Not so fast Ed Miliband! Labour MPs hold the key
The Mole: YouGov poll makes a questionable assumption in putting Ed ahead of David
With only a fortnight to go before we discover who will lead the Labour party into the next general election, a YouGov poll gives Ed Miliband the edge over his brother David by 51 per cent to 49 per cent. The others, including Ed Balls, don’t get a look-in.
The Sunday Times, which commissioned the poll, headlined its piece this morning: ‘Shock poll gives lead to Ed Miliband’. A more honest headline would have been: ‘Miliband v Miliband: It could go either way’.
This is not just because the two-point gap is within the margin of error, but also because, in the Mole’s view, YouGov has made a questionable call on the all-important second preferences of MPs.
As any Labour party lag will tell you, it’s the MPs’ votes which carry the most weight.
Yes, Labour’s electoral college is split three equal ways – party members, affiliated trade unionists and MPs. But, given that there are 258 Labour MPs as against 250,000 or so party members (a figure that’s been rising in recent weeks) and four million or so trade unionists, each of their votes is more significant.
(At this point the Mole should admit that, for the sake of simplicity, he’s left out the 16 Labour MEPs who also figure in the MPs’ bloc.)
YouGov questioned more than 1,000 Labour party members and 718 trade unionists and took into account a recent poll of Labour MPs and MEPs by the website Left Foot Forward. On this basis, it calculates that David is ahead of brother Ed in first preference votes by 36 per cent to 32 per cent.
At which point the voters’ all-important second preferences kick in. And it here that YouGov makes the bold assumption that the second preferences of all those MPs and MEPs who voted for Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott in the first round will divide equally [my italics] between brothers David and Ed.
This totally discounts the fact that, generally among MPs, David is more popular than Ed. Even left-wingers like Jon Cruddas and Dennis Skinner have said in recent days that they will plump for David over Ed.
The Mole first argued nearly 11 months ago that Ed Miliband was the one to watch. But his elder brother’s greater experience in high office makes him the “grown-up” of the two and for many Labour MPs keen to return to power, it is David who still looks the safer bet.
As Dennis Skinner, the ‘Beast of Bolsover’, said on Friday: "The big question is who are the Tories afraid of? Who is the best candidate to stand up against Cameron at the despatch box? Who has the best chance to beat Cameron in an election?
"For me the best choice is David Miliband and that is why I will be supporting him as next Labour leader."
Or as one party man put it to the Mole this morning: “This poll is all piss and wind. All that’s clear is that a Miliband will win it. I prefer Ed as a man, and I think a lot of those in the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] do too. But I’d still put my money on David.” ·
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