A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, October 01, 2010

There was no "Lurch to the Left"

An analysis of the internal ballot results announced at Labour's Conference shows very clearly that in stark contrast to the years following the 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979 defeats there has been no "lurch to the left".

For the leadership only 7.3% of members (fewer than 15 people in each CLP on average) voted for Diane Abbott, the only candidate explicitly on the left of the party. Obviously some of Ed Miliband's 29.8% first preference vote came from the soft left, but it also included the votes of people from across the spectrum of Labour opinion. It would have been better for the Hard Left if Diane had not got nominated, as her vote exposed their weakness once turnout goes up - it was fairly similar at 9,314 to the baseline vote that the least strong Grassroots Alliance NEC members get in a normal year.

The increased turnout and a sectarian split in the left vote which is so complex even I can't explain it, coupled with an unprecedented level of organisational co-operation between Progress and Labour First saw me get on the NEC and a net move from a 4-2 balance for the left on the constituency section to a 3-3. This was despite the involvement of the allegedly important soft left Compass faction in the left slate for the first time. The results break down as follows:

Grassroots Labour slate (supported by CLPD and Compass) - Livingstone, Black, Shawcroft, Willsman, Tarry and Taylor - took places 1, 3, 5, 8, 11 and 14 and an aggregate 266505 votes (43.9%)
Moderate slate (supported by Progress and Labour First) - King, Reeves, Akehurst, Wheeler, Gardiner and Ali- took places 2, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 12 and an aggregate 218474 votes (35.9%)
Alternate left slate (supported by LRC and STLP who also cross-supported Shawcroft from the GL slate) - Kenyon, Press, Wiseman - took places 13, 15 and 19 and an aggregate 45114 votes (7.4%)
Genuine independents - Baxter, Sidhu, Matharoo, Bennett, Ware-Lane - took places 7, 16, 17, 18 and 20 and an aggregate 77663 votes (12.8%)

A few points:
  • Name recognition is critical.
  • So is crossover support - most people vote for 4 or 5 of their preferred slate and then 1 or 2 from the other side for balance - hence a balanced overall result despite the election being run on first-six-past-the-post.
  • Unless my maths is faulty quite a few folk may have voted for David Miliband and Christine Shawcroft. If anyone can explain this please do!
  • The disproportionate size of London CLPs and the presence in the race of Ken and Oona has resulted in a very unfair under-representation of other regions - I say this as someone who is proud to be from Hackney (and got nearly 500 votes from the 2 Hackney CLPs) but was also proud to run alongside people from Salford, Dudley and the Isle of Wight, and gutted that they didn't get elected - we need to look at how this can be addressed.
  • Johanna Baxter's near miss with 30,653 votes was an amazing achievement for someone not on a slate (albeit with close links to one of the leadership campaigns) - she has set a new benchmark for the amount of campaigning required to win.

The NPF regional reps were elected by OMOV for the first time which has seen a bit more pluralism in the results - the Grassroots Alliance are claiming they got 19 seats out of 55 but this may include some double-counting (i.e. centrist people backed by both slates) - there was a wide regional variation with the left doing best in Scotland and Wales (oddly I think these were Diane Abbott's weakest areas) and worst in the South East and West Midlands.

For the National Constitutional Committee, elected by CLP delegates to Conference, Labour First's Maggie Cosin took over 70% of the vote.

Thank you to Labour First and Progress for supporting me for the NEC - I wouldn't have won or even run without a lot of people's advice, support and hard work.


Anonymous Andrea said...

"The NPF regional reps were elected by OMOV for the first time which has seen a bit more pluralism in the results - the Grassroots Alliance are claiming they got 19 seats out of 55 but this may include some double-counting (i.e. centrist people backed by both slates) - "

I think you're right. I used the candidates listed on Grassroot Labour website and the ones you listed here some weeks ago amd I see 16 + 3 listed in both lists (Daniel Zeichner, Nicky Gavron and Alon Or-bach).

There was also one candidate supported by both slates who didn't get elected.

There were some people elected who weren't in neither lists.

6:44 pm, October 01, 2010

Blogger Neil Harding said...

Luke, congrats n all that! I think Dianne was a poor standard bearer for the left and ran a lacklustre campaign so to say she is all of 'the left' is a bit disingenious. Do you really think John McDonnell wouldn't have done much better?

Also, you say it wasn't a victory for the left, but then reveal stats that show left backed candidates got over 50% support and only didn't get a majority of NEC places because of the electoral system and a split in their vote.

6:59 pm, October 01, 2010

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

I think, speaking unashamedly as part of the Left, that the healthiest thing about the various election result is that they reaffirmed Labour as something vaguely approximating a broad church party - some left gains here (Ken in London, the NPF left sweep in Wales), some right gains elsewhere, some unpredictable results in other places. This is healthy, and I hope that the uber-Blairites (people not used to losing and some of whom have not taken defeat with grace) rally round the new leader. So even though I didn't vote for you in the NEC election Luke, congratulations and I hope you can at least be an honest and open and democratic voice on it. We've lacked people like that in recent times

4:55 pm, October 02, 2010

Anonymous canvass said...

1) Serious question- how do people get on a slate? Neither the left or the right slate seem to have an obvious selection process or even a website.

