Published On: Sat, Jan 11th, 2020

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.

Analysis

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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