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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The end game

Winner of the prize for leadership election hubris goes to Dan Hodges for this piece on Labour Uncut: http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/09/21/david-miliband-has-won-says-dan-hodges/ declaring the election result before the voting has finished.

I would be interested to know the electoral college maths by which Dan believes this outcome will have been achieved.

And interested about the number of votes David Miliband has lost through these kind of interventions both in the mass media, social media and verbally. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told David "has to win" because of seniority, status or alleged ideological purity and harangued for "breaking the line" (whose line?). I suspect many Labour members will like me have been rather offended to be told that what we thought was an open contest where we could judge a range of good candidates on their merits, was in fact a contest with a pre-determined anointed winner. Many people will kick against that kind of message.

A veteran CLP Secretary who I know was rung this week by the David Miliband campaign and when she said she was not voting for David was accused by the caller of "wanting Labour to stay in opposition". Maybe it was someone going off script, but whether scripted or not it's not good politics to be using an attack when calling the volunteers who keep local parties functioning which insults both other candidates and the democratic choices those very hard-working volunteers have made.

This sort of messaging has also squandered a political opportunity for the wider Party. Instead of saying "look, Labour is so strong and so united that we have four mainstream candidates who would all knock the socks off David Cameron and are all electable as PM", language has been used that has given ammo to Labour's opponents to attack anyone other than David if they get elected.

I don't actually blame David Miliband for this. I think he probably knows that Labour's electoral college and transferable voting system means he needed to reach out to people in the trade union section of the college, and to offer something to get transfers from supporters of the three lower ranked candidates. But some of the unofficial cheerleaders for his campaign, some of them incredibly senior, have behaved in a way which is crass, counterproductive, and has alienated people.

If he does win despite these antics, then he will need to reach out very fast to build bridges with the rest of the party.

My hunch though is that Dan is wrong because he hasn't done the maths. Labour's electoral system is rightly designed not to anoint the leader of the biggest gang in a multi-candidate election, or the preferred candidate of MPs alone. It is quite deliberately designed to foster party unity by rewarding candidates who can get second preference votes and build a majority, not just a plurality, and to require a broad base of support across all the party's stakeholders. The criticisms that there were of the electoral college when it was set up are now void because the union section has moved from one based on General Secretaries casting block votes to an OMOV ballot where the winner needs to have demonstrated they can win vast numbers of votes from ordinary members of the public who happen to be union members.

If anything will tell you who might be the most electable of the five in a General Election it will be whether they have demonstrated mass appeal in the section that is most like the wider electorate - the TU section.

Ed Miliband's campaign has shown more awareness of the nature of the electoral college, and of Labour's internal AV voting. David's team have been fighting an AV election as though it was First Past The Post. That would only have worked if he was Tony Blair and capable of winning 50% on the first round.

Unlike Dan I think the outcome is still in doubt, but the most likely one based on a rational analysis of the data that's been published and the politics of the campaign is that Ed Miliband will win by a margin of 2 to 4%.


Blogger Soho Politico said...

"But some of the unofficial cheerleaders for his campaign, some of them incredibly senior, have behaved in a way which is crass, counterproductive, and has alienated people."

Much of the supposedly crass and counterproductive commentary has in fact been well within the margins of civilised debate, and been met with unjustified indignation by some Ed Miliband supporters. When Peter Mandelson claims that it would be a mistake to abandon the New Labour project, for instance, that is not an attack. It is just a view. Indeed, one can just as easily say that what is really counterproductive and alienating is when one side in the campaign tries to traduce the opposition by suggesting that reasonable commentary (whether or not one agrees with it) is somehow a personal slight against Ed Miliband.

Now, that is not to say that there have not been criticisms of Ed Miliband that have overstepped the mark. When Mandelson, on a separate occasion, claimed that the 2010 manifesto was an exclusive piece of work by Ed Miliband, in which nobody else had a hand, that was ridiculous. But that same weekend a senior supporter of Ed M, Neil Kinnock, launched a blistering and utterly personal attack on David Miliband, claiming that he was motivated by resentment of his own brother, and that his supporters were full of 'bloody bile'. His interjection typified crass, counterproductive criticism. But Ed Miliband supporters had nothing to say about it. At least recognise, Luke, that both sides have been guilty of speaking out of turn. The implication that Team EMil are merely innocent victims in all this is scarcely credible, and a little off-putting.

