Heading for the win? Photo: Getty Images
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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 and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Like many others, Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was left in charge of a failing aircraft

Ony when enough hospitals shut down, and do so often, will those with true responsibility properly resource the NHS. 

The day Leicester trainee paediatrician Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was struck off by the High Court for her involvement in the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt posted a tweet expressing his deep concern about possible unintended consequences of the ruling. He was referring specifically to the impact on patient safety.

At a stroke, efforts to build a culture of open learning – a cause Hunt champions – had been set back decades. You don’t get people to talk honestly about critical mistakes by threatening them with prison and professional ruin.

There may be other consequences that Hunt didn’t anticipate. Comparisons with another safety-critical industry – aviation – are instructive. On the day Jack died, from undiagnosed sepsis, Bawa-Garba was functioning as would a first officer on an aircraft. The plane’s captain was elsewhere, training other pilots on a simulator in a different city. The chief steward had failed to report for duty, so Bawa-Garba was expected to oversee cabin service as well as fly the plane single-handed.

The aircraft’s IT systems had gone down, meaning one of the stewardesses was permanently occupied looking out of the window to ensure they didn’t collide with anything. Another stewardess was off sick, and her replacement was unfamiliar with the type of plane and its safety systems. And Bawa-Garba herself had just returned from a year’s maternity leave. She’d done quite a lot of flying in the past, though, and the airline clearly believed she could slot straight back into action – they arranged no return-to-work programme, dropping her in at the deep end.

Not one of us would agree to be a passenger on that flight, yet that kind of scenario is commonplace in hospitals throughout the country. Critically ill patients have no awareness of how precarious their care is, and would have no choice about it if they knew. Since the Bawa-Garba ruling, doctors have been bombarding the General Medical Council (GMC) for advice as to what they should do when confronted with similarly parlous working conditions.

The GMC’s response has been to issue a flowchart detailing whom medics should tell about concerns. But it has failed to confirm that doing so would protect doctors should a disaster occur. Nor does it support worried doctors simply refusing to work under unsafe conditions. This is akin to telling the first officer they must inform the airline that things are bad, very bad, but that they still have to fly the plane regardless.

Jeremy Hunt has responded to the crisis by announcing an urgent review into gross negligence manslaughter, the offence of which Bawa-Garba was convicted. This is welcome, and long overdue, but it still serves to retain the focus on individuals and their performance, and keeps attention away from the failing systems that let down doctors and patients daily.

An action by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin is, arguably, more important than Hunt’s review. The organisation has written to Leicestershire police requesting that they investigate Bawa-Garba’s hospital trust for alleged corporate manslaughter. I sincerely hope a prosecution follows. I’m no fan of litigation, but change is only going to come when those who manage the NHS know that they are going to carry the can when things go wrong.

We need clear statements of what constitute minimum acceptable staffing levels, both in terms of numbers, and training and experience. When departments, or even whole hospitals, fall below these – or when unexpected problems such as IT failures occur – managers, faced with the real prospect of corporate lawsuits, will close the unit, rather than keep operating in unsafe conditions, as routinely occurs.

Only when enough hospitals shut down, and do so often, will those with true responsibility – Jeremy Hunt and the rest of the Conservative government – finally act to resource the health service properly. 

This would be an unintended consequence from the Dr Bawa-Garba case that would be welcome indeed. 

This article first appeared in the 15 February 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The polite extremist