Analysis of Labour leadership nominations reminds us MPs' decisions aren't always rational—and the party's factional lines are blurrier than we might thinkby Tom King / January 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
The race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn is now underway, with contenders competing for the 22 MP and MEP nominations they need to make it through to the contest’s next round. That these nominations are made public provides a fascinating insight into the dynamics at play in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and allows us to delve back to previous leadership elections to see how they inform the current one.
By comparing MP nominations from the 2015 leadership election, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected, to who MPs are backing now, we see that the picture is probably far messier than much of the coverage of Labour’s internal factionalism would suggest—particularly among the party’s “moderate” or right wing.
It might be assumed that there would be clear ‘Corbynite’, ‘Blairite’ or ‘soft left’ patterns to explain MP’s behaviour—but 2015 support basically fragments across all the current candidates.
Yet, there are a number of interesting patterns we can draw out at this stage. The left’s frontrunner Rebecca Long-Bailey, as might be expected, draws significant support from MPs who had previously nominated Corbyn, but also picks up a decent chunk of her backers from those who nominated Andy Burnham. The ‘continuity Corbyn’ label, then, does not fairly describe her MP support, and is certainly not putting off some who were previously reluctant to back Corbyn. Her ability to draw a broader base of support within the PLP, bolstered by a newly-elected group of more left-wing MPs at the general election, points to a far easier path to the ballot than Corbyn faced four years ago.
Keir Starmer, apparently ahead among members according to YouGov and well-ahead in MP nominations, draws his support from backers of all five 2015 candidates. The biggest groups of these come from Burnham and Yvette Cooper—perhaps not surprising given that they both picked up the most nominations in 2015.
But Starmer has also received backing from previous Liz Kendall and Corbyn nominators. Seen as a candidate from the centre of the Party, this might not be entirely shocking—and it appears his campaign video brandishing his more left-leaning background has not deterred MPs who had previously aligned themselves with candidates labelled as…