Why I still don’t think Corbyn will win (and why I may be talking rubbish)

by Stephen Tall on August 19, 2015

Unless you’re a bookie looking for an easy publicity-shot, we have no idea who will be named Labour’s new leader on 12th September.

At the moment, Jeremy Corbyn seems a shoo-in. But there are dissenters — well-informed ones at that — who say no way. Labour Uncut editor Atul Hatwal is probably the most prominent. I’m also a dissenter (I’m sticking by my wet-finger-in-the-air hunch of Yvette Cooper) though not at all informed.

And I’m also very uncertain. Because no-one can or should be. Yes, #JezWeCan is drawing the crowds (and, hell yes, they’re impressive), but, as we saw on 7 May, conventional wisdom can turn out to be more the former than the latter.

The reason Jeremy Corbyn is such a runaway favourite is, primarily, because of the two YouGov polls showing him with convincing first-round leads; indeed, in the most recent his first round vote of 50%+ would be sufficient to make further rounds unnecessary.

Fair do’s to YouGov for daring to put their heads above the parapet so soon after the disaster of the 2015 general election, when they (and every other pollster) forecast a dead heat. But given Labour’s electorate has expanded from sub-200k to 600k-plus in a matter of weeks, we’ve no idea if Peter Kellner is going to end up Confucius or confounded. (And nor does he, it seems.)

The reason I remain sceptical Jeremy Corbyn will triumph is that I’m doubtful all his fanatical supporters will end up voting for him; while I think Cooperites (and even Kendallites) will likely be over-represented among the still-to-make-their-minds-ups. Ed Miliband was let down by ‘Lazy Labour’ clicktivists — will Corbyn be, too?

But my prediction may turn out chaff. I also didn’t believe the SNP would win more than 50 seats. Such political earthquakes are more often predicted than delivered, was my rational but wrong-headed presumption. Labour may be about to ape that Scottish craziness, craving a similar feel-good factor, rallying bloody-mindedly in fulsome support of the movement the rest of the electorate has just rejected.

It could happen. I just can’t quite believe Labour will be that nihilist. But if you really are convinced Labour is condemned inevitably to a decade in the wilderness — or are equally-and-opposite deluded to believe the only reason it lost last time was because it wasn’t left-wing enough — then maybe you reckon it just doesn’t matter much.

And to think in 2006 the Labour party conference rose in unison to give Tony Blair a rousing and emotional standing ovation. Just wow.


I can see your reasoning, and it’s more reasonable than Labour Uncut’s Comical Ali-esque ranting, but I think the problem is when you say “I just can’t quite believe Labour will be that nihilist” etc. The issue, I think, is taking what we assume Labour is, based on the 200k members pre-election and assuming that still applies to the 600k selectorate voting in this election. Expecting that new 400k to act in the way we think ‘the Labour Party’ should is an error, IMO because a lot of them have signed up in order to change the Labour Party, not to let it change them.

And to counter the Corbyn supporters not voting (though I think having paid for a vote will be an important factor in making them use it), from purely anecdotal evidence a lot of existing Labour members I know are pretty unenthusiastic about stopping Corbyn – they might not want him as leader, but not to the extent that they’re hugely motivated to vote for any of the alternatives.

It’s a hard situation to judge as we’ve never had a British political party transformed so rapidly before (and you might be right, and it might not happen) and so that’s why we’re all floundering as the old models we use to judge it just aren’t valid any more.

by Nick on August 19, 2015 at 10:54 am. Reply #

@ Nick – Thanks. I agree the great unknowable is about those who “signed up in order to change the Labour Party, not to let it change them” (nicely put).

While I expect turnout will be lower among affiliates/registered supporters than dues-paying members, clearly if they’re disproportionately pro-Corbyn and vote in sufficient numbers, he will win. There’s clearly a difference between Labour’s selectorate (who are by definition motivated at least to some degree) and the wider electorate. That’s one reason why I may well be wrong.

It’s also true that the not-Corbyn candidates have shown themselves to be not up to the job, so rallying behind an ABC candidate is tougher.

by Stephen Tall on August 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm. Reply #

I think you need to explain why there was such a rapid shift in CLP nominations, from 35% for Corbyn to 55% in the last week. To me that suggests a big reservoir of Left support which mobilised when people started to think that Corbyn could win. The Left didnt go away during the The Blair years – they were just demoralised.

by Paul Barker on August 19, 2015 at 11:48 am. Reply #

I'm not sure how much to read into the CLP nominations. They're the (sometimes very marginal) choice of the more hard-core activists. They may be representative of the wider membership, but we just don't know yet.

by Stephen Tall on August 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm. Reply #

What is Corbyn proposing that makes you believe his election would cast Labour in a nihilist light? On his key policies, such as renationalisation of the railways/ energy ccompanies and on tackling inequality, all surveys show him to be pretty much in tune with the public mood. This is not 1983 and he is not Militant.

by Adrian Cruden on August 19, 2015 at 11:42 pm. Reply #

That was pretty much the argument Labour supporters were making last May, too. Feel free to keep making it, if you like.

by Stephen Tall on August 20, 2015 at 8:53 am. Reply #

Except Labour were not advocating any of these things in May.

by Adrian Cruden on August 20, 2015 at 9:01 am. Reply #

[…] 7. Why I still don’t think Corbyn will win (and why I may be talking rubbish) by Stephen Tall on Stephen Tall. Like me, Stephen doesn’t think Labour will elect its most left wing leader in 30 years. […]

by Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #428 on August 23, 2015 at 9:09 pm. Reply #

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