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I'm more convinced than ever that Jeremy Corbyn is going to win

The polls felt wrong at the general election. But nothing I've seen or heard suggests the polls showing Corbyn ahead are anything other than correct. 

I spent more time than is healthy this weekend talking to Labour members around the country, and I’m increasingly certain: the polls are right, the constituency Labour party (CLP) nominations are right: Jeremy Corbyn is on course to win the Labour leadership election.

Yes, Corbyn’s lead in CLP nominations – he has, at time of writing, 112 to Andy Burnham’s 103 – isn’t necessarily indicative of anything. It’s not binding on members, has no effect on the final outcome, and at times, the number of members in attendance is vanishingly small. At one contest there were just 25 ballots: nine for Jeremy Corbyn, eight for Andy Burnham, four for Yvette Cooper, and one simply reading “Fuck Kendall”.

But the future has a tendency to resemble the past – just look at the general election, when despite the cries that it was “different this time”, the party that won was the one people trusted with their money and with its finger on the nuclear button. David Miliband came top of the pile as far as CLP nominations were concerned last time and if Labour members had been the only voters he would have won the Labour leadership election.

While most members don’t attend CLP meetings, I can find no persuasive evidence – other than wishful thinking – that the Labour right is less likely to attend meetings than the left. The majority of CLPs that are nominating Corbyn now nominated one of the Miliband brothers. Rugby, which nominated Corbyn last week, nominated the older, “more right-wing” brother. The nominating members of Rugby, Ilford South, Amber Valley, and many more accurately picked the winner last time. I see no reason to suggest that these local parties have become less reflective of the party’s mood than they were five years ago.

Of course, polls have been wrong before. But crucially, the polls felt wrong before the fact. Labour’s poll lead was nowhere to be seen at the European elections, when they finished a limp second, or in the local elections, when they fell back in the marginals, foreshadowing the rout they’d suffer at the general election. Ashcroft constituency polls showed Labour in contention in seats where headquarters had long stopped funnelling resources. And every ordinary conversation about politics inevitably spun round to Miliband’s unsuitability as Prime Minister.

The polls don’t feel wrong this time. Defections from the three candidates of the right to Corbyn are being picked up by all three campaign’s phonebanks, and by the mayoral campaigns as well. At the hustings, which were bossed last time by the two Milibands, it is Corbyn who is getting wildly applauded. “The surge is real,” was the verdict of one staffer I spoke to this weekend.

Privately, none of the deputy campaigns expect that Corbyn will finish anything other than first in the race for the top spot. Volunteers return from phonebanking sessions, in the words of one “utterly convinced it will be Corbyn now”.

 If anything, the pattern from local nominations supports what polling is showing – a bigger first round lead for Corbyn than implied by the CLP nominations. Labour’s preferential voting system is an active handicap to his campaign, as he has a far smaller pool of second preferences to draw on than any other candidate.  In nomination meetings, Corbyn gets a handful of second preferences, matching YouGov polling showing just 20 per cent of Kendall supporters and only 31 per cent of Cooper supporters giving him their second preference in the run-off against Burnham.

At the general election, commentators had two choices: either the European, local and mayoral elections were wrong, or the polls were. In fact, even the polls hinted that they might be wrong – they consistently showed people saying they wanted David Cameron in Number 10 but would vote Labour in their own constituencies. This time, it’s far clearer: either the polls, the CLP nominations, the phonebanks, the local meetings and the hustings are all wrong, or Corbyn is going to win. It doesn’t look likely.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics. 

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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.