Will Last Night’s Welfare Vote Make Corbyn Labour’s Leader?

by Jackie_South on July 21, 2015

Corbyn_kingLabour’s leadership got it disastrously wrong yesterday. In choosing to abstain at the first reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, they decided that it was more important to chase the phantom promise of votes they think they might be able to win from the Tories by agreeing to punish the poor whilst forgetting the nine million voters that did actually vote for them (together with the million and a half that voted SNP).

In deciding to do so, they took a position to the right of not only the SNP but also of both the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionist Party. Whilst the view that if they had voted no it would have halted the Bill is probably flawed (a number of Tories did not vote for it, but more through pairing rather than a conscious abstention), it would have least led to a close vote and spooked the Conservative whips.

A shameful day indeed, other than for the 48 Labour members that defied orders to vote against the Bill.

One of those 48 of course was Jeremy Corbyn. In other news for his campaign today, a YouGov poll conducted among party members for The Times not only put him in the lead for the leadership on first preferences, but comfortably so:

Corbyn 43%
Burnham 26%
Cooper 20%
Kendall 11%

Of course, Corbyn would be likely to benefit less from second preferences than the other three candidates, but the poll shows him ahead on a match-up finale against Burnham 53% to 47%. That is just about within a margin of error, and 20% of members were don’t knows, but it shows that Corbyn is currently the candidate to beat.

And that, remember, is from a poll mostly taken before the news about last night’s vote filtered through. Party members’ anger about the abstentions is likely to now boost Corbyn’s support further, at least in the short term. What is more, it is also likely to attract more left-leaning non-members to pay their £3 to sign up as a supporter (they have until 12 August to do so) just to vote for Corbyn.

Corbyn already has the most Constituency Labour Party nominations – although only by one over Burnham. That is in part because the nominations for the other three are to some extent fishing in the same pool, but it does give him a third of the total. As Luke Akehurst points out in Labour List, this probably under-states his position and over-states Burnham’s, given where those CLPs are and their membership numbers.

The party’s parliamentary leadership has been too busy trying to be clever about the election that is five years away to think about what the impact of those tactics will be on an election that is far closer to home.

All of this does not, of course, guarantee Corbyn victory. There are still over three weeks until the ballot papers are sent out, seven weeks to go until the votes are counted.

But it will focus the minds of Burnham and Cooper. Expect one or both of them over the next week or so to toughen their position against the bill. To not do so will gift the leadership to Corbyn.

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