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22 May 2015

First survey of the contest shows Andy Burnham ahead and the deputy leadership too close to call

LabourList's membership survey puts Andy Burnham in a strong first place for the leadership, with Tom Watson and Stella Creasy tied for the deputy leadership.

By Stephen Bush

Andy Burnham has an 11 point lead in the first survey of the Labour leadership race, while the battle to replace Harriet Harman as deputy leader is a dead heat between Tom Watson and Stella Creasy.  Burnham, the shadow health secretary, is on 35 per cent of the vote, with Liz Kendall on 24 per cent. 

The shock of the race so far is the relatively weak position of Yvette Cooper, who is third on 16 per cent of the vote. But in a testament to the membership’s relative unease with the state of the race, 22 per cent of respondents want a candidate who is not in the race, from Lisa Nandy on the left to David Miliband on the right. 

The survey, carried out by LabourListfinds the deputy race is neck and neck, with Tom Watson, the bookies’ favourite, tied with Stella Creasy on 29 percent each. Caroline Flint is in third place with 15 per cent, while Angela Eagle and Ben Bradshaw bring up the rear with ten per cent apiece. 

The survey, which is a self-selecting email poll, should not be seen as a representative poll, although earlier surveys of Labour’s mayoral hopefuls have almost exactly tracked the polls. However, as one campaign source observes, the surveys are a better gauge of activist opinion than that of the wider membership. 613 members voted in the constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington, for example, but just over 200 campaigned for the party over the last five years.

Optimists in the Burnham campaign hope that these members will opt for their man for the same reason they backed David Miliband – because they had heard of him, unlike his lower-profile brother. But the Kendall campaign will hope that the elder Miliband’s favourable press coverage was what tilted members his way.

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Who’s right? It’s hard to say. But one thing is clear: in the deputy race, which is tied, Creasy has a higher profile nationally and is likely to have better press coverage. If she can secure the necessary 35 MPs to get on the ballot, it may be that Watson is not as much the frontrunner as the bookmakers suggest. 

Now listen to Stephen discussing the Labour leadership contest on the NS podcast: