Next Labour Leader: Starmer ahead on most measures in dual with RLB

Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey
Either Starmer or Long-Bailey are near certain to succeed Corbyn

Keir Starmer is rated 70% likely to succeed Jeremy Corbyn but it is still early days. Paul Krishnamurty updates the Labour leadership race...

"Perhaps to decisive effect, Starmer is benefiting from an unproven, yet prevalant narrative that he is the most electable and that Long-Bailey is unelectable."

Keir Starmer has received a further boost to his campaign to be Next Labour Leader with the release of a new Yougov poll of Labour members. When last taken at the end of 2019, he was estimated to be 61-39 ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey in the final, head-to-head round of the party's AV electoral system. Yougov now have it as 63-37.

Timely numbers for those punters who'd previously backed the Shadow Brexit Secretary down to 1.341/3, only to see his odds drift markedly in response to a different poll from Survation, which showed Long-Bailey on course to win 51-49. Starmer is now back into 1.392/5 compared to 5.14/1 for RLB. Of the rest, only Lisa Nandy at 15.014/1 is vaguely competitive in the betting.

Starmer ahead on most measures

Where are we, and which polls should we trust? First, Starmer's front-runner status is hard to dispute. He won more than twice as many endorsements from colleagues and has taken an early lead in CLP nominations.

Perhaps to decisive effect, Starmer is benefiting from an unproven, yet prevalant narrative that he is the most electable and that Long-Bailey is unelectable. He's also just been endorsed by lifelong socialist and trade union activist Ricky Tomlinson - demonstrating an ability to win support across the party.

However it remains very early in the race, with all manner of hustings to come. Long Bailey only launched her campaign last night. So too 75/1 chance Emily Thornberry. Backing early favourites in leadership contests often proves a route to the poorhouse - ask Andy Burnham or David Miliband backers in the two previous Labour elections.

Unite endorsement bound to boost RLB

There is a high chance Long-Bailey's support will grow - particularly once securing the significant endorsement of Len McCluskey's Unite union. The elimination of Clive Lewis leaves her the sole candidate of the party's left and natural heir to Jeremy Corbyn.

Plus there are weaknesses with both polls. Yougov doesn't count registered supporters or affiliated societies. The Survation poll was derived from LabourList readers and therefore probably not representative of the party's electorate.

Corbyn campaigns impossible to replicate

My instinct remains that it will be impossible for Long Bailey to generate anything like the enthusiasm managed by Corbyn. His particular authentic, anti-war, anti-austerity brand inspired hundreds of thousands to register for both the contests he won.

Labour have gained 60,000 members since the election but one would assume a large chunk of them to be 'rejoiners' who left in protest at Corbyn.

Whereas that project once generated excitement, it now reeks of electoral catastrophe. When Corbyn was challenged by Owen Smith for the leadership in 2016, 180,000 non-members paid £25 to become registered supporters. A mere 14,700 have done so this time. Only 18% of Momentum's membership voted in their farcical "RLB or not" referendum.

Contest increasingly looks a dual

Can anyone else come with a late run? Highly unlikely - these polls have fixed the dividing lines. Long-Bailey's opponents consider her to be electoral suicide and won't risking splitting their vote. If Nandy's excellent, prominent early campaign hasn't cut through yet, it isn't likely to.

One important point to consider is the Alternative Vote (AV) voting system, where candidates are ranked in preference and their votes redistributed. This is not an easy system to poll. A voter has the option to list all preferences but many will exclude the candidates they're strongly opposed to.

Again I think this favours Starmer. He is not alienated from any particular faction of the party - he was loyal to Corbyn and has a strong progressive track record of his own. The market is right to estimate his chance at around 70% but this is hardly an odds-on bet to get excited about. It is too early and there are too many unknowns.

Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his website, Political Gambler.

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