2) I'm disappointed Ken and Oona both did so why. Oona has shown little interest in internal Labour Politics, didn't do a specific campaign about the NEC and got through on name recognition alone. That's important for roles like Leader, but not really the point of the NEC.

Also I think that's it's important that NEC members are personally accessible to members. The candidates who did well in both slates other than Ken and Oona clearly are. I can't imagine Ken or Oona will be willing / able / interested to give out their number or personally reply to emails (please let me know if I'm wrong.)

12:24 am, October 03, 2010

Blogger EdPurs99 said...

Isn't Labour supposed to be a left-wing party? If not then why not join the ConDems? The current crisis is directly the response of the policies of the moderate/centre/New Labour policies of Blair/Brown/Clinton.
I supported Healey throughout the 1980s against Tony Benn etc. and it turns out most of what Tony warned us about has come to pass.

12:31 pm, October 03, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm ! Speak lowley = and keep your ice pick sharp and close to hand.


1:37 pm, October 03, 2010

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

I didn't vote for Ken or Oona - as they were both eyeing an elected political role at the time, I don't think they should have stood. The NEC constituency section should be for lay members. I gladly voted for Ken for mayor though, but there shouldn't be duplication of roles like this

5:27 pm, October 03, 2010

Blogger johnpaul said...

I agree E10, Same as sam tarry standing for chari of Young Labour,

EDpurse99, Labours supposed to be a democratic socialist party, I don't think what tony benn said did come to pass, He backed a lot of undemocratic socialists,saying the right of teh party should join th etories is the same as saying someon the far left should join SWP

7:01 pm, October 03, 2010

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I'm not sure the interpretation of the results is quite right, though of course there is no evidence of a "lurch" to the left (or even a less negatively-phrased movement!)

Luke might explain how people get on the Labour First slate. The CLGA one is compiled by the various groups that make up the alliance, and each group has its own selection process. There is a lot to be said for the two biggest groups on the left and centre-left (Compass and LRC) being involved in the CLGA but, ironically, this caused a problem this year, because it resulted in too many candidates. However, the long-term consequences of this CLGA expansion should be positive (providing people avoid naval-gazing post-mortems). Your characterisation of two left slates is misleading: as far as I know John Wiseman was one of your genuinely independent candidates; Susan Press and Peter Kenyon were on the CLGA slate, though not among the six promoted by CLPD.

I gave Diane Abbott my first preference but I know a lot of people on the left who didn't (including the so-called "hard left"). Although Diane is characterised as being a little more "moderate" than, say, John McDonnell, her electoral appeal on the left is rather more niche, whether that be because of where she sent her son to school, or because it is felt she misses an opportunity to advance socialist arguments to a national audience on a weekly basis... Furthermore, some on the left saw the contest purely in terms of Miliband v. Miliband. I probably know as many people who you would characterise as hard left who voted for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls as voted for Diane.

Therefore, I would disagree that it exposes a weakness of Labour's left, although that likely conclusion was one of the arguments I advanced with comrades who didn't want to vote for Diane Abbott. John McDonnell, for example, would have done better in all three sections, and probably considerably better in the union section (in 2007, a poll put him in second place against Brown with 9% of party members - the poll including Meacher and Charles Clarke; the increased name recognition since that time and the inevitable exposure of a proper leadership campaign could only have increased that showing).

However, it wasn't to be and probably now never will be. But it was probably a missed opportunity for the left to demonstrate it's level of support rather than to have it questioned. It would not have impacted on the final result, I suspect.

8:23 pm, October 03, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Duncan asks how the slate I was on is arrived at. It varies from election to election but this time our starting point was the 2 incumbents then for the other 4 places Labour First looked at which of the people we network with had expressed an interest in running and had enough profile to pull in votes, and also which would help balance the team in terms of gender, regional representation and race. We then sat down with the officers of Progress who had been through a similar process and negotiated a team that maintained the balances I have mentioned and included their input - three of the candidates for instance have never previously been involved in Labour First. It was all done through consensus and persuasion. It's somewhat easier on our side of the fence as there are only two groupings on our side of the party and there's a big overlap in people between the two (though a far from complete one - there are some people who identify with Labour First but have nothing to do with Progress and vice versa - broadly one is more traditional right of the party and one is more New Labour).

9:10 pm, October 03, 2010

Anonymous Alun said...

Are results by CLP likely to get published at any point?

1:18 am, October 04, 2010

Blogger Hopi Sen said...

I have to agree about Johanna Baxter's performance. Truly outstanding, and she was unlucky not to get on (though given how this worked out, I can see why you might feel differently!)

I assume though, that if she chose to run again next year, with much lower turn out, she'd be far more likely to get on, as the "name recognition/London" factors wold be much lower.

2:06 pm, October 05, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

You mean in 2012. There is no NEC election in 2011.

Johanna also benefitted from the London factor - she is secretary of Camberwell & Peckham CLP and got a big vote from there and other south London CLPs.

3:14 pm, October 05, 2010

Blogger james said...

Congratulations on winning a place on the NEC, Luke.

What is Labour First? Can't find a website.

On these spatial metaphors (left/right) what exactly do they refer to?

11:33 pm, October 10, 2010


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