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Can anybody stop the Benn bandwagon?

May 28th, 2007

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    Is Johnson suffering over his public school teacher comments?

The deputy leadership candidate who had the most trouble getting the necessary 45 nominations to get on the ballot, Hilary Benn, is continuing to attract the money on the Betfair market and now stands at his tightest price yet – 1.32/1.

As the chart shows there has been a big turnaround in the past week with interest moving away from the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, who chalked up the biggest slate of Labour MPs prepared to nominate him.

But Johnson’s call for public schools to be forced to loan teachers to the state system seems to have done him no good at all managing to incur the wrath of both sectors at the same time.

    A key factor here could be the disproportionate number of Labour members employed in education and alienating them is not smart politics while an election is going on.

John Cruddas has his own personal education issues to deal with following the weekend attacks on his life-style in the Mail while none of the other four candidates seem to be making a significant impression.

Benn’s solid support on the markets is almost exclusively down to the two YouGov surveys of party members which showed that he was on 36% with a 17% lead over Johnson. That gap is going to take a lot of overhauling even if the international development secretary comes bottom amongst Labour MPs. The only survey of trade unionists entitled to vote had Benn leading by a big margin.

    Unless something dramatic happens between now and when the ballots start going out it’s hard to see him being knocked off his perch in these sections of the electoral college.

There is, of course, the alternative vote element to consider but my guess is that he will do pretty well there as well. The Benn name still has a powerful appeal in large swathes of the movement.

As I have examined previously the YouGov member surveys in the last two Tory contests and in the 2006 Lib Dem election were pretty good at predicting the broad trends and, with the exception of the Cameron surge in October 2005, showed relatively little movement amongst the contenders.

An issue here is likely to be turnout which will probably be depressed because of the lack of media attention and the fact that a vote on the top job is not taking place at the same time. In such a context you would put your money on the polling favourite.

  • My betting is on Benn and on Cruddas who has a special appeal that might just come through. I have not even bothered to cover myself on the other contenders.
  • Mike Smithson

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