What happens when you ask normal voters what they think of the Labour leadership candidates?

by Karen Bruce

On Saturday while many Labour members in Yorkshire were at the leadership hustings in Leeds I was with my ward colleague Cllr David Nagle running our local Labour party stall at the Rothwell carnival.

It’s a great opportunity to be seen by hundreds of local people and to chat with them about local issues. This year we decided to ask them two questions. The first was a specific local issue about how to spend £180,000 of ‘Section 106’ money from housing developers that has to be spent on environmental and greenspace projects. The second was to listen to what they thought about the four Labour leadership candidates.

To make it a bit more fun we had buckets with each leadership candidate’s picture on and lots of coloured balls so people could put one in their choice of candidate’s bucket.

We also created a one-page profile on each candidate so people could read and find out a little bit more about them. I’d originally wanted to put a 35 word statement from each candidate saying why Rothwell people should vote for them. I tweeted all four campaigns at 10:25 on Friday morning, but unfortunately only Andy’s campaign replied so we had to create the profiles ourselves.

The first paragraph of the profile was about their personal history – where they came from and what they did before they entered politics. The second paragraph detailed their experience in parliament and government. Both of these were taken from information on each candidate’s website and Wikipedia. The third paragraph was from their websites and was quotes about what they stood for and believed in.

Both of our questions sparked quite a bit of interest. The photos of the candidates on our buckets certainly made people look to see what we were doing. The results were interesting.

Rothwell is in the neighbouring constituency to Yvette so she was the most recognised candidate and several people came up and immediately put a ball into her bucket. A few also came up and immediately put a ball in Jeremy Corbyn’s bucket saying that Labour needed to be more left-wing or that their trade union was supporting him.

The two most interesting were Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall. Neither had as much of the ‘instant’ appeal of Yvette or Jeremy, although both had some. However, when people who said they didn’t know enough about any of them to give an opinion, the picture began to change. When these people read the four profiles they nearly all chose either Andy or Liz.

A few people, including local Labour party members, said they were undecided so we let them put a ball into more than one bucket. After all it was just a bit of fun to get an indication of what people thought, but also to hear what they said about each candidate.

These were some of the things that we said:

Yvette: “She’s very boring, but I could imagine that would make her a safe pair of hands to be prime minister.”

Jeremy: “If he’s been on the backbenches since 1983 he should stay there.”

Andy: “I’ve seen him on TV and he comes across as if he really does care. You don’t know if you believe any politician, but he sounds passionate.”

Liz: “I like what she says about the economy and Labour winning trust back on the deficit”

Yvette: “I know I shouldn’t say this, but she’s married to Ed Balls and we’ve just managed to get rid of him. I’m a Labour voter you know, but didn’t vote for him.” [Note, Rothwell also borders Ed’s old constituency and many people at the carnival will have come from villages there as they are artificially divided from their natural community by constituency boundaries.]

Liz: “I know who she is. She’s the one that said something first so she must have guts, I’d go for her.”

Jeremy: “Labour needs a proper left-wing leader again, it’s forgotten what it is for.”

Andy: “He says some good things, but looks and sounds really scary. Have you seen his eyes!”

Liz: “Labour needs somebody new, I don’t want those two again and I like what she has to say.”

There were lots of other comments, but I’ve only reported some of them so you can get a feel for what people were saying.

And now you’re hopefully wondering how many coloured balls went into each bucket.

The results were:

Jeremy Corbyn: 7

Yvette Cooper: 11

Andy Burnham: 14

Liz Kendall: 16

This was a surprise to me as I’d expected Yvette to do much better, given that she was local and also Andy because he’s already such a front runner amongst Labour members. Jeremy’s last place wasn’t a surprise, as while he might speak to some Labour members he doesn’t really speak to communities like mine.

Rothwell is a former mining area with a strong tradition of Labour support that was eroded with all three council seats falling to the Liberal Democrats who made it into one of their power bases in Leeds. Today it’s a mix of villages that merge into each other, with three fairly large council estates, lots of suburban commuter belt type housing and increasing number of new housing estates.

I won the first seat back off the Lib Dems in 2011 and was re-elected this year with a massively increased majority with the Lib Dems pushed into third place. For a traditional Labour area the Conservatives secured a scary amount of votes, largely because nationally we had little to say to many people in Rothwell.

It’s a ward in a constituency we should have won back in May. But, while we did great in the local elections it was a disaster in the constituency with the local Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke doubling his majority. The Tories even did well in Rothwell where traditionally they don’t as the Lib Dem voters we lost locally used to revert back to Labour at general elections. Not this time as the Conservatives did far better than they usually do.

I believe that Liz won our not very scientific poll because she was saying things that disillusioned and former Labour voters in communities like Rothwell want to hear. She recognises that people just want good schools for their children, a decent pay packet and to be proud of their country. All good, solid Labour values that communities like mine value.

Karen Bruce is a councillor on Leeds City Council and chairs the outer south community committee which includes Rothwell, Morley and surrounding villages

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12 Responses to “What happens when you ask normal voters what they think of the Labour leadership candidates?”

  1. Madasafish says:

    She recognises that people just want good schools for their children, a decent pay packet and to be proud of their country

    Total unacceptable to Labour metropolitan elites…

    Never mind , when Corbyn becomes Leader, he’ll cleanse the Party of people like you..:-)

  2. Claire says:

    Please explain further why you think Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t speak for people of Rothwell and surrounding areas?

  3. swatantra says:

    These Hustings are getting ridiculous! I’ve just received my 7th for a Socialist Societies one. And never ending like Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Bleak House.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Let’s face it, if Corbyn, gets through to the third round with Andy, then Coopers votes will go to Andy.
    and if Corbyn gets knocked out in the second round, then enough Corbyn votes can go to Cooper ,she may beat Andy

  5. Elliot Kane says:

    As a floating voter, what interests me most is that while Andy and Yvette are speaking like future leaders of the Labour party, only Liz is speaking like a future Prime Minister.

    I am open to being persuaded to vote for any party I believe has Britain’s best interests at heart, so what I’m looking for is someone who is willing to speak up for the whole nation, not just a small clique.

    I suspect that one of the main problems Ed Miliband had in convincing Britain to vote for him was that he only ever seemed to be speaking to and for his own party, rather than his country. Now Andy and Yvette are doing the same.

    I can obviously only speak for myself, but I would seriously consider giving my vote to Liz at the next general election. I like many of her ideas and it’s very clear that she wants to do her best for the country.

    Andy and Yvette I cannot see myself voting for. They have time to change my mind, of course, but they are off to a very bad start. I could see either as leaders of the Opposition, but never as Prime Ministers. So far, they do not seem to have the vision for it.

    Jeremy, well, let’s say that while I admire any man of genuine principle, I do not feel there is ever any chance he could make a good Prime Minister.

    Just my opinions, but I hope it might help to hear from someone with no axe to grind, either for or against the Labour party 🙂

  6. Dave Roberts. says:

    Is it true that Livingstone is backing Corbyn?

  7. swatantra says:

    Excellent article and straw poll Karen!
    But sorry to disappoint, there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ voter.
    Every voter has their own reasons for choosing someone or other. And in many cases they are the oddest and weirdest of reasons, in other words, voting is not a rational choice.

  8. Ex labour says:

    Sadly for Karen it looks like her erstwhile labour colleagues are heading towards collective mass suicide by voting for Corbyn. Labour is going backwards to the eighties and the days of Militant Tendancy.

    It’s clear to everyone I’ve spoken to, even my Labour friends, that Kendall is what’s needed to gain any credibility. I had to laugh at Karen’s assertion that Cooper was “local”. She was parachuted in so she could snuggle up to Ed at night and her mock northern accent is laughable. Burnham is tarnished by his performance with Broon at the treasury and his mid Staffs debacle in coving up Labours NHS failings. As for Corbyn well if you vote him in Labour will either be at all out war again as in the MT years or disintegrate into different parties.

  9. Tina Stalwart says:

    Sadly, the bias of the writer is too apparent to mean her opinions or poll can be taken even slightly seriously.

    Fact is, most people don’t care at all about who leads labour. They care about what labour will do.

  10. Madasafish says:

    Please explain further why you think Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t speak for people of Rothwell and surrounding areas?”

    He can speak for whomever he likes when Leader. The question is not about speaking, it’s about having a credible Leader who is electable as PM.

    The facts that you ask the question means you appear not to realise that it’s NOT what Labour voters think that matters. It’s the impact of Corbyn on the swing voters you MUST persuade to vote Labour. And those are in Conservative held seats in England. (factual – not a matter of debate or opinion).

    If you really think that Mr Corbyn is going to appeal to those voters, you are going to be sadly let down.

    I would be amazed if Labour managed to poll 25% of the votes at a General Election with Corbyn as Leader


  11. John P Reid says:

    Dave Roberts,yes Livingstone is backing Corbyn,and Livignstone,apart from his support for Anti Semetic, homophobic, Mulsim hate preachers, don’t. Let the fact that Your mate from your dodgy Email where he conned you into a racist word he described himself as ,then got you nicked out you off,
    Great quotes from Elliot Kane, Ex labour Madasafish

    1. The economy
    2. Immigration
    3 welfare
    4 Education
    5 housing
    6 transport
    7 law order/judiciry
    8 NHS
    9 defense
    10 European trade
    Sadly were too obsessed with The environment, Lords reform,staying in the EU, ClIre I hope the comments here make you see that there are real dangers of labour being wiped out for decades with JC

  12. Kaine says:

    Well at least Liz is leading in the balls in buckets poll because she’s doing rather poorly in all the others.

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