Labour members are nearing the half way stage in a big set of internal party elections. At the moment members who sit on constituency General Committees are voting on nominations for Leader, Mayor of London candidate (if they are in London), Treasurer, 6 constituency reps on the NEC (National Executive Committee), and 4 and a youth rep from each region on the NPF (National Policy Forum).
In August and September, ballot papers go out. It's going to be a complex ballot paper, with 13 votes to be cast (14 for Londoners) and preferential voting for the leader.
My perspective as someone on the moderate wing of the Party is that it looks like we are avoiding a repetition of the mistakes we have made every previous time we have gone into opposition. In 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979 the party moved violently to the left after leaving office, with members blaming the parliamentary leadership for defeat, demanding a move towards full-blooded socialism and trashing our record in office. This time the mood is a lot less knee-jerk and a lot more considered. Every Labour member has policies we implemented that they didn't like, but the overall record of the 1997-2010 government is viewed as on balance a positive one, and Gordon Brown's departure from the scene means that unlike the previous defeats when Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan stayed on as leader, someone has very quickly been seen, with great dignity, to take personal responsibility and the party has been able to move on to a debate about the future.
I don't think members are going to get excited about the Mandelson memoirs. Personally, I'll buy them because I enjoy reading gossip about the interplay between personalities. But I'll read them in a similar vein to reading a book about infighting between Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin: of historical interest but not really relevant to what happens in the future, other than as a lesson in how not to behave. I'm far more interested in what the relationships are between the coming generation of Labour's senior figures, and whether David, Ed, Ed and Andy get on with each other and can work together, than in what the previous generation of leaders said about or to each other. I also suggest this new book isn't going to tell us much we hadn't already heard in numerous other memoirs, diaries and blog posts over the last ten years. You would really have to have been living on the moon to not know already that Blair and Brown had a tense relationship.
As for the current races, the supporting nominations for Leader provide an idea of how each candidate is doing.
We already know how they are likely to do amongst MPs as nominations have closed. Taking into account those MPs who have openly expressed an intention to vote for a different MP to the one they nominated (as their nominations were tactical ones to get someone on the ballot) this third of the electoral college splits as follows on first preferences:
David Miliband - 90 MPs + 6 MEPs - 11.84% of electoral college
Ed Miliband - 63 MPs + 6 MEPs - 8.51% of electoral college
Ed Balls - 34 MPs - 4.19% of electoral college
Andy Burnham - 31 MPs + 1 MEP - 3.95% of electoral college
Diane Abbott - 24 MPs - 2.96% of electoral college (this may overestimate her support)
Not declared, undecided or not voting - 15 MPs - 1.85% of electoral college
If any MPs don't vote (presumably Brown, Harman and possibly Straw and the Chief Whip won't) the share of the electoral college each MP and MP who does vote is worth goes up slightly.
In the CLPs only 98 supporting nominations have come in out of a possible 635 (633 GB constituencies, Labour International and Northern Ireland) according to the party website, though more are anecdotally reported. Lots are meeting at the end of July just before the deadline, and others won't bother nominating as the supporting nominations don't have any real impact other than to demonstrate momentum. On this basis then - that they just illustrate the strength of the candidates' ground campaigns, the ones received to date are:
David Miliband - 40
Ed Miliband - 37
Andy Burnham - 11
Diane Abbott - 9
Ed Balls - 4
It's obvious that both Milibands have a very serious field operation going and that they are running a lot closer to each other in this section of the electoral college than in the PLP. It's surprising that Ed Balls has so few so far given the strong campaign he is running - he may pick up more at the end as some of the CLPs of MPs that nominated him haven't met yet and his high-profile attacks on Michael Gove over BSF were very recent. Also surprising is that the organised hard left has not delivered more CLPs for Diane - she is running well behind the nominations their NEC slate is getting. There are some regional clusters - 6 of Burnham's 11 are in the North West where he is an MP, 12 of David Miliband's are from Scotland where his campaign manager Jim Murphy is based and 5 are from the North East where he is an MP.
The unions and socialist societies are the third of the electoral college where we know least. When a union nominates someone their endorsement has in the past persuaded about 50% of voting members to go the way advised. So far only 4 organisations have nominated. NULSC (Labour social clubs) has backed Burnham, perhaps unsurprisingly as they are concentrated in his home region of the North West. They are usually one of the largest of the non-union affiliates. Two mid-sized unions USDAW (shop workers) and Community (steel workers and former steel communities) have backed David Miliband but that's about as surprising as Massachusetts and Rhode Island voting Democrat, as these unions have always been the most Blairite ones. The small TSSA (transport salaried staff) has backed Abbott, which surprises me as they were historically to the right of the other transport unions - I've obviously not kept pace with their internal politics. We have yet to see decisions from any of the big players: Unite, Unison, GMB and CWU. These nominations will come at the end of this month when various national political committees and national execs have met - I'm guessing there is a fight between the two Eds for the extremely important Unite nomination.
I would stand by my earlier prediction that David M will lead on the first ballot and be overtaken by his brother after other candidates are knocked out and their second preferences reallocated.
Treasurer is an interesting battle this time though not quite on the epic scale of Bevan versus Gaitskell, Callaghan versus Foot, Greenwood versus Morrison, or Bevan versus George Brown. In one corner is former Deputy Leader John Prescott. In the other, backed by the major trade unions (who have 50% of the vote) and the left is Diana Holland, veteran TGWU member of the NEC. An odd position for JP to be in - not the candidate of the unions and the left. Rather different to his initial 1988 bid for Deputy Leader.
Unlike Gaby Hinscliff ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/12/labour-london-mayor-king-livingstone) I don't see the Ken vs Oona contest for Mayor of London candidate as revealing much about Labour's direction. It's actually more about running with a familiar candidate with known strengths and flaws or a more youthful insurgent. My hunch is that Ken will win relatively easily because 50% of the vote is held by the unions and the London TULO (trade unions for Labour) committee strongly back him, and because key regional players who are not ideologically close to him are backing him on grounds of experience and their views probably reflect grassroots opinion. Livingstone nowadays is not quite the divisive character inside London Labour that he was in 1981 or 1990 because his record as Mayor on his actual responsibilities was mainstream (as opposed to some of his views on international issues). He seems to be conducting some sort of long-term realignment - his Socialist Action support group are increasingly close to the soft left Compass rather than the ultra left Labour Briefing - and has endorsed Balls for Leader which must have hurt his longtime ally Abbott.
I won't say much about the NEC as I'm a candidate and thus have an interest to declare. I think it's an exciting race though. There may be as many as 17 or 18 candidates on the ballot paper for six places depending on whether the left Grassroots Alliance can get all its candidates validly nominated and decide which of them it wants to run. My guess is that two candidates from their slate and two of their opponents will get on fairly easily through name recognition, and then there are four or five others including me battling it out for the final two places. I'm on 34 CLP nominations and counting.
The regional CLP reps on the NPF will be fascinating as they have never been elected by One Member One Vote before but rather were previously elected by annual conference delegates, which was seen as helpful to pro-leadership candidates. The basic story will be of moderate incumbents facing a left challenge as there are only a handful of left-backed incumbents. Those incumbents who have been active in reporting back to and consulting members in their regions should get re-elected as they may have name recognition amongst longer-serving and more active members.
Whether most members will get to the bottom of their 13 or 14 vote-long ballot paper and bother with us "down ticket" candidates is of course open to question.