Labour leadership: where will the final nominations go?

Burnham certain to make the ballot but the left remains hopelessly divided.

Labour MPs have just a few hours left to make up their minds before nominations for the leadership close at 12.30pm. Andy Burnham is now just two short of the required 33 nominations and is certain to make it on to the ballot paper. (You'll be able to see him at our Labour leadership debate tonight.) In fact, since David Miliband has promised to lend his vote to any candidate who needs it, Burnham is just one short.

But so far, Ed Balls is the only nominee to take the bolder step of urging his supporters to back an alternative candidate in order to ensure a politically diverse field.

As things stand, it doesn't look like either John McDonnell or Diane Abbott will stand aside to give the left a fighting chance of making the ballot. A lot of McDonnell supporters were unhappy with my call for the Labour left-winger to step down and endorse Abbott.

But, even though McDonnell now has 16 nominations to Abbott's 11, it is Abbott who would have the best chance of proceeding.

Most of Abbott's centrist supporters, such as Harriet Harman, David Lammy, Fiona Mactaggart and Keith Vaz, would not transfer to McDonnell. I'm also confident that many Labour MPs who would never consider nominating McDonnell, would vote for Abbott if she had a genuine chance of making the ballot.

I'd expect a fair number of Labour women to follow Harman and nominate Abbott (McDonnell is unlikely to win any more votes), but it will take something special for her to win the 22 nominations she needs.

There are 36 MPs yet to nominate a candidate. Here is a list of them:

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow)

Graham Allen (Nottingham North)

Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West)

Margaret Beckett (Derby South)

Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath)

Nick Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne East)

Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield)

Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill)

Stella Creasy (Walthamstow)

Tony Cunningham (Workington)

Nick Dakin (Scunthorpe)

Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East)

Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green)

David Heyes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch)

Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central)

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn)

Sian James (Swansea East)

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)

Graham Jones (Hyndburn)

Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central)

Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood)

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East)

Ian Mearns (Gateshead)

George Mudie (Leeds East)

Dawn Primarolo (Bristol South)

Jack Straw (Blackburn)

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton)

Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston)

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool West Derby)

David Winnick (Walsall North)

Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth)

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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