It is hard to overstate the level of shock in moderate Labour circles at last night’s YouGov poll showing Jeremy Corbyn heading for victory in the Labour leadership race. Regardless of whether the poll is accurate, they fear that it will damage Labour in two ways. First, it will skew the contest further to the left as Burnham and Cooper both seek to halt the Corbyn advance and to position themselves to pick up second preferences. Secondly, the idea that Corbyn could win is hardly going to reassure those voters who worry about Labour’s economic competence.
Corbyn overtakes Cooper in Labour Leadership betting. pic.twitter.com/3uK44SgOFR
— Ladbrokes Politics (@LadPolitics) July 21, 2015
Another worry is that the hard left could, seeing how close Corbyn is to victory, sign up en masse to vote in the contest. If a huge number of registered supporters joined up before 12 August, that could boost Corbyn even further.
But there is another reading of what could happen, and one that some on the old right of the party subscribe to. This theory has it that this poll will concentrate minds, that it will remind people that if you vote Corbyn you could actually get Corbyn. They hope that when members realise that voting Corbyn has consequences, there’ll be a shift back to the more mainstream candidates.
But there’s no doubt that Labour is in an awful place this morning. Kim Howells’s warning yesterday that ‘this is the most serious crisis I can remember in Labour’s history’ no longer seems like hyperbole.