Saturday, 25 September 2010

Don't Believe the Hype

If you're not that interested in the Labour leadership campaign look away now...

OK here goes, in a few hours this prediction could look very silly, but I think David Miliband will be declared Labour's new leader later today. Labour's selction is based on 3 equal electoral colleges. MPs and MEPs, Labour Party members and Labour trade unionists.

First MPs, the college with most public information on voting preferences. Here David Miliband leads Ed Miliband on first preferences. I take most Andy Burnham supporters to put their second preferences to David. Diane Abbott's nominally left wing supporters have been leaking away with a surprising proportion moving to David, but the majority to Ed Miliband. Key here will be how Ed Balls supporters vote. Wisely Ed Balls is abstaining, his supporters seem to be splitting equally between the Milibands. So I take David Miliband to win this electoral college not massively but not closely either.

Labour Party members are the trickiest part of the college to assess. There are a number of regional differences. The North West shows strength for local candidate Andy Burnham. Andy has run a sound campaign and will leave this contest positioned to be a future Labour Leader depending on what known unknowns might bring.

Similarly as a North East MP David Miliband has extra strength in that region. A weakness for Ed Miliband is that he has a rival in Yorkshire, Ed Ball,s so he does not have a region to give him extra voting strength from strong regional support.

The region with the greatest number of Labour Party members London is not supporting its local candidate. Diane Abbott's campaign has been poor. I am surprised at how few leading left wing Labour activists have been prominent in her campaign, which has been amateurish at times. I think Diane will have an even greater media career in future but politically she has underperformed.

This has left a void in London which both Miliband brothers have been filling. My sense for what it is worth is that younger Labour Party members (a post Iraq generation) are heavily supporting Ed. London though is the most multicultural part of the country and here David has strong support. I think this is perhaps a legacy of his work as Foreign Secretary when he kept in touch with diaspora communities.

There seems to be an assumption that all voters understand the Alternative Vote (AV) system being used. I don't think this is the case. Any candidate who has stood in a local election will know that the person earliest in the alphabet normally tops the poll. No matter how many times you camapign and explain that people have 3 votes, between 10 and 20% of voters only vote for one candidate. Similarly my experience of AV elections is that the same applies. Media commentators automatically assume that trade unionists and Labour Party members are somehow brighter than the general population. Would that this were so, but both anecdotally and from experience I think there will be many votes which fail to transfer. Every vote which does not transfer weakens Ed Miliband.

This is bad news for Ed Miliband whose campaign has focused heavily on securing second, third and fourth preferences. With David Miliband coming first for first prefernces in all the polls this failure to transfer may well be what wins it for him. My view is that most Andy Burnham 1st preference voters will move to David M. The reverse applies for Diane Abbott supporters with them overwhelmingly moving to Ed M. Ed Balls supporters are the voters Ed Miliband needs to switch ovewhelmingly to him. I think he will get a majority of them, but I don't sense that it will be as heavily as he needs.

Ed Balls has fought an outstanding campaign. Anyone who ever suggested he was overpromoted because of his closeness to Gordon Brown looks pretty stupid and should be eating large doses of humble pie. He will be a political heavyweight for the next two decades.

Overall this is hard to call but I call this part of the electoral college as 50/50 between the Miliband brothers.

Turning to trade unionists there is an assumption that Ed M will win here as trade union leaders are strongly supporting him. Trade union supporters are the least political part of the electoral college. Many of them would struggle to name all 5 candidates. Diane, David and Ed Balls are well known, and I expect this greater public awareness to help these candidates. There are also a large number of black and ethnic minority trade unionists who I expect to vote Diane first and then exercise their second preference.

I take David to win this section, partly because of his far greater profile amongst the general public.

I don't believe the hype. There's been a brilliant social media campaign by Ed Miliband. Twitterati and Facebook friends have been advocates for Ed, but I think this has generated lots of heat in terms of media coverage for Ed Miliband winning and little light. Older voters always have a hoistory ofhigher turnout proportionally, and I take this to favour David. It feels to me like all those predictions that the Liberal Democrats make that they will breakthrough, which but rarely come true. If David wins he should take these talents in Ed's campaign and place them in Labour Party HQ.

So in a few hours this may look like a lot of nonsense but here goes

1. David Miliband
2. Ed Miliband
3. Diane Abbott
4. Ed Balls
5. Andy Burnham

caution as a David Milband supporter, I have my biases!


  1. I hope you are right if only because I have a pound on David Miliband to win.

  2. I also hope you are right for the sake of the Labour party and, as a result, democracy. A well led party is essential in opposition, possibly even more so than when in office.

  3. I find it difficult to believe people don't understand AV. I've explained FPTP and AV to my 5 year old who understood the process and could see AV was a lot fairer than FPTP even at his young age. Now my son is very cleaver for a 5 year old but if someone said that an adult is less intelligent I would not believe them

  4. I found this a difficult election to vote in, and I found myself considering all candidates at one point, finally settling on Ed Milliband 1st & Ed Balls 2nd. Whatever the outcome I am so glad it is not a Coronation and it was put to the ballot.

  5. Oh dear, not the result we hoped for and what scared me was the manic look on Kinnock's face when it was announced. It was that same cocky 'boyo' grin that probably cost Labour the '92 election when miles ahead in the poles.

    AV may seem fairer to some but, for me, a leader elected by second, third and fourth choices has no real mandate.

    As for Dave, well your 5 year old could well be more intelligent than many adults. It is education and experience he lacks at his age, not grey matter. You are born with that, leastways, some are.

  6. Tony Flaig said
    Whoever wins its utterly meaningless till Labour realises that no they longer represent working people and cannot really continue following Tory agenda.

    As you'll appreciate that class of public sector non-job which supports the much of the now middleclass core of Labour is about to get thinned out, which of course it would not have had your lot not turned the backs, on working people in the self serving way they did.

    I am more sorry than I can say for those who want to work, do work, but find it harder each day, no thanks to you and your Labour colleagues like Blair, Campbell, Mandelson, Brown, Balls, Milliband et cetra

  7. Dave
    One of the problems from the Tory years of education is that up to 20% of the population in 2000 were functionally illiterate
    I have found many bizarre explantions of how people will vote over the years. I suspect most readers of this blog follow politics to some extent, much of the public do not and as the high levels of non-voters show do not pay it much attention. I wish this were not the case but sadly it is.Glad to hear your 5 year old is developing an interest in politics!

    Tony we fundamentally disagree on this. As a Liberal democrat you are already particpating in the coalition which is redistributing wealth from the less well off to the better off, and thats before the cuts get eevn more serious.