11 Aug, 2015
Veteran Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn looks set to win more than half of the votes in Labour’s leadership contest, despite warnings from senior party figures that the anti-austerity candidate’s victory would prove catastrophic. A YouGov poll, published by The Times newspaper on Monday night, took opinions from 1,411 voters eligible to vote in the upcoming election. It found that Corbyn had doubled his lead over the past week and would now poll 53 percent, meaning he could secure a first-round victory without needing to count the second preferences of voters.
Following the results, a panicked former Labour communications director under Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell, urged voters to choose “anyone but Corbyn,” saying his popularity was part of a “car crash” scenario that has engulfed Labour. In a blog post published Monday, Campbell issued a stark warning against “flirting” with Corbyn as party leader.
“I agree with Alan Johnson that what he called the madness of flirting with the idea of Corbyn as leader has to stop,” he wrote.
“That means no first preferences, no second preferences, no any preferences. It frankly means ABC: Anyone But Corbyn.” YouGov’s survey found that UK bookies’ former favorite Andy Burnham has lost 5 percentage points, and now stands at 21 percent. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper stands at 18 percent, while openly Blairite Labour MP Liz Kendall remains at 8 percent.
Corbyn told the BBC that supporters should be “a little bit cautious” about taking the results at face value. For the first time in this leadership election, Labour has introduced a US-style primary voting system, in which voting is opened up to supporters as well as party members. For a £3 fee, supporters can sign up to vote in the leadership election. The deadline for signing up to participate in the vote is August 12.
Estimates suggest that around 190,000 people have signed up to vote since the party’s shock defeat in May’s general election. The poll’s findings are likely to fuel criticism of the voting system among those who oppose Corbyn’s policy proposals, with six out of 10 of his potential voters having recently registered with the Labour party.
YouGov’s findings were dismissed by Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper’s camp. “This does not reflect our extensive phone banking data, which does not suggest any single candidate will receive 50% of first preferences,” a spokesperson for her campaign said. “Our figures – as other polls have suggested – show clearly that Yvette is the candidate best placed to draw support from all areas of the Labour Party and win this contest. She is best placed to unite the party and position Labour for victory in the 2020 election.” But YouGov president Peter Kellner said he “would personally be astonished if Corbyn does not end up as Labour’s leader.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Stephen Timms, who has backed Liz Kendall, did not specify whether he would serve in a shadow cabinet led by Corbyn.
“If it’s accepted, as I believe, that it was economic credibility that was our big problem in the general election, I don’t think a victory for Jeremy Corbyn would help us to overcome that,” he told the BBC. Separate voting for party leader and deputy leader begins Friday. The results will be declared September 12.
Source:© Toby Melville / Reuters