You don't have to look too closely to see Republican officeholders running for cover, and not just from Bush, McCain, and Palin - but from specific policies and tactics, too. As the political tsunami approaches the beach, it's everyone for themselves.

But all that being said, what will an Obama landslide translate into in the first year he's in office? It's still not clear to many. One of the most toxic effects of the decline of the two parties as political institutions and the rise of the modern TV-based political campaign, with its cult of personality politics, is that the election becomes a referendum on the candidates themselves, rather than on broad policies or platforms.

The peril of the modern political campaign is not its nastiness (come on, we're all adults). It's that it supplants a real debate, so that by the time the election actually happens and a victor is declared, it's not entirely clear what we all collectively just decided. Did we just vote for universal health care, or against that cranky old man and his dimwitted running mate?

So given the terms of the debate this campaign season, the issues facing the country, and the mood of the electorate, and assuming we see an Obama landslide next on the 4th November, what does Obama have a mandate for?

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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.