How trailing Abbott could still make the ballot paper

Some of 100 undeclared Labour MPs may yet nominate -- merely to create the perception of choice.

With only seven nominations, Dianne Abbott is trailing in last place among those who are seeking to get past the 33 MPs mark before nominations close on Wednesday (the day of the NS's evening debate between the candidates who make it into the contest).

Most write her off. Yet it is worth noting -- as Adam Boulton of Sky has done today -- that there are still 100 MPs yet to nominate. (And as well as today's hustings at the GMB, there is also one before MPs this evening.) It is also important to remember that when the contest itself is decided, a number of MPs will be voting for different candidates from the ones they nominated.

There are signs that there may yet be a surge in favour of Abbott once MPs have absorbed the social, ethnic and gender similarities behind the leading candidates.

Adam Boulton explains:

Currently David Miliband is on the grid with 62 backers, brother Ed has 49 and Ed Balls is on 33.

So far Burnham has just 21 nominations, McDonnell ten and Abbott seven.

But there over 100 unsecured Labour MPs out there who could ensure that all six candidates are runners.

Burnham told me on Sunday Live that he's confident of making it (David Miliband has hinted his surplus supporters could help out).

There is also an uneasy awareness in Labour ranks that the three nominated candidates so far are all white, middle-class, Oxbridge-educated, fortysomething men.

That could lead to a sudden surge of nominations for Abbott, especially since some on the centre and right of the party want a left-wing candidate so that he or she (McDonnell or Abbott) can be seen to be defeated.

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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood