Constituency nominations for the Labour leadership closed today and it’s a landslide for Jeremy Corbyn. The incumbent won 285 (84 per cent) compared to Owen Smith’s 53, a larger margin of victory than last year when he won 39 per cent (152/387). Based on these numbers, most believe Corbyn will come close to matching his 2015 performance (when he won 60 per cent of the vote). My instinct, as I’ve written before, is that the Labour leader is on course for re-election.
But Smith’s supporters insist they have cause for hope. They point out that more votes were cast in the GMB members’ ballot (which the challenger won) than in constituency parties. Nearly half didn’t nominate at all. Turnout among those that did ranged from around 7 per cent to 15 per cent with most members staying home.
“Many quiet, moderate members don’t attend meetings at the best of times and are even more put off in the current climate,” a Labour MP told the New Statesman. “There’s a real disconnect between Corbynite noise in meetings and on social media and where members are.” Some of those who did vote in nomination meetings are among the 130,000 new members who Labour’s National Executive Committee successfully excluded from the contest.
As I reported last week, Smith’s team say that their private polling shows Corbyn below 50 per cent with a significant number of undecided voters. Such reports should always be treated with dollops of salt. Andy Burnham’s team claimed private polling showed him four points behind Corbyn last August (compared to YouGov’s 32). Corbyn finished 41 points ahead. But Smith’s supporters have also been buoyed by new data from Saving Labour. The anti-Corbyn group says it has recruited 70,000 registered supporters (out of an estimated 140,000) and 50,000 trade unionists (out of an estimated 70,000). Their assumption is that almost all will vote for Smith, putting him level with Corbyn among the former group and ahead among the latter.
But it is only with a new poll of members by YouGov (an accurate guide in 2010 and 2015), expected later this week, that a clear picture will be given.