Lead in first two rounds turned into defeat in round three
In early January, as the battle for places on the Labour leadership ballot wore on, the SKWAWKBOX warned that influential left figures were making a catastrophic error in their determination to offer Labour members only one left candidate in the contest.
Whatever their reasons for doing so, the SKWAWKBOX predicted that the move risked demotivating large parts of the left membership, which felt manipulated and railroaded into supporting an ‘establishment’ preference – and that many of those might simply abstain either in protest or out of a lack of excitement about the leadership prospects.
By contrast, because Labour’s leadership election is run as a transferable ‘preference’ vote, offering more than one option would promote engagement and members would naturally give their second preference to the other left candidate after giving first preference to their favourite.
With – at that time – four right-wingers likely to make the ballot, the decision to put forward only Rebecca Long-Bailey meant that if she did not pass the fifty percent mark on the first round of voting, she was never going to pick up enough second-preference votes from supporters of the lowest right-wing candidates to win the contest.
In spite of its obvious and potentially fatal flaw – and the fact that enough nominations for a second left candidate could have been gathered – the plan to present only ‘RLB’ to the members went ahead.
Long-Bailey’s campaign suffered a blow last weekend when the nomination meeting of Islington North constituency Labour party – Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency – resulted in the nomination of Keir Starmer.
But the mechanics of that vote are telling. They reveal that Long-Bailey led for the first two rounds of voting, including leading by a distance in the first round – but ultimately lost because of exactly the lack of second-preference votes predicted in January.
The SKWAWKBOX understands that the numbers in the voting rounds were as follows:
- Round 1 Long-Bailey 125, Starmer 80, Nandy 44, Thornberry 30
- Round 2 Long-Bailey 135, Starmer 91, Nandy 54
- Round 3 Starmer 138, Long-Bailey 135
It’s impossible to say exactly how many people stayed away from the nomination meeting because of a lack of engagement in the process caused or worsened by the lack of a meaningful choice of left candidate.
But it’s clear from discussions on social media and among left groups that many members feel demotivated by the lack of choice, by concerns about some of the people around the one candidate being presented and by some of the decisions and announcements in the campaign so far.
And significant numbers have been saying that they will not participate in the ballot as a result.
In an election where turnout is certain to be a key driver in the outcome, the consequences of a poor decision in January are on course to be decisive.
See also: Want to serve the movement and ensure that Labour members have their full say in the vital NEC elections later this year? Read here.
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