8:50 pm, September 21, 2010

Blogger Ayse Veli said...

I neither consider myself to be a high profile supporter nor do i deem myself to be seen by others as one of David's star supporters. I am an objective supporter, capable of viewing David as a candidate and as a policy maker that most appeals to me today & me in the future. He is the best candidate to lead Labour & this great country of ours for the simple reason that he really is humble in his mistakes, proud of his achievements, charismatic & a forward thinker & a bloody hard fighter. I like the direction David wants to take this party & country in & I think people should stop judging David on their prejudices,stop letting others agitate them with their views and just listen to the bloke and stop dissing him all the time. I think David Miliband is fabulous & thoroughly deserves to win the Labour Leadership because his policies, as well as his vision and values for wanting everyone in this country at home and abroad to achieve excellence is dynamic and heartfelt. #DM4LEADER

9:17 pm, September 21, 2010

Anonymous Survation said...

A very thoughtful post Luke.

I'm interested in your "rational analysis of the data that's been published and the politics of the campaign"

Do you have any vignettes of info post what we know from yougov2?

9:29 pm, September 21, 2010

Anonymous X marks the spot said...

What an ill-informed, sycophantic post. Quite a serious claim that 'incredibly senior' David Miliband campaigners have behaved in a 'crass, counterproductive' manner that has, apparently, 'alienated people'. According to whom? As Soho Politico eloquently put it, there is a fine line between healthy dabate which encourages reasonable commentary and mean-spirited insults. I have not seen any evidence of the latter from the campaign team, either in person or on the world wide web. If anything the DM team have been friendly, humble and quite thick-skinned in the face of extensive media and online attacks that has gone on in the past 4 months.

10:50 pm, September 21, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I said "unofficial cheerleaders" not members of his campaign team.

11:43 pm, September 21, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke is right, and the indignation from DM supporters here strikes me as protesting too much ;-)

The comparisons of EM with Foot, Benn and even ultra-leftists have been laughable - or would be if they didn't have such a sinister touch of intolerance.

(I voted for David, BTW)

12:36 am, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Alex Ross said...

I've phoned banked for David so know the script - as a hardcore Labour lad yourself Luke I'm sure you know that Labour scripts are as dry as toast and David's is no different!

8:37 am, September 22, 2010

Blogger Edward Carlsson Browne said...

Yes, I'd agree with all this.

I had concerns about DM initially (mostly relating to leadership qualities, only secondarily relating to ideology) but I think I'd now be perfectly happy to have him as leader.

But I put him fifth on my ballot paper because I don't want him to win, because I'm so put off by some of his supporters, many of whom have been directly involved in leading us through incredibly heavy defeats and almost all of whom pretend that we aren't a party in very deep trouble.

I think David Milliband gets that Labour needs to be a broad and inclusive party and that we need to appeal to swing voters and to our base, not just to one or the other. He's not the only candidate who gets that, but he's one of them. And he and his campaign have run a disciplined and sensible campaign, trying to shy away from personal nastiness.

I think some of his loudest supporters, on the other hand, are frankly delusional, assuming that what was rejected last time is the only way Labour can win.

If David Miliband does win, he needs to rein this tendency in somewhat, because the last thing excluded factions of the party are going to want in opposition is yet more badly argued condescension.

The same goes for Ed Miliband too, to some extent, of course. Both sides need to call some of their sillier outriders to order.

9:55 am, September 22, 2010

Anonymous oldpolitics said...

A 'touch' of intolerance... ha. Luke, I hope once you have earned your passage back into the clique, you remember that this is how some of us on the centre-left of the party have been made to feel for the last decade and a half, and it's not very pleasant.

10:10 am, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hardly surprising that Kinnock supports Ed Miliband. They have similar leadership qualities which would probably manifest themselves in the same end result in a general election!

Still can't help feeling that get this one wrong and its history for the Labour party in its present form.

10:14 am, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Simon said...

"And interested about the number of votes David Miliband has lost through these kind of interventions both in the mass media, social media and verbally."

I can say personally that he specifically didn't get my first preference for this reason. I think he, as an individual, is a very good candidate and would be a very good leader (and he got my likely meaningless second preference, fwiw) but a troublingly large section of his support have behaved with (i) a sense of entitlement to the leadership and (ii) a presumption that any future GE can and should only be won with the same tactics which won us the election in 1997.

