Jeremy Corbyn speaks at an anti-austerity march in London on June 20, 2015. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Corbyn backers threaten to transfer support from Burnham to Cooper

Labour backbencher's supporters consider switching their second preference votes in the leadership contest.

Since the Labour leadership contest began, supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have planned to give their second preference votes to Andy Burnham. The increasing possibility that the backbencher could beat Liz Kendall to third place means that they could determine the outcome of the race. 

But after increasing disillusionment with Burnham's campaign, Corbyn's backers are now considering transferring their support to Yvette Cooper. The trigger was yesterday's Staggers article by Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary and Burnham's shadow chancellor of choice. In her first intervention since taking maternity leave, Reeves wrote that Labour should "commit to run a surplus when the economy is growing at or above its historic average rate", back cuts to departmental spending and endorse "the principle of a benefit cap to ensure our welfare system is fair, affordable and rewards hard work". 

Her stances have angered Corbyn's supporters, who regard them as a capitulation to George Osborne. One told me "This will kill Andy" and said that Reeves's positions were a "direct contradiction" of what Burnham had argued elsewhere. The tacit or explicit endorsement of Cooper, who is regarded by many MPs as the likely victor, could give her the edge in the contest (though Labour's new one-member-one-vote system makes the result less predictable). The question now is whether Burnham will use Budget day to strike an anti-austerity tone and distance himself from Reeves's piece. Corbyn's supporters are demanding nothing less. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Paul Nuttall is like his party: sad, desperate and finished

The party hope if they can survive until March 2019, they will grow strong off disillusionment with Brexit. They may not make it until then. 

It’s a measure of how far Ukip have fallen that while Theresa May faced a grilling over her social care U-Turn and Jeremy Corbyn was called to account over his past, the opening sections of Andrew Neill’s interview with Paul Nuttall was about the question of whether or not his party has a future.

The blunt truth is that Ukip faces a battering in this election. They will be blown away in the seats they have put up a candidate in and have pre-emptively retreated from numerous contests across the country.

A party whose leader in Wales once said that climate change was “ridiculous” is now the victim of climate change itself. With Britain heading out of the European Union and Theresa May in Downing Street, it’s difficult to work out what the pressing question in public life to which Ukip is the answer.

Their quest for relevance isn’t helped by Paul Nuttall, who at times tonight cast an unwittingly comic figure. Pressing his case for Ukip’s burka ban, he said earnestly: “For [CCTV] to work, you have to see people’s faces.” It was if he had intended to pick up Nigel Farage’s old dogwhistle and instead put a kazoo to his lips.

Remarks that are, written down, offensive, just carried a stench of desperation. Nuttall’s policy prescriptions – a noun, a verb, and the most rancid comment underneath a Mail article – came across as a cry for attention. Small wonder that senior figures in Ukip expect Nuttall to face a move on his position, though they also expect that he will see off any attempt to remove him from his crown.

But despite his poor performance, Ukip might not be dead yet. There was a gleam of strategy amid the froth from Nuttall in the party’s pledge to oppose any continuing payment to Brussels as part of the Brexit deal, something that May and Corbyn have yet to rule out.

If May does manage to make it back to Downing Street on 8 June, the gap between campaign rhetoric – we’ll have the best Brexit, France will pay for it – and government policy – we’ll pay a one-off bill and continuing contributions if need be – will be fertile territory for Ukip, if they can survive as a going concern politically and financially, until March 2019.

On tonight’s performance, they’ll need a better centre-forward than Paul Nuttall if they are to make it that far. 

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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