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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.

By George Eaton

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. 

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