12:42 pm, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that the same Neil Kinnock who essentially SAVED the Labour party, you utter dolt??

2:13 pm, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:13 PM, I think it is the same Kinnock that threw away a general election victory to Major, milked the European Commission to the 'n'th degree and, after declaring he would never set foot in that place, now ponces about in ermine robes.

If he is your idea of a saviour, heaven help the party.

The name calling was unnecessary but shows the level of your debating skill.

3:05 pm, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...


you obviously hate everything to do with the Labour party. Why bother posting on here?

Pb.com not rabid enough for you anymore, maybe?? :-)

4:10 pm, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Luke, coming from a supporter of old right machine politics I think this post shows you to have a very fine brass neck.

10:47 pm, September 22, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the rumour doing the rounds in some quarters is that whilst EM has been clearly defeated by his brother in both the MPs and members sections, he has built up such a big lead amongst the "affilates" that it could see him sneak over the line.....

This might be the worst possible outcome for him, and the party. If he doesn't perform superbly as leader given that "mandate", then it will prove his undoing.

Maybe he will be Labour's IDS, put out of his misery after a couple of years? And if so, one could see the union element in the subsequent election being significantly reduced - if not abolished completely!

Interesting times ;-)

2:41 pm, September 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now the voting is over, I think that Ed Miliband needs to address the fact that his mouth does not operate very well when he speaks.
Sometimes, it looks a bit like the mouth of a cartoon character. This should not be ignored as it could be damaging.

Drew Westen's book "The Political Brain" deals with this kind of thing in its later pages. I dare say Luke has a copy!

3:55 pm, September 23, 2010

Anonymous Stuart Bruce said...

Great post Luke. I've been amazed at the way David's team has conducted the campaign, and to be honest, by David himself. He's the only candidate that has alienated himself from me during the campaign. Some of it is his fault, some of it his team (but the buck does always stop at the top and it is the candidate that decides the culture of the campaign). I've gone from backing Andy first, but not minding the rest to a position where I'd be depressed if David won as I just feel it would make my life as a loyal Labour member so much harder (and I would continue to be loyal, even to David). I just don't want my life as a campaigner to be that hard.

5:14 pm, September 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"look, Labour is so strong and so united that we have four mainstream candidates who would all knock the socks off David Cameron and are all electable as PM",


Diane Abbott's views are very mainstream too. For example, on withdrawal from Afghanistan and opposition to Trident. In his memoirs, even Blair admits that Trident replacement was a very close call for him!

And what evidence is there that Diane Abbott is somehow less electable than the other candidates?

6:05 pm, September 23, 2010

Blogger Unknown said...

I'm a bit surprised you were told you were "breaking the line"

I have been asking sensible people I know who are working on both of the campaigns why I should support thier man and also what they think is wrong with the other brother.

All I've heard in response is people being nice about the rival candidate, saying it's all quite close and I shouldn't feel bad about who I support.

6:20 pm, September 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 4:10 PM

I post on here to make a contribution as you do. However, you seem to only want people who agree with your ideas of who are Labour's saviours and leaders. I happen to not agree - it's called democracy.

As to your ridiculous comment about hating Labour, I don't hate the Tories or Lib/Dems either. Organised, well led parties are essential to democracy whether in office or opposition. I just don't think 'well led' would apply with Ed M in charge anymore than it did with Kinnock, when it really mattered.

And what the heck is Pb.Com?

6:59 pm, September 23, 2010

Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Luke your argument about the Trade Union vote may have had more validity if the Trade Union leadership did not endorse candidates before the vote. My Union supported Ed Miliband with what amounted to a fanzine. The while process of unions/branches/CLPs nominating their favourites does smack a little bit of democratic centralism I'm afraid.

I can certainly endorse the comment about David Miliband callers going off script - and I voted for him. But I see this as a good thing however.

As to which Miliband has won I suspect that it will not make much difference - given that there are rather more similarities than differences. I just hope that whoever wins realises that teams work best when they have a mixture of skills and personalities and that they need to others to make up fro their own deficiencies - a lesson that has been somewhat lost in recent years.

7:55 pm, September 23, 2010

Blogger Jimmy said...

"Ed Miliband's campaign has shown more awareness of the nature of the electoral college, and of Labour's internal AV voting. David's team have been fighting an AV election as though it was First Past The Post."

Isn't that another way of saying that Ed has pandered where David has just said what he thinks?

8:18 pm, September 23, 2010


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