David Miliband has eight-point lead

John Rentoul

Catching up on What I Missed on My Holidays, the most important news about the Labour leadership election over the summer was the appearance, finally, on 29 July of a YouGov opinion poll of Labour Party members.

yg David Miliband has eight point lead

As you can see, YouGov surveyed not only 1,184 party members but also 1,102 Labour-supporting trade unionists, and combined the results with Left Foot Forward’s analysis of pledged support among MPs and Euro-MPs, who make up the third part of the electoral college.

david miliband pic pa 582793275 300x205 David Miliband has eight point leadThis is easily the most thorough assessment of the race so far (fieldwork was carried out between 27 and 29 July), and gives David Miliband a six-point lead among party members – that section of the college in which his brother might have been expected to perform most strongly. The brothers tie in that section after transfers, but David’s advantage in the other two sections gives him an eight-point lead overall.

As YouGov has assumed that the preferences between the two Milibands of other candidates’ supporters among MPs and Euro-MPs divide equally, it gives David Miliband an eight-point lead in the final count. Even if this assumption is generous to David Miliband, he seems to have a fairly comfortable margin for error.

The biggest doubt must be over the trade unionists’ section of the college, because turnout is likely to be low and no one knows how important the North-Korean-style guided democracy of endorsement by union leaders will be. Phil Collins in The Times yesterday (pay wall) says:

In the 2007 deputy leadership election, the GMB’s endorsement of Peter Hain translated, in a field of six, into 60 per cent of the GMB vote.

I do not believe that the decisions by Unite, the GMB and Unison leaderships to endorse Ed Miliband will have such a dramatic effect. The union machines may be able to guide their members towards a better understanding of their class interest, but they start with raw material that is strongly in favour of the more credible alternative prime minister.

But Collins makes an important point, that Ed Balls’s expression of a preference between the brothers could be influential, and adds:

In 1999 Mr Balls and David Miliband used to meet regularly in Churchill’s, a café opposite the Treasury on Whitehall, in a forlorn attempt to join up the Government. It left Mr Balls with a basic respect for the elder Miliband that he does not have for the younger.

Siôn Simon, the unpredictable former MP and Blair coup organiser, wrote something similar at the start of the month:

It is about time the also-rans signalled where their second preferences will go. The tradition is to leave it late, to ambush your own supporters with your recommendation, to trick them into voting how you want them to before they have chance to think about it.

Let’s not do that this time. Let’s have it open, honest and up front, for once. I think Balls (for personal and political reasons) and Burnham (for ideological ones) are both more likely to back David than Ed. My hunch is that Abbott will too.

I think that is the way the contest is going in its final stages. (Paul Myners, the former City minister, as good as endorsed David Miliband – or rather dis-endorsed his brother – in The Guardian on Monday.) Ignore the fluff about house parties in today’s newspapers – the real story there is that David Miliband’s campaign is well organised at the grass roots.

It looks as if Labour’s college may be ready to make the right choice for the country.

Photograph: PA

Update (24 August): There is a fuller pdf of the results of the poll of Labour Party members here.

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  • cocteau8

    Analyse the article, be critical of it, etc. but suggesting this just contributes prejudice and is the most patent bit of nonsense. Hopefully this disgraceful bit of Thatcherite nostalgia that’s presently in power will be out within the next couple of years, but it is the way of political see-sawing that it will be out within living memory! (But hopefully not with Blair Mark 2 at the helm of the new government!).

  • paulthorgan

    The main feature of the Labour leadership election is that the male candidates appear indistinguishable from each other in so many ways.

    So, given the above, a mixture of any two of the candidates would suffice to lead the party.

    But what kind of mixture?

    Using the latest morphing technologies, I have determined that the best candidate would be 80% David Miliband with 20% Ed Balls.

    Want to see how?

    Watch the video of the candidates morphing seamlessly into each other here.

  • porkfright

    Perhaps you might agree that for all my failings I do have a nice line in polemic.

  • Ciaran Rehill

    Immaterial who leads Labour. It sold out under Blair and continued it’s downward trajectory under Brown. Maybe they can link up with UKIP?

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