By Sacha Ismail
Keir Starmer looks on course to be elected Labour leader by a big margin. Balloting opened on 24 February and will close on 2 April.
According to a Survation poll for LabourList, Starmer will win 45% to 34% for Rebecca Long-Bailey and 21% for Lisa Nandy, and beat Long-Bailey 64-to-36% in the second round. According to a YouGov poll, he will win in the first round 53-31-16.
The YouGov breakdown is interesting. Among members who have joined since the general election, Starmer has 67%, to 22% for Nandy and only 11% for Long-Bailey. Among those who joined before 2015 it is Starmer 56%, Nandy 22%, Long-Bailey 21%. Only among those who joined between 2015 and 2019, which is over half the total sample, does Long-Bailey lead, 46-43-11.
Among affiliate members, i.e. mainly trade unionists – who voted strongly for Jeremy Corbyn both times – Starmer has 66% to 22% for Long-Bailey and 18% for Nandy, and 75% to 25% in the second round.
Starmer is ahead among every age group – particularly older members, but even among 18-24 year olds he has 48% to 28% for Nandy and only 22% for Long-Bailey. In the second round, he would defeat Long-Bailey 75-25. (Admittedly, the 18-24 age group is a very small sample.) Long-Bailey does best among 25-29 year olds, losing to Starmer 35-48, with 17% for Nandy.
Angela Rayner, on paper supporting Rebecca Long-Bailey but in practice sharing a lot of supporters as well as politics with Starmer, is also well ahead of the pack. She has 47% in the first round to her closest rival Richard Burgon’s 19%.
We have been sceptical about Rebecca Long-Bailey’s left-wing record and credentials. However, Starmer winning by a mile is more likely to embolden Labour's right than him winning narrowly, or of course Long-Bailey winning. That strengthens the argument to vote for Long-Bailey.
Some on the left have tried to paint Starmer as more right-wing than he is. Others, however, have tried to paint him up as a relatively strong left-winger. That is absurd. There is a reason why the likes of Labour First organiser Matt Pound (pictured) are central to his campaign.
Even respondents to the LabourList poll expect Starmer to move Labour “closer to the centre” (79%, as against 1% who expect him to move “further left”).
Socialists in Labour must begin to organise a serious left opposition to a Starmer leadership, and campaign above all for a democratic running of the party, with decision-making in the hands of members and affiliates, not of an anointed leader.
Reasons to vote Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader
By John Bloxam
As Mark Osborn wrote in Solidarity 533: “Now, having seen the practical results of leaving politics to professional politicians and media pundits, we should judge candidates for the Labour leadership by their willingness to launch mass, sustained action in defence of the NHS and for free and state-run education for all.
"All the candidates have put on their ‘left face’, but none has talked about the need to mobilise and protest in our thousands and millions, across the country. That needs to be done. Labour and unions, onto the streets!”
That’s our yardstick in the Labour Party leadership elections, and from that point of view we call for a clear vote for RLB.
As leader, has she said she will immediately call for Labour and the unions to get on the streets against the Tory Johnson government? No. Is there plenty that can be criticised in her policy pronouncements and campaign to date? Yes, and we have itemised it in recent issues of Solidarity.
But over the last two weeks she has unequivocally and publicly said she supports workers taking action both now and in the future as a matter of course and necessity. That has clearly marked her out from the other leadership candidates, and must be the starting point for the test of judging candidates against the mobilisation and protest action that is needed now.
She has said she is on the side of working class action.
“As leader of the Labour Party, I have committed to back workers in every dispute and strike against unfair, exploitative and unjust employers. This will range from actions on opposing cuts, tackling the climate crisis, and standing up to the resurgent far-right. Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked, is going to be crucial in standing up to this reactionary Conservative government.
"As Labour leader, I will be as comfortable on the picket line as at the dispatch box, and under my leadership Labour will never return to condemning striking teachers or firefighters, or to treating trade unions as if they’re embarrassing relatives of the party. I will be there every step of the way with workers and stand with them on the picket line and will have no hesitation in which side I pick.”
There is a short distance between “Standing on the side of workers and trade unions, no questions asked… in standing up to this reactionary Conservative government”, and taking an active, leadership role in promoting such action. We should argue for RLB to go that extra distance now. That can only have any real weight if we do that as part of an effort to get her elected Labour leader in the present elections. That should be an important element now in developing the drive we have called for to "Get Labour on the streets".
Calling clearly and prominently for a vote for RLB does not mean being silent on areas of criticism and disagreement, any more than it does in other labour movement elections. But the justifiable criticisms should neither dominate nor obscure what we are saying.
Electing RLB as Labour leader, given her clear and unequivocal statements in support of workers’ action, would be the best result for the necessary campaign to "Get Labour on the streets!" and taking on the Tories now. Vote RLB.