The US election results - liveblog

Nicky Woolf liveblogs the result of the 2012 presidential election.

12:30PM

I think it's time now to call it - Barack Obama has been reelected as President of the United States. Still no Romney acceptance speech, though, which may mean he's preparing a legal challenge. My instinct is that he won't, though.

So that's it for another four years of Presidential election! Until Chris Christie starts his Republican primary campaign tomorrow morning...

Thank you all, and good night.

 


12:07PM

Well now it really is all over bar the shouting, and all that remains is for Romney to make his acceptance speech - which he is being very reluctant in getting around to, I must say. My grouching over premature calling of states - Roger from the Obama for America Defiance field office explains things to me: 

 

 

...I have allowed myself a small whisky.

 


11:32PM

Then again, Obama is now winning in Virginia, from what I can see. So he is over the total, and I doubt now Ohio will need to count its provisional ballots.

 


11:27PM

NBC is calling Florida for him too - which would begin to make this look like a massacre. But I'm not so sure. Ohio, from where I'm sitting, is way too close to call. So is Florida. I'm not going to call this, my previous entry excepted, until I see Romney make a concession speech.

 


11:13PM

OBAMA WINS OREGON, OHIO - AND THE ELECTION. It's all over now bar the shouting. And the drinking. And there's a lot of both going on right now in Columbus.

 


11:10PM

CNN currently has the electoral college Obama 238 - 191 Romney. New Mexico and Colorado, both likely to go Obama, would put the President in a place where Florida or Ohio would tip him over the edge - and MSNBC has just called Iowa for the President.

 


10:59PM

I cannot stress how close this race now is. In each of the three crucial swing states, that's Virginia, Florida and Ohio, less than a single percentage point separates the candidates. This election teeters on a knife-edge.

 


10:50PM

An electoral map update. These are called differently media-by-media; MSNBC, for example, which has just called Minnesota for Obama, has Obama on 172 to Romney's 174. RealClearPolitics has Obama 163 - Romney 184, while the Huffington Post has Obama on 173 to Romney's 174.

This is because the networks call states as they come in, without waiting for official confirmation, a very confusing state of affairs sometimes. But really the difference is in who calls what, when - some news organisations are less cautious about calling states than others. Make no mistake, this election still comes down to Florida and Ohio.

 


10:40PM

So it's looking a lot like Todd Akin's a goner in his Missouri Senatorial race. Claire McCaskill's got almost 100,000 votes on him with nearly a third of precincts reporting. The "make stupid comments about rape" candidates are dropping like flies this evening.

 


10:30PM

Obama is currently 2 points up in Ohio with over half the state reporting, and a skin-of-his-teeth .5 of a point up in Florida - but Florida's nearly 90% reported. If he keeps this up, things are looking pretty bad for Mitt. But it's all so close - a few Republican precincts in each state reporting late, and it could all look very different. It's all down to Ohio, and Florida, just as predicted.

Meanwhile, the confetti is falling for Sherrod Brown here in Columbus, and I imagine he's off to celebrate. His work here is done.

 


10:24PM

This is a genuinely heartwarming experience.

 

 


10:18PM

"today in Ohio, the middle class won," says Brown. His voice, always gravelly, is almost entirely gone - he speaks in a joyful, but hoarse, whisper. "Citizens united may be a new name in a 21st century suit ... but it's an old game of the rich trying to rig the system for themselves." The crowd are holding up signs with "$40m" with a strike-through on it.

He's positively beaming. Brown really deserves this victory - he's fought a great campaign against an absolutely unprecendented about of outside money. The crowd love him.

 


10:09PM

If I was Obama, a two-point lead in Ohio with half the state to count would make me very, very nervous indeed.

 


10:03PM 

Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah. Romney remains narrowly ahead in Virginia, Florida remains essentially a tie - slight Obama lead, perhaps, but minescule.

In Ohio, Obama is holding on to a lead - but not a big one. This is still a very, very close election.

 


9:54PM

MSNBC has the current total at:

Electoral College: Barack Obama 168 - 153 Mitt Romney

 


9:49PM

And meanwhile, the Democrats are willing plenty of the Senate seats they want. Elizabeth Warren beats Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Joe Donnelly beats Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Sherrod Brown comfortable holds off the challenge from Josh Mandel here in Ohio - despite the extraordinary money spent by super-PACs on Mandel. All of which bodes well for the overall result.

