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Antifrank’s 50/1 tip to be next Labour leader

October 3rd, 2015

John McDonnell

Antifrank explains why he’s bet on John McDonnell to be the next Labour leader

 Jeremy Corbyn has been leader of the Labour party for just over a fortnight and already there are rumblings about who might replace him.  Some bookies already have markets up and running (though they may well have more value at present for publicity rather than for making money).  Are there any bargains out there?

Jeremy Corbyn may leave office in many years time after a stint as Prime Minister.  If he does, it is likely that almost none of the current favourites will be in the running.  But much more likely, he will leave having failed to win a general election or having been ousted in a palace (of Westminster) coup.

Jeremy Corbyn has made a faltering start on many fronts but he has been making good progress on the one front that I suspect really matters to him: the accumulation of party power.  He has appointed his most trusted ally as shadow Chancellor and he has secured control of the NEC.  He should be able to secure rule changes for appointing his successor, for selecting MPs and for setting policy.  This seems to have been his primary focus in his first weeks as Labour leader.  In his own terms therefore he has been a success.

It is therefore likely that the next leadership election will be conducted under rules which favour the hard left, increasing still further the dominance of the membership and supporter base over the Parliamentary party.  Perhaps the nomination hurdle will be lowered, for example.

The right of the party is probably going to need to move fast if it is to avoid this.  Even then, they is probably doomed to failure.  Jeremy Corbyn arguably has the right to stand for leader without nominations even if challenged.  Even if he chose not to stand again if challenged or stood down of his own volition, it is highly likely that a new hard left candidate would now secure the necessary number of MP nominations.  Any attempt to keep such a candidate off the ballot paper would cause uproar and given the sea change in the party that has already taken place I expect that it would in any case fail.

So it looks highly likely that the next Labour leader will come from the hard left or is someone that the hard left are entirely comfortable with, unless the hard left is discredited in the eyes of the Labour electorate.  I do not expect this to happen.

This means that the current odds look hopelessly wrong to me.  Most of the Labour rightwingers are far too short.  So we should look at the Labour left for our best prices.

One name stands out: John McDonnell.  He is now shadow Chancellor and in that role he has the stature and visibility to develop a public profile over time.  The audience that he needs to cultivate in the Labour electorate are unlikely to be put off by his interesting views on the IRA and he has started as a smoother public performer than his boss.  If he wants to throw his hat in the ring next time, he will be a very serious contender.  His age is probably his single biggest negative but he seems in good health and vigour.

There are at least two ways that he could get the job.  First, Jeremy Corbyn may voluntarily stand down at some point in the near future.  Secondly, the right of the party might seek to oust Jeremy Corbyn (perhaps at a time when his support base is disillusioned by too many compromises) and John McDonnell may be chosen to become the new standard-bearer of the left.

I backed him earlier in the week at 50/1 with Bet365 and you can still back him at 40/1 with Paddy Power (some bookies are still not even listing him).  For someone who at the time of the next leadership election is likely to be the most heavyweight politician in the dominant faction of the wider Labour party, those look fantastic odds.  Take them.

Antifrank