So the first poll to shed a bit of light on how the Labour leadership contest is progressing is already causing major wobbles. First, Tony Blair came out of his self-imposed ‘victory-lap’ exile on Tuesday and unsurprisingly echoed the comments I made after the poll dropped, warning of Labour’s doom if they lurch too far to the left under Corbyn.
Now there are strong calls from within the party for Liz Kendall to drop out of the race so that her votes convert to ‘anyone but Corbyn’. This call alone shows how ignorant, vacuous and tactless many within Labour are when it comes to their leadership election system alone; and that is forgetting the rest of their turbulent, possibly terminal fate.
For a start, let me break down the new system:
- Using AV means that voters will rank their candidates, 1-4.
- The person with the least 1st preference votes is eliminated
- After each subsequent round, another person is eliminated, if someone does not achieve an overall majority of over 50%.
- Those who are eliminated have their 2nd preferences counted and these are added to ensure that whomever is elected will get at least the tacit support of the party.
- A person is only elected when they receive over 50% of the combination of 1st and second preference votes.
Thus, if Liz Kendall were to withdraw it would make little to no difference. Those likely to vote for Kendall as a first preference would be highly unlikely to vote for Corbyn as their second preference candidate anyway; so if Kendall does come last, her votes will automatically go to either Burnham or Cooper without the need for her to leave the race.
Consequently, by making these comments and weakening the authority of the centre-right candidate even further, Labour is again partaking in its favourite pass-time, a spot of self-flagulation. Labour more than ever needs a centrist voice in this debate as a counter to the socialism coming from Corbyn.
As I have said before, it is a shame that Kendall is not the calibre of politician that can successfully shepherd that wing to victory; but without that voice in the race and with such a long way to go yet, there would be a very real danger that the other two candidates would track further and be ‘primaried’ to the left.
With Kendall in the race, they are still going to have to actively appeal to the ‘Blairite’ wing, as it could be the difference that makes the contest; this will hopefully avoid too many platitudes being made to the Left.
If Labour doesn’t want a ‘race to the bottom’, then people like John Prescott as entertaining as he is, need to keep shtum and encourage Kendall as much as they can for to stand firm and play her part.