David Miliband ahead among Labour voters, poll suggests

Abbott doing relatively well ++ Rivals point out that voters are not the same as members.

The indomitable Paul Waugh has unearthed figures from the YouGov survey in the weekend's Sunday Times which he says show that David Miliband has "emerged as the front-runner among both voters and party activists".

From the blog:

A new poll also found that Mr Miliband was Londoners' favoured choice for the top job, with Diane Abbott second and his brother Ed trailing in third.

The YouGov survey put him on 22 per cent, Ms Abbott on 11 per cent, Ed Miliband on 9 per cent, Ed Balls on 3 per cent and Andy Burnham on 2 per cent.

Crucially, Miliband Senior was also ahead among Labour voters. He was on 29 per cent, with Mr Balls second on 13 per cent and Ed Miliband third on 12 per cent.

New figures obtained by the Standard also put the former foreign secretary ahead of his rivals in Constituency Labour Party nominations.

With only a week to go before constituency nominations close, he has 107 parties behind him, nearly as many as all his fellow contenders combined.

Brother Ed has 84 local parties backing him, Mr Burnham has 21, Ms Abbott 14 and Mr Balls just nine.

Labour will announce its new leader at its annual conference in September after a one-member, one-vote ballot of party members, union affiliates and MPs and MEPs.

The YouGov/SundayTimes poll found that Mr Miliband was ahead in every social class, gender, age group and region of the country.

Ms Abbott, who has a national profile because of her regular slot on BBC1's This Week programme, was second among virtually every group apart from Labour voters.

Mr Balls, who has been hitting the coalition government hard over the school buildings fiasco, appears to have been rewarded with a spike in support among Labour supporters.

The popularity of Miliband Senior among wider voters also suggests that he may do better than expected in the trade union membership section of the electoral college. However, brother Ed won the backing of the GMB last week and Mr Balls is also expected to do well among unions.

A spokeswoman for Mr Miliband said: "The number of CLP nominations we've garnered suggests that David is actually the grass roots' choice."

One source also said that the local party nominations suggested Mr Balls was "not really in the running among members", a claim his camp disputes.

Three striking elements to this: first, David Miliband is doing well among the grass roots for a man often dismissed as a "Blairite". Second, Diane Abbott is, as I predicted last month, apparently doing better than expected. And third, as supporters of "the two Eds" -- Miliband and Balls -- are pointing out in Westminster, this poll should be taken with a tiny pinch of salt, in that Labour voters, who do not have votes in this contest, are not the same as Labour members, who do.

UPDATE: Although it is true that "voters aren't members", as some rivals to the front-runner, David Miliband, have been pointing out, it is also worth emphasising that the 107 CLP nominations, as mentioned above, are highly significant. They, after all, are Labour members.

Look out for an exclusive interview package with all five candidates in this week's magazine, out on Thursday.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue