I just wanted to write something quickly about the pointlessness of the Labour leadership election.
In essence, I can't see that it's in any way possible for Jeremy Corbyn to possibly lose the Labour leadership election and it's daft to pretend otherwise.
To be totally honest, I should say that after happily voting for Corbyn last year, I don't think he's done a good job and I won't be voting for him again. But unless you just want to make a donation to Labour, I would say to anyone thinking of paying £25 to vote for him: DON'T BOTHER, there is no way he can lose. (By the same token I'm not sure if I'll end up being arsed to vote for Owen Smith unless he impresses me, simply because while I don't see he can be any worse than Corbyn at the ledershippy politicsy bit of the job, I don't really see any need to vote for him if I don't actively think he's good because I don't think Corbyn can possibly lose.)
The reason is pretty simple: despite all the grumbling from Corbyn diehards about the various exclusions and price increases being stacked against their man (I'd say an inaccurate but not in fact unreasonable stance to take), the fact is that with the support of the PLP being deemed unnecessary for a standing leader to get on the ballot, the rules are massively in favour of the incumbent.
The reason for that is pretty simple. Over the last year, a large number of people have joined Labour purely to support Corbyn. Corbyn has his own pressure group, Momentum, dedicated to keeping him in power. While I'm sure a number of people who voted for Corbyn after open-mindedly weighing up last year's candidates will go in open-mindedly again, I'm not sure anybody who joined purely to vote for Corbyn is ever going to be persuaded to vote for another candidate.
Obviously a lot of people are expressing disappointment that recent joiners to the party are unable to vote. But Corbyn attracted large numbers of people last year. Pre cut off, nobody was joining the party to support Owen Smith. And as for £25 vote registration, there's only about 24 hours for Smith to inspire people to sign up just to vote for him, while Momentum have been doing the groundwork for Corbyn voters for weeks.
There obviously has been a movement – #SavingLabour – to join Labour in order to 'take it back' from Corbyn supporters at the grassroots. But I find it incredibly hard to believe that 'not Corbyn' is anything like as strong a lure as an actual figurehead to rally behind (and anecdotally it seems that most of my friends who signed up to 'save Labour' became members post-EU vote, ie they can't vote in this contest).
So really, within the rules, you've got a large number of party members who wouldn't vote for anybody other than Corbyn, for whom the hustings process is a total formality, and a well-oiled machine dedicated to getting as many £25 sign ups for him as possible within a limited window. By contrast Smith has about a day to bring in newcomers, and after that the only people who are possibly going to vote for him are longer term members eligible to vote, who are still going in with an open mind. Possibly that is enough members that if Smith got a really good campaign on and Corbyn had a really bad summer and if they ALL voted against Corbyn with no £25 sign ups then Smith might win. But the odds are clearly ENORMOUSLY stacked in the favour of the guy with large numbers of partisans in the Labour ranks. And my title point is probably more aimed at friends who seem to be signing up because they feel Corbyn is getting stuffed by the new rules:
1) because there's such a limited window to sign up to vote for a given candidate, a £1000-a-vote system would still vastly favour a well-known incumbent with a big machine behind him because the challenger has almost no time to recruit voters
2) it may be that Corbyn nicks it on £25 votes, but I suppose my point is that – wishy washy a statement as this may seem – he's going to be so far ahead on £25 votes that he probably doesn't need YOUR £25 vote, ie it's not going to be at all close. If you disagree with me or think I am using the terrifying power of my blog to shaft Corbyn then obviously do sign up, I just don't think it'll make any difference at this stage.
3) bit of a tangential rant, but I've seen a lot of grumbling about the £3 to £25 increase being somehow antidemocratic. I should say that quite aside from the fact that the system favours Corbyn, and that it's the same NEC who voted to allow him on the ballot paper that voted for the price increase, then the idea that democracy is a thing you pay for one-shot instant access to is stupid, it's not Netflix. A truly democratic system would surely be to put it to national vote… otherwise anybody who thinks the paid entry system is anything but a daft gesture from Ed Milliband is being histrionic.
While I am a bit dismayed of his dismissal of the PLP, I don't mean any of this to blame Corbyn: he has benefitted from rules that weren't set up by him, but he was almost completely shafted by the rules re: nominations. I also doubt that a system that was 'fairer' to challengers by allowing a longer sign up time would actually even the odds much because you'd still only be talking about two months for a challenger to amass greater entryist support than the incumbent. Which I think is why none of the Labour big beasts have made a move – they know they'd be spattered by Corbyn and they know the best the opposition to him can really muster is a stalking horse candidate (it's probably also worth noting that despite the endless bleating about the MSM being against Corbyn, it would take a dementedly sycophantic pro-Smith campaign from every media outlet in the world to counter the strength of the pro-Corbyn voices on social media, blogs and, er, the MSM, especially in just two months).
So basically my point is that the idea this is really going to be a contest is pretty erroneous and the next two months are going to be effectively needlessly bruising. Maybe I will write another time about why I don't think Corbyn is very good, but I'm not really sure the internet needs it (it basically comes down to the fact he was shit over the EU, the fact he seems like a shit boss, and the fact that as far I can tell he's pedalling a sort of milquetoast socialism-lite that seems to combine maximum righteousness with minimum discomfort for what would appear to be his essentially middle class support base). But I've kind of tried to be fairly objective, possibly even reassuring of friends agonising over whether to pay to vote: Corbyn is definitely going to win, and Labour will still be in a hilariously divided mess in two months' time.