 


9:43PM

This is one of the calls that really matter:

 

 


9:16PM

With Florida still too close to call, things are looking good for the President here in the crucial state of Ohio. With around 20% of districts reporting, the President is ahead by more than 130,000 votes - 52.24% to 46.31% - almost the opposite of Virginia. But of the three states - Virginia, Florida and Ohio - the President can afford to lose one or two of them, Romney can't.

MSNBC has just called Pennsylvania for Romney - which I think is a premature move as less than 10% of districts have reported. Obama is well ahead in those that have, though.

 


9:11PM

Whooops at the party as "Virginia - Too Close To Call" comes on the TV screen. It's too close to call, but unfortunately Obama is losing there 52.12% - 46.22%, with about 60% of precincts reporting. It's not looking good in Virginia.

Meanwhile, though, New York and Michigan have called for Obama, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Wyoming and Louisiana for Romney.

Electoral College: Barack Obama 123 - 148 Mitt Romney

 


8:43PM

MASSIVE SURPRISE here - Tennessee and Arkansas go for Romney.

A little experiment in live-blog sarcasm for you folks there.

That takes the total to: 

Electoral College: Barack Obama 78 - 88 Mitt Romney

 


8:36PM

This is the situation in the Ohio Democrat election night media centre. On the far right you can see Nice Guy Mike from the Cleveland Jewish News.

 


8:27PM

Virginia is still miles away from being called. Only 873 of 2588 precincts have reported results. That's going to take a while.

Ohio is counting; but as yet, while there's some tantalising data coming in, largely from absentee ballots in Cleveland, it'll still be a while before a bigger picture starts to emerge.

Florida is closer - 38.35% of precincts are reporting, with a minescule edge for Obama - 50.09%, with juts over 38% of precincts reporting. We could be looking at a 2000 situation there if it stays that close.

 


8:14PM

Real Clear Politics has called Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma for Romney, and Delaware, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island for Obama.

That makes it Electoral College: Barack Obama 78 - 71 Mitt Romney

 


8:11PM

Florida is currently at Romney 2,265,239 (47.72%) Obama 2,445,934 (51.53%) with (at my guess) about half of the total votes reported. A win here for Obama basically sews him up the election.

Ohio is reporting a closer race - Obama 653,911 (57.21%) Romney 475,210 (41.57%) at current count - that's mostly absentee ballots, plus a reported 0.06% of counties - far, far too close to call.

 


8:01PM

Polls in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee all close now. All together, that's 172 electoral votes up for grabs.

Jesse Jackson is behind me, talking to the cameras.

 


7:44PM

The Ohio Secretary of State's office has posted some results of Ohio's absentee ballots - the vast majority of them from Cuyahoga county - which means Cleveland. Statewide of absentee ballots counted, Obama has 383,700 - 66.17%, to Romney's 190,383 - 32.83%.

 


7:37PM

Overheard on the phone outside the party: "yeah, there's laws against it. But there's laws against a lot of things."

He continued: "Someone used my vote in 2008. I applied for an absentee ballot in 2008 and didn't use it, and somebody voted in my place."

No idea of the context of it, and no idea who he was. But it's an interesting snippet.

 


7:25PM

Remember how I said Virginia would look Republican early and then the blue counties would cut in? RealClearPolitics' returns-counter currently has Virginia at Obama 43.5% to Romney's 55.3%.

 


7:20PM

Polls here in the great state of Ohio close in ten minutes - though anyone in line at the deadline will get to vote - the line that both campaigns are pushing through to their supporters right now is "stay in line".

But it has to be said, it is bloody freezing out there.

 


7:14PM

Counting still ongoing in Virginia. Like in Ohio, where the President's field offices outnumbered Governor Romney's three to one, Obama's ground game here has been impressive. But will it be enough?

 


7:09PM

Forgot to put it in earlier - Indiana has also been called for Romney; hence the total of 19, that's Indiana's 11 and Kentucky's 8 electoral college votes.

 


7:02PM

The first results are in! MSNBC has called Kentucky for Romney and Vermont for Obama. Kentucky is worth more electoral college votes, though Virginia is currently TCTC - Too Close To Call

Electoral College: Barack Obama 3 - 19 Mitt Romney

 


7:00PM

...And polls are now closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and - this will be the one all eyes are on - Virginia. Early showings in VA will be Republican-leaning (tweets the Manhattan Institute's Ted Frank), with blue counties reporting later on. Virginia will be a crucial early indicator of how the night will go.

 


6:51PM

Some crucial early polling news from Buzzfeed about the third-party libertarian candidate for President...

 

 


6:44PM

Logistical disaster! The Cleveland Jewish News has arrived, in the form of a pleasant bearded man named Mike. I have shunted to the end of the trestle table. If I play my cards right, I'm hoping Mike will let me stay. 

 


6:41PM

This morning, I accompanied students from the senior class of Hicksville high school to the polls up in Defiance county. Austin Laney voted Republican. "I'm going to be pretty disappointed if Obama wins," he told me. His friend Andrew Willis voted Democrat: "It felt good, like I'd played my part. It's kinda neat, cos I'd never [voted] before."

"If Romney wins, I'll be really disappointed," he says. 

Austin Metz, on the other hand, had been planning to vote Republican - but switched his vote at the last minute to Obama. "Because I'm going to college next year, and it affects the cost."

"This is the biggest thing I've done since being 18," says Brady Meyer. "It makes me feel powerful."

He says he voted for Romney, but says: "I don't think either of [the candidates] are any good, though."

 


6:22PM

The former Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, did a brief press call just now, and is predictably predicting a victory for Obama and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. So far, so spin - I think he's right, but he'd be saying it even if it was wrong, and over at the Republican party I bet John Kasich, the current Republican Governor, is predicting a win for Romney and Mandel.

I asked him about the provisional ballot issue, and he looked troubled. "It could. I hope it doesn't [come down to provisional ballots], because we know provisional ballots can't be counted for several days," he tells me. "I think it would be very unfortunate if it happened." I ask if Husted's directive on Friday, so late in the day and so confusing to poll workers and voters, might be cause for a legal challenge if it does. "If this comes down to the provisional ballot issue, it is possible that could end up being a court-involved process," he says. "I hope not. I don't think that would be good for the country, I don't think that would be good for Ohio."

But then again, there are all those lawyers standing by.

 


6:02PM

So I just noticed that I posted the tweet by @fivethirtyeight at exactly 5:38. Not sure what that's a sign of, but it's sure as hell a sign.

 


5:38PM

Amazing figures from the New York Times' Nate Silver:

 

 


5:26PM

It's not just the Presidential race that depends on Ohio. The Republicans are hoping that Josh Mandel, a 35-year-old Marine veteran, will un-seat the popular incumbent Sherrod Brown, tipping the balance in the Senate. But Brown is an extremely popular Ohioan, while Mandel has appeared slippery in his campaign - and RealClearPolitics is posting a 5 point lead for Brown in its polling average.

Amusingly, the Guardian's James Ball just linked me on Twitter to a story in the GayStarNews about some cousins of Mandel, who take issue with him about his stance on gay marriage and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The cousins took out an ad against him that says: "Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize." It goes on: "'We are equally distressed by your belief that gay men and women should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. Like you, Cholene spent many years in the armed forces. ... And yet, you have argued that she, like many gay and lesbian soldiers, should be forced to live a life of secrecy and lies."

You can read the whole story here.

And the newspaper that ran the cousins' ad? By strange coincidence it is the Cleveland Jewish News, whose seat I am currently occupying...

 


5:13PM

Seats in the Ohio Democratic Party Election Night Celebration are limited. Currently, your correspondent is squatting in the hope that the rightful Ohio publication doesn't arrive and claim it. Here's the label:

 


5:08PM

If this election comes down to the wire, or ends in legal action; if Ohio is, as it's predicted to be, the crucial tipping-point - triggering a long and torturous adding-up of provisional ballots that could last until the 16th - one name will become horribly familiar to a country already sick to the bone of politics: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

I wrote early on about attempted electoral irregularities in Ohio – irregularities in which Husted was involved.

Provisional ballots are going to be key if Ohio is close. These are ballots that are filled out under the voter ID laws if someone is unable to present their identification at the polling-booth. If someone fails to present ID at a polling station they can still vote, but they have several days to present their ID. On Friday, Husted issued a directive that part of the form required for provisional ballots had to be filled-out by the voter – not the supervisor at the polling-station. Under Husted's directive, the vote will be discounted if the area is left blank. Lawyers on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless are already fighting Husted in federal court over the decision.

Another potential tripping-point: everyone in Ohio was sent an application form for an absentee ballot this year; if many people filled it out, but then decided to vote in person, there would be space for another legal challenge there. At the centre of these nightmares would be Husted.

Remember the name.

 


4:07PM

There have already been a number of reports of derring-do around the polling stations. Here in Ohio, some areas have seen alleged intimidation by voter-watch groups - while there are also reports of a accredited election watch official being threatened with a gun in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Ohio and Pennsylvania are still extremely divided on the issue of voter ID, the new law supposedly designed to eliminate in-person voter fraud. Critics say that it unfairly discriminates against black and elderly - and therefore likely Democrat - voters. With lawyers for both parties poised like vultures to descend on any irregularities - MSNBC is reporting that there are 2,200 in Ohio alone - this could end up being a very long night indeed.

 


3:45PM

The Hilton is media central right now. Here's a picture of all the satellite trucks lined up outside on Main st:

 


3:26PM

This New York Times graphic shows just how much the electoral college calculus is against Romney tonight; of the 512 likely permutations of swing states, Obama has 431 ways to win to Romney's mere 76. Though there can always be surprises.

 


3:20PM

Hello and welcome to the New Statesman's live coverage of the US Presidential election results. I'm in the Ohio Democratic Party's event at the Hilton hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Polls close here in just over four hours, and the state's media is whipped into a frenzy. I'll be bringing you all the results as they come in. It's expected that a winner will be known before 11PM Eastern time - 4AM UK time - but if the race is as close as some are predicting, there could be legal challenges and other delays that could last well into next week. Specifically in Ohio, the counting of provisional ballots is mandated by state law to take until the 16th - a torturous process for the state to endure - especially as most here are already tired of being under the world's political microscope. Most predictions are for an Obama win - the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight model is giving the President a better than 90% chance of victory in the electoral college. Stick with us for all the twists and turns as they happen.

Barack Obama. Photograph: Getty Images

Nicky Woolf is a writer for the Guardian based in the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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How Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election

The revolt against the leader transformed him from an incumbent back into an insurgent. 

On the evening of 12 July, after six hours of talks, Jeremy Corbyn emerged triumphantly from Labour’s headquarters. “I’m on the ballot paper!” he told supporters gathered outside. “We will be campaigning on all the things that matter.”

The contest that Corbyn’s opponents had sought desperately to avoid had begun. Neither a vote of no confidence by 81 per cent of Labour MPs, nor 65 frontbench resignations had persuaded him to stand down. Days of negotiations led by Tom Watson had failed (“For years I’ve been told that I’m a fixer. Well, I tried to fix this and I couldn’t,” Labour’s deputy leader sorrowfully told the parliamentary party). The rebels’ last hope was that the National Executive Committee would force Corbyn to reseek nominations. After being backed by just 40 colleagues in the confidence vote, both sides knew that the leader would struggle to achieve 51 signatures.

But by 18-14, the NEC ruled that Corbyn would be automatically on the ballot (“Watson, Watson, what’s the score?” chanted jubilant aides in the leader’s office). After withstanding a 16-day revolt, Corbyn appeared liberated by the prospect of a summer of campaigning. His confidence prefigured the outcome two months later.

Corbyn did not merely retain the leadership - he won by a greater margin than last time (with 61.8 per cent of the vote to last year's 59.5 per cent) and triumphed among all three sections: party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters. The rebels had hoped to narrow his mandate and win among at least one group: they did neither. Far from being a curse for Corbyn, the contest proved to be a blessing. 

***

The day before the pivotal NEC meeting, Angela Eagle, who had been preparing to stand for months, launched her leadership bid. The former shadow business secretary was admired by MPs for her experience, tenacity, and economic acumen. Her trade union links and soft left background were further cited in favour of her candidacy.

But after an underwhelming launch, which clashed with Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Conservative contest (leaving Eagle calling questions from absent journalists), MPs gravitated towards Owen Smith.

Like Eagle, Smith hailed from the party’s soft left and had initially served under Corbyn (two prerequisites in the rebels’ eyes). But unlike her, the former shadow and work pensions secretary did not vote for the Iraq war (having entered parliament in 2010) or the 2015 Syria intervention. “It looks like the war party,” a senior Corbynite said of Eagle’s campaign launch with Hilary Benn. Many Labour MPs feared the same. With the left-leaning Lisa Nandy having ruled herself out, only the ambitious Smith met the criteria.

“I’d been in hospital for two days with my brother, who was unwell, in south Wales,” he recalled when I interviewed him.  “I came out having literally been in A&E at Cardiff Heath hospital for 29 hours, looking after him, to have my phone light up with 30, 40, 50 colleagues, MPs and members, ringing up saying ‘there’s going to be a contest, Angela Eagle has thrown her hat into the ring, you should do likewise.’ And at that point, on the Wednesday night, I started ringing people to test opinion and found that there was a huge amount of support for me.”

On 19 July, after Smith won 90 MP/MEP nominations to Eagle’s 72, the latter withdrew in favour of the Welshman. A week after the Conservatives achieved their second female prime minister, Labour’s 116-year record of all-male leaders endured. Though Smith vowed that Eagle would be “at my right hand throughout this contest”, she went on to appear at just one campaign event.

Corbyn’s challenger was embraced by MPs as a “clean skin”, untainted by service during the New Labour years. But Smith’s non-parliamentary past was swiftly - and ruthlessly - exploited by his opponents. His time at the US drugs firm Pfizer was cited as evidence of his closeness to big business. Corbyn’s supporters also seized on interviews given by Smith as a by-election candidate in 2006.

The man pitching to the left was found to have defended Tony Blair (suggesting that they differed only over the Iraq war), supported private sector involvement in the NHS and praised city academies. “I'm not someone, frankly, who gets terribly wound up about some of the ideological nuances,” he told Wales Online. Such lines were rapidly disseminated by Corbyn supporters through social media.

“Getting out early and framing Owen was crucial,” a Corbyn source told me. A Smith aide echoed this assessment: “It helped secure their base, it took a load of people out of contention.”

Throughout the campaign, Smith would struggle to reconcile his past stances with his increasingly left-wing programme: opposing private provision in the NHS, returning academy schools to local authority control, banning zero-hours contracts and imposing a wealth tax of 1 per cent. “It was easy for us to go for the jugular over his background when he portrayed himself as a left candidate,” a Corbyn source said.

Smith insisted that the charge of opportunism was unmerited. “To be honest, my opponents have extrapolated rather a lot in an attempt to brand me as a ‘Blairite wolf in sheep’s clothing,’” he told me in August. “Well, I’m nothing of the sort, I’ve always been a democratic socialist and I always will be.” He added: “I’m someone who’s been surrounded by people who’ve been on the left of the Labour movement all their lives. It should come as no surprise that I’ve come out of that background and I’m pretty red. Because I am.”

But a former shadow cabinet colleague said that Smith did not stand out as “a radical” in meetings. “The only time that I remember him becoming really animated was over further tax-raising powers for Scotland and the implications for Wales.”

As well as Smith’s ambiguous past, Corbyn’s allies believe the breadth of his political coalition hindered him from the start. “He was trying to bring together Blairites, Brownites and every other -ite in between,” a campaign source said. “That was never going to hold, we knew that and from the moment there were splits it was easy to point out.”

Jon Trickett, the shadow business secretary and one of Corbyn’s early supporters, told me: “They tried to pretend that there was no distinction between them and Jeremy on policy grounds, they tried to narrow down the areas of difference to electability. But, frankly, it didn’t seem credible since some of the people behind it were absolutely ideologically opposed to Jeremy. Peter Mandelson and people like that.”

A frequently expressed charge was that Smith’s left-wing pledges would be overturned by Blairite figures if he won. John McGeechan, a 22-year-old postgraduate student who joined Labour after “self-indulgent, self-serving MPs initiated their corridor coup”, told me of Smith: “He’s just another mealy-mouthed careerist who says whatever he thinks is going to get him elected. I don’t believe at all that he means what he says about creating a radical socialist government given that he’s got the backing of Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, people who’ve disagreed with Corbyn on pretty much all his socialist policies. I don’t believe that he’s going to stand up to these people.”

Whether believable or not, Smith’s programme showed how Corbyn had shifted Labour’s centre of gravity radically leftwards - his original aim in June 2015.

***

On the night Corbyn made the leadership ballot, the rebels still found cause for hope. Unlike in 2015, the NEC imposed a freeze date of six months on voting (excluding 130,000 new members) and increased the registered supporter fee from £3 to £25 (while reducing the sign-up period to two days). “It’s game on!” a senior figure told me. By narrowing the selectorate, Corbyn’s opponents hoped to achieve a path to victory. With fewer registered supporters (84 per cent of whom voted for Corbyn last year), they believed full party members and affiliated trade unionists could carry Smith over the line.

But when 183,000 paid £25 to vote, their expectations were confounded. Far from being “game on”, it looked to many rebels like game over. Once again, Corbyn’s opponents had underestimated the left’s recruiting capacity. Smith’s lack of name recognition and undistinctive pitch meant he could not compete.

Alongside the main contest were increasingly fractious legal battles over voting rights. On 28 July, the high court rejected Labour donor Michael Foster’s challenge to Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the ballot. Then on 8 August, a judge ruled that the party had wrongly excluded new members from voting, only for the decision to be overturned on appeal.

In the view of Corbyn’s allies, such legal manevoures unwittingly aided him. “They turned Jeremy, who was an incumbent, back into an insurgent,” Trickett told me. “The proponents of the challenge made it seem like he was the underdog being attacked by the establishment.”

Smith, who repeatedly framed himself as the “unity candidate”, struggled to escape the shadow of the “corridor coup”. That many of his supporters had never accepted Corbyn’s leadership rendered him guilty by association.

“The coup had an enormous galvanising effect and an enormous politicising effect,” a Corbyn source told me. “For a great number of people who supported Jeremy last year, there was a feeling, ‘well, we’ve done the work, that’s happened, now over to him.’ What the coup meant for a lot of people was that this isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn, this is a people’s movement, which we all need to lead.” The Corbyn campaign signed up 40,000 volunteers and raised £300,000 in small donations from 19,000 people (with an average donation of £16). Against this activist army, their rivals’ fledgling effort stood no chance.

“At the launch rally, we had 12 simultaneous events going on round the country, livestreamed to each other,” a Corbyn source said. “We had a lot of communication with people who were big in the Sanders campaign. In the UK context, it’s trailblazing.”

On 12 August, after previously equivocating, Smith ruled out returning to the shadow cabinet under Corbyn. “I've lost confidence in you. I will serve Labour on the backbenches,” he declared at a hustings in Gateshead. In the view of Corbyn’s team, it was a fatal error. “He shot apart his whole unity message,” a source said.

Smith, who initially offered Corbyn the post of party president, was rarely booed more than when he lamented Labour’s divisions. As one of the 172 MPs who voted against the leader, he was regarded as part of the problem, rather than the solution. By the end, Smith was reduced to insisting “I wasn’t in favour of there being a challenge” - a statement that appeared absurd to most.

As well as his leftist credentials and unifying abilities, Smith’s other main boast was his competence and articulacy. “HIs USP was that he was this media-savvy guy,” a Corbyn source said. “As a result, he threw himself up for any and every media opportunity and made tons of gaffes. We just made sure people were aware of them.”

The most enduring gaffe came early in the campaign, on 27 July, when he spoke of wanting mto “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”. Though Smith initially defended his “robust rhetoric” (“you’ll be getting that from me”), by the afternoon his campaign had apologised. What was explained as a “rugby reference” dogged them for weeks. “It played into the hands of how Corbyn wanted to depict us,” a Smith source told me. “It was really hard to shake off.”

More unforced errors followed. Smith suggested getting Isis “round the table”, in anticipation, many believed, of Corbyn agreeing. But the Labour leader baulked at the proposal: “No, they are not going to be round the table”. Corbyn’s communications team, more organised and agile than in 2015, denounced Smith’s remarks as “hasty and ill-considered”. As with “smashed”, the Labour challenger had achieved rare cut-through - but for the wrong reasons.

Smith’s rhetorical looseness became a recurring problem. At a rally on 23 August, he appeared to refer to Corbyn as a “lunatic”. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said of meeting his wife: “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on. That must be leadership.”

Earlier in the campaign, Smith’s team denied that the candidate referred to the size of his penis when he quipped of his height: "5ft 6. 29 inches - inside leg!” The guffaws from his supporters suggested otherwise.

We used to have a gaffe counter,” a Corbyn source told me. “I think it got up to 30 by the end.”

Smith’s team, meanwhile, despaired at how the Labour leader’s own missteps failed to dent him. The discovery that Corbyn had in fact secured a seat on a Virgin train, contrary to initial impressions, did little lasting damage. “It’s priced in, the bar is much lower for him,” a Smith source complained.

Incorrect claims, such as Labour being level in the polls before the coup attempt and Corbyn giving 122 speeches during the EU referendum campaign, were believed by many of his supporters. “How do you rebut bullshit?” a Smith aide asked. “If you respond, it becomes a story.”

So frequently had Labour MPs condemned their leader that extraordinary charges were soon forgotten. On 22 August, shadow business minister Chi Onwurah wrote in the New Statesman that Corbyn’s treatment of her and Thangam Debbonaire could constitute “racial discrimination”.

If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in,” she argued. But within a day, the story had moved on.  

For Smith, fleeting momentum was achieved through significant endorsements. On 10 August, the GMB backed his campaign after becoming the only trade union to ballot its members. The following week, Labour’s most senior elected politician, Sadiq Khan, endorsed Smith. Unlike Andy Burnham, the London mayor believed he could not remain neutral during this profound schism. Smith was subsequently also backed by the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale. Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband trumpeted his cause. Yet such declarations counted for little. “It’s like the Remain campaign and the Archbishop of Canterbury,” one Smith ally told me, suggesting that Labour members, like Leave voters, ”weren’t listening” to such grandees.

But in the view of Corbyn’s team, the rebels profoundly “underestimated” their opponent. “He’s a nice guy but he also has an inner steel and won't flinch from a challenge. The Obi-Wan Kenobi comparison is very accurate when you work up close with him. He’s also extremely intelligent and has a great grasp and retention of detail. It showed in the debates.”

“I have to say, I felt pretty sorry for Owen at several points,” another Corbyn source reflected. “Whatever it was, his ambition or being pushed into it, it didn’t seem like it was the right time for him. He hadn’t worked out what he was about and why that fitted with the times.”

***

Those Labour MPs who long warned that an early challenge to Corbyn would prove futile have been vindicated. “Party members are always loyal to the incumbent,” a senior source astutely noted. In the case of Corbyn, a lifelong campaigner, who many contended was “never given a chance”, this traditional fealty was intensified.

“Most of the people backing and funding him didn’t think Owen was going to win,” a Corbyn source said. “Their aim was, one, to reduce Jeremy’s mandate and, secondly, to map the selectorate.”

Having won a second leadership contest - an unprecedented achievement for the Labour left - the leader’s supporters insist their ambitions do not end here. “We’ve got to think incredibly seriously about how we win a general election in a totally changed landscape,” a Corbyn source told me. “This campaign has been showing how to do it.” But a Smith aide warned that it was a “massive strategic error” to make electability, rather than principle, the defining test of Corbyn. The leader, he suggested, could withstand a general election defeat provided he simply affirmed his values.

Beyond regarding a split as worthless, Labour MPs are divided on how to proceed. Some want another leadership challenge as early as next year. Rather than seeking to narrow the selectorate, they speak of recruiting hundreds of thousands of new members to overpower the left. “There are lots of people out there who want a credible, electable, centre-left proposition and we have not given them enough of a reason to sign up,” a former shadow cabinet minister told me. “Who has an offer and the charisma to be able to bring in new people? That has to be the question the next time round.”

Others believe that backbenchers should follow Thumper’s law: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  A senior MP argued that MPs should “just shut up” and “let Jeremy crack on with it.” The imperative, he said, was to avoid MPs “taking the blame for us getting thumped in a snap election”. Some are prepared to move beyond neutrality to outright support by serving under Corbyn.

The Labour left and their most recalcitrant opponents both confront challenges of electability. The former must demonstrate a path to victory despite Corbyn’s subterranean poll ratings. The latter, who boast so often of their superior appeal, must face a remorseless truth. Until they are electable in the party, they will never be electable in the country.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.