Owen Smith sees sliver of a chance in Labour leadership sampling

Written by Tom Smithard on 2 August 2016 in Diary

Sampling of registered supporters shows smaller proportion backing Jeremy Corbyn than last year.

Owen Smith launched a new vision for workers’ rights today with a spring in his step – after new sampling from the Labour leadership contest showed he has a sliver of a chance of winning.

The sampling, briefed to the Huffington Post, suggests that about 35% of those who registered as supporters in the two-day window last month back Smith, while 65% back Jeremy Corbyn.

About 40,000 of the 183,000 registered supporters are said to have been barred from voting in the contest, either because their cheques for £25 bounced, they are not on the electoral roll, or because evidence has emerged of support for other parties.

A further 10,000 could be barred as party officials further sift through the applications. The party will keep the money – up to £1.25m – paid by the rejected supporters as each failed to comply with rules.

While Corbyn will likely win among the remaining supporters, Smith’s camp holds out hope he will win among the 388,000 members of the party who joined before January 12.

In last year’s contest the combined vote for Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall among party members narrowly beat that of Corbyn’s – even though he won the overall contest with a 59.5% share.

Although the odds remain against Smith, he will be hoping that an enthusiastic campaign over the next month will do enough to persuade Corbyn backers, including among the third tranche who can take part – the 70,000 union affiliates – to either switch their vote or not cast it at all.

To that end he today launched what he called his "manifesto for fairness in the workplace", stressing that he wanted to give workers a "much stronger voice".

The manifesto includes plans to enhance the definition of “worker” in employment law, to outlaw bogus self-employment, strengthen rights in companies and address agency labour issues and guarantee rights for workers from day one.

Smith also won the support of Danny Blanchflower, the former Bank of England economist who had previously been advising John McDonnell. Blanchflower wrote in the Guardian today:

“The latest poll I have seen from YouGov on 18 July has the Tories on 40% and Labour on 29%. This is why I am supporting Owen Smith as the only leader who can prevent a disaster. He has the support of enough MPs to form a credible opposition.”

But none of Smith’s events so far this summer have come close to attracting similar numbers to those of Corbyn, whose rally last night in Liverpool was attended by 5,000 – the biggest so far. He told the crowd:

“This is a campaign about, on one level, the leadership of the Labour party, but it’s also a campaign about how we do politics in our society. Is it to be a politics of an elite … or is it to be a politics of people expressing their views, their hopes, their aspirations for this generation and the next generation?”

Today John Mills, one of the party’s biggest donors, warned Labour faced “Armageddon” and “an existential crisis” if it splits following the divisive leadership race – also predicting the loss of 50 seats if there is a snap general election.

Picture by: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire/Press Association Images

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JC4PM (not verified)

Submitted on 2 August, 2016 - 18:06
Smith has now chance, knows it and would rather destroy Labour than see JC as PM.