David Miliband tops poll of Labour councillors

Ed Miliband comes second with 43 per cent to his brother’s 57; Ed Balls is eliminated first.

The BBC's Daily Politics show will shortly unveil the results of a new poll of Labour councillors in which David Miliband comes out first with 57 per cent of the vote, compared to his brother's 43.

Diane Abbott came third on first preferences, but the more surprising fact, perhaps, is that Ed Balls was eliminated first, with just 8 per cent, with Andy Burnham bowing out in the next round.

However, it is definitely worth noting that this poll was conducted by ComRes between 23 July and 10 August, so it will not reflect any of the more recent events in the leadership contest, in particular, Balls's recent strong performance opposing the coalition on the deficit, and the Blairites' intervention in the struggle between the Milibands.

And, need one say, a poll of 265 councillors is hardly representative of Labour's electoral college as a whole. But perhaps what this poll does reiterate is how vital second preferences are going to be in determining who becomes Labour's next leader.

Full results (via Left Foot Forward)

First preference votes

88 (33%) David Miliband
69 (26%) Ed Miliband
55 (21%) Diane Abbott
33 (12%) Andy Burnham
20 (8%) Ed Balls

Elimination round 1

96 (36%) David Miliband
74 (28%) Ed Miliband
62 (23%) Diane Abbott
33 (12%) Andy Burnham
1st eliminated: Ed Balls

Elimination round 2

110 (42%) David Miliband
82 (31%) Ed Miliband
73 (28%) Diane Abbott
2nd eliminated: Andy Burnham
1st eliminated: Ed Balls

Elimination round 3

152 (57%) David Miliband
113 (43%) Ed Miliband
3rd eliminated: Diane Abbott
2nd eliminated: Andy Burnham
1st eliminated: Ed Balls

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Getty
Show Hide image

Leader: The divisions within Labour

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change.

Labour is a party torn between its parliamentary and activist wings. Since Jeremy Corbyn, who this week appealed desperately for unity, was re-elected by a landslide last September, Labour has become the first opposition in 35 years to lose a ­by-election to the governing party and has continually trailed the Conservatives by a double-digit margin. Yet polling suggests that, were Mr Corbyn’s leadership challenged again, he would win by a comfortable margin. Meanwhile, many of the party’s most gifted and experienced MPs refuse to serve on the front bench. In 2015 Mr Corbyn made the leadership ballot only with the aid of political opponents such as Margaret Beckett and Frank Field. Of the 36 MPs who nominated him, just 15 went on to vote for him.

Having hugely underestimated the strength of the Labour left once, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will not do so again. In the contest that will follow Mr Corbyn’s eventual departure, the centrists could lock out potential successors such as the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Under Labour’s current rules, candidates require support from at least 15 per cent of the party’s MPs and MEPs.

This conundrum explains the attempt by Mr Corbyn’s supporters to reduce the threshold to 5 per cent. The “McDonnell amendment” (named after the shadow chancellor, who failed to make the ballot in 2007 and 2010) is being championed by the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Jon Lansman of Momentum, who is interviewed by Tanya Gold on page 34. “For 20 years the left was denied a voice,” he tweeted to the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, on 19 March. “We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, and we need our mass membership to win again.”

The passage of the amendment at this year’s Labour conference would aid Mr Lansman’s decades-long quest to bring the party under the full control of activists. MPs have already lost the third of the vote they held under the electoral college system. They face losing what little influence they retain.

No Labour leader has received less support from his MPs than Mr Corbyn. However, the amendment would enable the election of an even more unpopular figure. For this reason, it should be resolutely opposed. One should respect the motivation of the members and activists, yet Labour must remain a party capable of appealing to a majority of people, a party that is capable of winning elections.

Since it was founded, Labour has been an explicitly parliamentary party. As Clause One of its constitution states: “[The party’s] purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.” The absurdity of a leader opposed by as much as 95 per cent of his own MPs is incompatible with this mission. Those who do not enjoy the backing of their parliamentary colleagues will struggle to persuade the voters that they deserve their support.

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change. Rather than formalising this split, the party needs to overcome it – or prepare for one of the greatest defeats in its history.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution