Don't rule out their opponents just yet. Photo: Getty Images
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Here's why most polls about the Labour leadership race won't tell us anything

A new poll of Labour voters shows Yvette Cooper just behind Andy Burnham - but likely tells us little about the mood among party members. 

A new IpsosMori poll shows Andy Burnham in the lead among Labour voters, with 23 per cent to Yvette Cooper’s 20 per cent. Liz Kendall is way back in third place on 11 per cent, while Jeremy Corbyn is hot on her heels with nine per cent.

Does it mean anything? Probably not.

At the beginning of June 2010, YouGov polled Labour voters on the race. David Miliband was way ahead on 22 per cent of the vote. Ed Balls was in second on 13 per cent of the vote. Ed Miliband was in third on seven percent, Diane Abbott was fourth with just five per cent of the vote. Andy Burnham – remember him? – was fifth, with four per cent of the vote.

The final result among party members was rather different: David Miliband came first, with 44 per cent of the vote. In second place was his brother with 30 per cent. In third place was Ed Balls with 10 per cent of the vote, and in fourth place was Andy Burnham with 8 per cent. Diane Abbott came dead last, with just seven per cent of the vote.

Never forget that Labour party activists are completely different from Labour party voters, let alone the country at large. At no point did Ed Miliband get anywhere near the 30 per cent of first preferences – let alone the 45 per cent he achieved in the final round – in a poll of Labour voters, although a YouGov poll of party members called the final result exactly right.

It may be that when party members vote they do put Burnham first, Cooper second, Kendall third and Corbyn fourth. But surveys of the public at large aren’t any more representative of how Labour activists will vote than, say, the leaves at the bottom of a tea cup.  These polls are, effectively, a "tell us who you have heard of" question. That Stewart Lewis - a false candidate that IpsosMori have used in their polling for decades - is on 6 per cent shows how unrepresentative of Labour members these surveys will be.

The one thing that is interesting, considering their small profiles on the national stage, is that both Kendall and Corbyn are either above or just below double figures., just ten points behind two heavyweight veterans of the last Labour government. That's a far stronger position than Ed Miliband was in five years ago.

But even that could just be noise. 

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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Why Prince Charles and Princess Anne are both wrong on GM foods

The latest tiff between toffs gives plenty of food for thought.

I don’t have siblings, so I was weirdly curious as a kid about friends who did, especially when they argued (which was often). One thing I noticed was the importance of superlatives: of being the best child, the most right, and the first to have been wronged. And it turns out things are no different for the Royals.

You might think selective breeding would be a subject on which Prince Charles and Princess Anne would share common ground, but when it comes to genetically modified crops they have very different opinions.

According to Princess Anne, the UK should ditch its concerns about GM and give the technology the green light. In an interview to be broadcast on Radio 4’s Farming Today, she said would be keen to raise both modified crops and livestock on her own land.

“Most of us would argue we have been genetically modifying food since man started to be agrarian,” she said (rallying the old first-is-best argument to her cause). She also argued that the practice can help reduce the price of our food and improve the lives of animals - and “suspects” that there are not many downsides.

Unfortunately for Princess Anne, her Royal “us” does not include her brother Charles, who thinks that GM is The Worst.

In 2008, he warned that genetically engineered food “will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.”  Supporting such a path would risk handing control of our food-chain to giant corporations, he warned -  leading to “absolute disaster” and “unmentionable awfulness” and “the absolute destruction of everything”.

Normally such a spat could be written off as a toff-tiff. But with Brexit looming, a change to our present ban on growing GM crops commercially looks ever more likely.

In this light, the need to swap rhetoric for reason is urgent. And the most useful anti-GM argument might instead be that offered by the United Nations’ cold, hard data on crop yields.

Analysis by the New York Times shows that, in comparison to Europe, the United States and Canada have “gained no discernible advantages” from their use of GM (in terms of food per acre). Not only this, but herbicide use in the US has increased rather than fallen.

In sum: let's swap superlatives and speculation for sense.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.