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17 January 2020

Everything points the same way: to a victory for Keir Starmer

A second YouGov poll shows the same story.

By Stephen Bush

A second successive YouGov poll has put Keir Starmer way ahead in the Labour leadership race, with 46 per cent of the vote, ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey on 32 per cent, Jess Phillips on 11 per cent, Lisa Nandy on seven per cent, and Emily Thornberry on three per cent. When second preferences are reallocated, Starmer defeats Long-Bailey by 63 per cent to 37 per cent. Some thoughts:

This basically confirms everything we’ve seen

It’s possible to overthink things from time to time. Every single scrap of information we have about the Labour leadership points to a comfortable victory for Keir Starmer. His photo finish among LabourList readers with Rebecca Long-Bailey, his success in votes of the various elected trade union executives…essentially, whenever part of the labour movement, however large or small, has been given the opportunity to vote thus far, they are more likely to back Starmer than any of the other candidates.

In a further boost to him, members are broadly aligned with his positioning – supportive of the manifesto in general, but feel it lacked focus. This of course also helps Lisa Nandy, of whom, more below. But in general, Starmer looks more and more to be in the box seat.

This may change the pattern of coming endorsements

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There is a near-universal expectation at the top of the various campaigns that the GMB will endorse Lisa Nandy. But there’s always an element – even in a union with a heavily federalised structure like the GMB – of power politics involved, and you might wonder if, looking at these numbers, the GMB and other Corbynsceptic organisations might opt to just throw their lot in with Starmer, reasoning that they might as well get their feet under the table.

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Labour members are not saying yes to the Jess

YouGov have helpfully polled just how much party members have heard of the candidates, and essentially, they have heard a great deal about Keir Starmer, a lot about Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry – and not a lot about Lisa Nandy.

That, again, confirms essentially everything we thought we knew about the race. But it means that it’s much harder to see how Phillips or Thornberry can win this contest and turn around their poll ratings.

Lisa Nandy looks like the only candidate with room to grow

The only candidate who a majority of Labour members have not heard of is Lisa Nandy, which means she is the candidate who has to worry least about shifting existing perceptions. If she can, by the end of this contest, introduce herself to the 58 per cent if members who have not heard of her and leave them with as favourable an impression, she can win.

Like Starmer, her positioning looks to be about where the membership is.

A note of caution, however: becoming more well-known is a double-edged sword. It’s striking to me that 42 per cent of those currently backing Nandy say it is “important” that the Labour leader be working class. Nandy is not working class and has never pretended to be. She just has a Northern accent. Then again, given that she is attracting the support of just 30 per cent of members who say it is important that the next leader be from an ethnic minority when she is the only ethnic minority in the field these two things may cancel each other out – or it may be that what members say they want isn’t as revealing as how they end up voting.

Rebecca Long-Bailey’s coalition looks the most durable, though

The big source of comfort to me were I Team Long-Bailey is that frankly, the group of people electing Keir Starmer (and voting for Nandy) has a wide range of attitudes towards the party’s present position and they might yet shed votes as a result.