h1

Who would take over as Labour Leader if Ed fell short?

May 31st, 2013

 

I expect Labour to win most seats at the next general election and for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister. The bookies make it the most likely event but not a certainty. They price it as a 1/2 shot that Labour will return the most MPs at the next election and 4/6 that Ed Miliband makes it to 10 Downing Street. This is not a universal view by any stretch of the imagination.

So what happens if Labour falls short in 2015 and doesn’t win most seats – the bookies make this a 1 in 3 chance after all. Well in a nutshell, Labour’s leader wouldn’t last long. There’s a big value bet to be had in this eventuality.

The Labour leadership contest that would follow any failure to win the most seats would be too early for some of the young guns elected in 2010. Instead the main battle would likely be between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper (or Ed Balls again) and possibly Jim Murphy or Caroline Flint from the right of the party.

I’d back Burnham to win either eventuality and would make him even money favourite to be next leader in those circumstances. As a double (Labour not win most seats, Burnham win) you’d be looking at a double around 3/1. Instead the odds of Burnham being next leader are an eyewatering 25/1 with Ladbrokes.

The only question some may ask is ‘would he stand’? I’m almost certain of it. He stood in the last Labour leadership contest and grew week by week into the contest. Since then he has adapted well to the challenges of Opposition and is now arguably Labour’s most effective Shadow Minister.

His supporters on the green benches are growing and growing and his opposition to the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act is a lesson to his colleagues as to how to hold the government to account and cut through with the public. His support for the Hillsborough Justice for the 96 campaign has allowed people to see a side of Andy Burnham that most politicians struggle to show.

Burnham’s popularity in the party grassroots is high. He’s from an ordinary background and is earthier than Ed Miliband’s. If Ed were to fall short then the party would likely be looking for someone earthier who could connect better with voters. When I speak to members and ask who they’d like to speak at a constituency dinner, Burnham’s name now comes top every time.

Andy would get some trade union support too. Unison would likely be the first in the queue, although in this context I’d expect the leadership context to be a short affair where union backing and resources would be less of a factor.

Yvette Cooper, the current 5/2 frontrunner in the betting, would have a real fight on her hands. She is in a difficult brief and while she is still popular, I feel the pendulum has swung towards Burnham. In Andy’s favour is the fact that health is much more likely to feature as part of Labour’s attack on the Conservatives over the next two years than Home Affairs is.

I largely expect Labour to win a majority and certainly most seats, but if you accept that this is not nailed on, then backing Burnham to be the next Labour leader at anything over 8/1 is one hell of a covering bet.

Henry G Manson