Left in process of making biggest tactical and strategic mistake. It’s not quite too late to change it

Push for single left candidate is huge error that risks gifting Labour leadership to right on second preferences

The leadership of the Labour Party hangs in the balance – and a tactical and strategic blunder by parts of the left risks handing victory to the right.

In spite of Establishment polling suggesting centrist Keir Starmer will win the Labour leadership, the balance among members looks tight – and will tighten further after recent developments.

But the determination among some parts of the left to limit members’ choice to a single viable candidate restricts the left’s chance to win the contest to the first round of votes – and at the same time has demotivated large parts of the left’s natural support, who complain of feeling railroaded into backing that single candidate.

Labour’s preferential voting system in the leadership contest means that if no candidate wins more than fifty percent of the vote in the first round, the ‘second preference’ votes of those who backed the least popular candidate will come into play, with the process repeated in each round until one candidate breaks the fifty percent threshold.

But there is no second left-wing candidate likely to reach the ballot stage – if Rebecca Long-Bailey does not gain more than fifty percent in the first round, the second-preference votes allocated to the least popular right-winger will almost all be for another right-winger.

If she does not pass fifty percent in round one, Long-Bailey will be stranded and have negligible secondary votes in the subsequent rounds, while a right-winger – probably Starmer – gathers the rest.


By failing to give left-wing members an alternative, those who have pushed this situation will actually restrict the chances of the left to win the contest. An alternative candidate – such as Ian Lavery or Barry Gardiner – would have galvanised the left and helped ensure that either left candidate would have additional votes to pick up in the second round and a far better chance of getting over the 50% hurdle.

It is not quite too late for the left-wing power-brokers – whoever they are – who have restricted the choice presented to the left’s majority to correct their mistake and get another contender into the contest.

But they have only two days to act – or run the serious risk of handing victory to the right, who will not hesitate to dismantle the advances made since 2015 and to build walls to prevent any future threat to right-wing dominance.

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  1. If everyone votes for Rebecca, as Lavery & McDonnell recommend then she shoud win on the first ballot! Simples. Last thing we need is Blairite Starmer & Labour First cronies!

  2. I thought this may happen . McDonnell has too much influence behind the scenes ,he is hell bent on getting RLB elected and will sacrifice a left choice to do it . Is he a gambler ? Because his wager to back the peoples vote and remain option backfired at the cost of losing us the election. And he doing it again now ! He knows I and others like me will vote for RLB but it is a Hobson’s choice and I resent that . I would go further and say it was probably him who is influencing the votes against Richard B and put off more suitable candidates like Barry G from standing as it would water down RLB support .

  3. RBL as the left candidate seems to be a fait accompli, regardless of the doubts that many of us have. Our main energies must now go into a) stopping Starmer and b) making sure that Richard Burgon is elected deputy.

  4. Give me a candidate that will face up to the MSM and anti-semitism scams.

    Is that a resounding silence that I hear?

    1. Clive Lewis. He was a witnesses for Marc Wandsworth alongside Chris Williamson. He is a former soldier, so good luck to the MSM and the right wingers of the Party branding him a threat to national security.

      1. ” He was a witness for Marc Wandsworth”

        I didn’t realise that. Points in abundance for it – as opposed to The Mouth who ponced down the street advertising her wares under the pretence of ‘protecting’ Ruth Smeeth.

        Well – perhaps we just have to wait a bit for a convincing candidate. I might give this election a miss, given the lack of that sort of spine.

  5. Their is a second left candidate in the running Clive Lewis. He nominated Corbyn on 2015 and 2016. He is in favour of democratising the Party by pushing for open selections and accepts the Corbynista’s message against austerity. More importantly he understand that we need to make an alliance with the Greens and LibDems pushing the LibDems towards a democratic socialist agenda rather than a neo-liberal one.
    Clive will help RLB because he will be the only one in the leadership that will be able to challenge Keir Starmer’s pro EU’s credentials: Keir Starmer voted in favour of triggering article 50 while Clive Lewis resigned from a Cabinet position and voted against it. Let Keir explain that to the young members prepared to vote for him, because he has claimed the mantle of been pro-EU. Keir is an opportunist that decided to back a second referendum for Labour to lose the general election and for him to become the leader and in the process to take the party back. We need Clive Lewis in the ballot paper.
    What does it say to the public if we don’t have a man of principle that stand for the democratic rights of the members, a black man that fought for this country as a soldier isn’t good enough to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party.
    I am prepared to vote for RLB as a second preference to Clive Lewis. If Clive doesn’t make it to the ballot, I will abstain in the leadership vote and vote only for Deputy and for Richard Burgon.

    1. ……. and some of us would appreciate the chance to vote for someone who isn’t beholden to Jon Lansman.

  6. This was my issue from the beginning. I could not understand why the left decided on only one candidate, So who is pulling the strings? Lansman is on the NEC and is batting for RLB who by the looks of things can be manipulated by him especially on the subject of antisemitism. Is it him? Can you find out Skwarkbox. I think its too late now for another left candidate to stand as they need to reach 22 nominations.

    1. RLB is already being manipulated by her running mate Angela Rayners. Why do you think she nominate Angela instead of Richard? Why do you think Sam Tarry and Nav Mishra are backing Angela for Deputy while Richard Burgon still short of four endorsements?

  7. I would have voted for Ian Lavery or Barry Gardiner as a first choice, but neither would be in the ballot so Clive Lewis would do. I am not going to be happy if the only choice I have is RLB. She better perform well in the hustings because if I cannot see her winning, I am prepared to vote for Starmer that is the candidate most of my CLP is backing.
    Dawn Butler is also having problems getting nominations, why? Could it be that because we have racism in the PLP. Diane Abbott is the most attacked woman Labour MP, have we ever heard Jess Phillips protecting Diane? No she told her to f…of. But hey she is in the ballot for the leadership. It is all we need to know.

    1. Clive Lewis won’t get the necessary PLP nominations. Unfortunately, since he actually is doing a bit of thinking outside the box which are (relatively) radical.

      I am resigned to the next leader being a caretaker until someone with a bit more to offer emerges.

      1. I agree, both the left and the right of the PLP are scared of Clive. They know that he will be the only one that could stand in front of the young members that desperately wanted a People’s Vote but that also voted for Corbyn’s transformative agenda and sounds genuine. He is the only one that could claim the Corbyn’s mantle of been a person of integrity and to stand by his principles.
        Even the Skwawbox doesn’t see Clive as left because he didn’t support brexit. He didn’t because in his heart he knew that it wasn’t a good idea, no because he wanted to pave a career for himself. Hence, the difference between the genuine article and careerist like Starmer that enthusiastically voted in favour of article 50, only to backtrack and cost us the General Election.
        Clive, also understand the meaning of solidarity, while Rebecca doesn’t.
        I will vote for Rebecca as the only left candidate standing, but I am not going to be sad if she doesn’t win. Probably, I am going to be relieved. Let’s allow Keir to mess up because he isn’t going to win the next GE. In a selfish way, I rather for Keir to lose the next GE than Rebecca, because she isn’t going to win it, is she?
        The important thing is to remain in the Party and allow Keir to mess things badly.

      2. “Even the Skwawbox doesn’t see Clive as left because he didn’t support brexit.”

        That’s because Skwawkbox is mired in total confusion about what comprises radical politics. And it ain’t Uncle Len, and it ain’t Brexit – which was always a Tory idea and a Tory policy. Unfortunately, the Party also got hung up in confusing its arse with its elbow – which was the *actual* public effect of the Brexit issue, not the late attempt at a rational policy.

        The old top-down left and the old top-down right have to expire if Labour is to move on – they share more attributes than differences.

        But perhaps we just have to put up with Keir Starmer in the interim – at least he talked some sense about Brexit in the end, even if voting for the premature ejaculation of Article 50. Unless RLB shows more bottle and becomes less knee-jerk, there’s not a lot to choose – and, truth told, Starmer is probably the better pragmatic option.

        But it is a disappointment not to have Clive Lewis as a distinctive candidate.

      3. If Starmer wins,the right will make sure no more “accidents” like Corbyn happen.

  8. Keir Starmer to Labor is what Nik Clegg is to Socialism , why not put Blaires son on the ticket or the other Milliband if you truly want to screw ocer the people that used to matter ,,,,

  9. Can we please have the best person for the job? Doesn’t matter if they are man,woman,black,white, fat, thin or sky blue pink…All they need is a commitment to the Labour Party and a real desire to get rid of the Tories…Does anyone really think there’s anything wrong with that?…

    1. We have a party where some advocate right wing economics (Thatcherism, austerity, dismantling welfare state) and some advocate left wing economics (Keynes, stimulus, Green New Deal). Any other differentiator is irrelevant. But we can’t ignore completely opposite approaches to economics which dramatically impact virtually every aspect of life. And there is no win-win solution.

      After 40 years of Thatcherism, I think the best person for the job is Left wing. If they are NOT left wing, they can’t do the job we need. They can do the New Labour job, but that’s not a party I would join or continue to be a member of. THAT is really the key point where I’d decide the UK had no future, and begin evaluating whether Canada might be a better place to ride out the apocalypse

  10. “In spite of Establishment polling suggesting centrist Keir Starmer will win the Labour leadership, the balance among members looks tight – and will tighten further after recent developments.”

    What ‘recent developments’ Skwawkbox?

    On the question of candidates being gamed by power brokers of the left or the right, people who can be gamed are hardly fit to be followers, much less leaders.
    In today’s world politicians need an understanding of new technology and its effects more than they need politics, philosophy and economics.
    We need thinkers but what we get are silver spoon PPE chancers – the rich who keep the essay mills thriving.
    Does anyone seriously believe rich kids have such inherited genius they can party hard every night and still get the work in on time without buying it?
    Current events panel show clown and serial liar rich thicko for a UK prime minister, serial bankrupt, liar and reality show host rich thicko for a US president.
    I rest my case.

    1. Skwawkbox’s article and several of the posts from people I respect above convince me that we need Clive Lewis to be endorsed before Monday.

      The Labour left deserves a better choice than it has at the moment.

  11. I’ve just had an email saying Momentum are backing RLB and Rayner – and balloting members, presumably seeking endorsement of that position. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…I’m even starting to see Lewis as a positive option – shame he won’t make the cut.

    1. There are still more than enough MPs who haven’t nominated anyone yet, mine is currently canvassing opinion from members. If your MP hasn’t nominated yet then why not email them and encourage them to support Clive Lewis.

  12. Why, at the point where it counts, does the left prefer to act without forethought and shoot itself in the foot at every possible opportunity?
    I think the answer stems from the observable fact that, in the Labour party, under the guidance of the right, who have always played this game, politics is seen simply as a game of positioning, with the goal of advancement, either personal or sectoral as the overriding aim.
    This played out in last month’s GE, where it is now quite clear that a number of organisational shambles led to the resulting rout.
    For the right, the aim was to prevent a Corbyn government, and for the left, well, after four years of looking over the shoulder, we walked blindly into the trap of voting for an election we were totally unprepared for, and that strategic ineptitude is now repeating itself here.
    We let the right make the rules and then play by them. Why?
    We have the correct analysis of the situation, but refuse to create a workable strategy around it? Why?
    We prefer losing to actually fighting for what we believe in, even when we have the numbers. Why?

    1. ” we walked blindly into the trap of voting for an election we were totally unprepared for”

      Yes indeed. It was a serious tactical error. At the minimum Johnson’s boost needed time to wear off, and the electoral gap to close, before Labour had a fighting chance.

      From that point on, he surprise – despite hope – was not the defeat, but the size of Mr Toad’s majority.

      1. It’s an important point; how on earth did Labour end up fighting an election before Brexit was done, a situation that inevitably led them to defeat? Some Labour people want to lay the blame on Corbyn but it’s interesting that the the LibDems have taken it upon themselves to admit it was their miscall and Labour had no choice but to follow. Apparently they felt sure ‘Liberal’ Tories would turn to them.

  13. Ludus57 – “Why?” Because the left isn’t just fighting the Tory party, it’s also fighting the whole of the MSM, the right wing of the Labour Party and the 1% – the richest, most powerful people on the planet to whom the cost of preventing socialism spreading is no object – they’ll spend trillions in treasure and as many lives as it takes to stop us.

    On top of that we have genuine principles, among which is a commitment to honesty that prevents us from lying to the people for electoral advantage – our four mortal enemies laugh at principle and deride ours as weaknesses.

    1. Oh, yeh… FIVE enemies, not four.
      Imagine me forgetting Netanyahu – the man and his government spent millions through its embassy and Shai Masot building a fifth column in Britain dedicated specifically to Corbyn’s destruction.
      The mystery is how he withstood all that for so long.

  14. Bailey being elected will simply result of more of the same in-fighting we have had for the past four years. We might as well give up and stay home.

    Starmer is no “centrist”, after the way he has defended Corbyn and the current manifesto, that is a silly accusation.

    Just because the “moderates” prefer him out of all those on offer does not make him their man.

    We need to grow up and stop squabbling. We have five years and the membership still has the upperhand, we they cannot take away from us without our say so.

    We have enough power within the party to control the direction of travel. Let them have their pretence of a victory, we will have the power.

    1. Mark Lockett, “we the members” don’t control the direction of travel except peripherally and randomly. The few votes we do have are on the few choices allowed us by our elected representatives, and can be voided by them.
      Example: Individuals representing special interest groups defeated open selection.
      Example: Corbyn was nominated on a whim. Without that random ‘unforced error’ we’d never have had the opportunity of voting for him.
      Nothing much has changed that I can see.

  15. We vote in the NEC members, we can force back mandatory reselection. We will choose the next leader and deputy and the ones after them.

    It would take a long while and a major shift in the NEC – which would need our agreement, for the moderates to get back to the position where they could ignore the will of the membership and do as they pleased.

    1. Mark Lockett 12/01/2020 at 5:03 pm
      We vote in the NEC members

      In reality we vote for just a few of the NEC’s members the rest are representatives from each section of the Party – the Shadow Cabinet, MPs, MEPs, councillors, trade unions, Socialist Societies, Young Labour and BAME Labour.

      1. And how does that remove the power of the leftwing or hand it to the moderates?

        We still have the greatest influence. Stop dancing on the head of a pin and making excuses to keep on doing that same things that has caused the current mess.

        Until we unite the party we will be out of power, both side have to accept that or just go home and give up.

      2. Mark – My point is that the membership does not control either the NEC or conference and any claim that we do would clearly be nonsense.

    …… the left does not help itself by promoting a vision of the economy that is hostile to the private sector. This makes no sense. As a matter of fact we live in a mixed economy. In effect, almost every person in the UK has always done so. And any effective (in the sense of likely to be electorally successful) economic plan the left is going to put forward now is going to have to embrace that fact, for fact it will be.

    And yet what we have forgotten to do is sing the mixed economy’s praises, and note the fact that it works until undermined by dogma and the anti-market abuse which far too many right wing politicians and large companies promote in the name of supposed free markets when what they are really seeking to do is suppress competition to deliver monopoly profits to a few at cost to most in society.

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