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Don Brind sticks his neck out and argues that the leadership race is now “too close to call”

August 11th, 2016

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Corbyn could be heading for a shock

There’s an unmistakeable mood of triumphalism in the Corbyn camp after their victory in the High court over allowing all new members to use their vote and a slew of results which have been widely interpreted as showing Jeremy Corbyn really does have momentum.

I believe the contest is very tight and that Owen Smith has a very good chance of victory.

I’m undoubtedly sticking my neck out because I’m at odds with some smart people whose judgement I trust. The New Statesman’s George Eaton . says “Corbyn was already on course to beat Owen Smith by a comfortable margin … and now has a strong chance of winning by an even bigger margin than in 2015 (when he won 60 per cent of the vote.”

A Corbyn victory is also taken as inevitable by the erudite former MP Nick Palmer in his PB post here.

And Stephen Bush is already writing about how Team Corbyn will use their victory to bend the Labour HQ to their will.

    My hunch that they are all wrong is based on what I see as game changing numbers produced by Saving Labour It has recruited around 50,000 trade union members to vote in the leadership election out of total of an estimated 70 thousand union members who will be entitled to vote in the affiliated supporters section.

The spokesperson for Saving Labour said: Our success in this campaign shows that a huge number of trade union members want to see new leadership, and will vote accordingly when ballot papers drop in a couple of weeks.

I agree with Saving Labour’s assessment that “This contest is too close to call.”

Their cohort of union recruits is on top of the 70,000 they’ve recruited to pay the £25 to become registered supporters. Taken together this means that around 120,000 people have been mobilised by Saving Labour many of whom they reckon “will vote for new leadership.”

The Saving Labour figures point to a dramatic turn round from 2015.

Then Jeremy Corbyn was just short of 50% with the rest of the votes scattered amongst his three challengers. He got his landslide and much vaunted mandate thanks is advantage amongst registered supporters – who then got in for just £3. He got 88,500 out of 106,000 in that section and 41,000 out of 71,000 affiliated supporters.

The Saving Labour figures are in line with the membership ballot of GMB members which gave Smith a 60%-40% victory over Corbyn. Recent polls conducted by YouGov for Election Data show that the majority of affiliated trade union members think that Jeremy Corbyn is doing a bad job as leader of the Labour Party.

And as reported on PB yesterday the Smith campaign also claimed that private polling showed Corbyn support amongst ordinary members at below 50%.

Saving Labour describes itself as a “grassroots led effort to create a Labour Party that properly holds the Tories to account, is capable of forming an alternative government and that can deliver real change.” It used extensive online activities including targeted Facebook and Google advertising to sign up the new voters.

They claim the sign-ups “share our view that this country desperately needs a Labour Party that properly holds the Tories to account, is capable of forming an alternative government and that truly represents Britain.”

Saving labour aren’t formally backing Owen Smith – they were set up before a challenger to Jeremy Corbyn emerged – but he is the undoubted beneficiary of their work.

The Labour NEC’s appeal against the judgement that it’s freeze date was illegal is being heard today. George Eaton of the New Statesman argues “won’t significantly change the outcome of the contest.” That assessment is probably correct. There is a large overlap between the disenfranchised members and the £25 registered supporters. What Corbyn and Smith lose and the swings they are likely to gain on the roundabout.

Don Brind