Burnham can’t win, but his supporters could stop Corbyn if enough back Cooper

by Kenny Stevenson

There has been some buzz over Yvette Cooper’s popularity spike since taking her principled and courageous stand on Europe’s refugee crisis. The bookies have slashed her odds to make her second favourite to become Labour’s new leader on Saturday. But can she conceivably overtake Jeremy Corbyn?

First things first: don’t trust the bookies. Stephen Bush has correctly pointed out they aim to maximise profit, not predict outcomes. When punters took Corbyn’s original price of 100/1, his odds began to drop. It was not until after YouGov’s membership polls that he became the odds-on favourite. So while the contest is still Corbyn’s to lose, his price is as much a reflection of bookies’ damage limitation as it is his popularity.

Similarly for Cooper, speculation over a last-minute surge – and, presumably, more people betting on her – has seen her price reduced from 10/1 to 4/1. But unlike Corbyn’s price change, there have been no membership polls to inform the bookies. Cooper’s price drop is based on hearsay. With no new polls, we should assume no significant movement in voting intentions. Corbyn is still on course to win.

So how can Cooper win? Let’s indulge in some conjecture. If we look at voting intentions reported in the last YouGov poll, the first preference breakdown is as follows:

Corbyn – 53%

Burnham – 21%

Cooper – 18%

Kendall – 8%

Let’s make a number of assumptions. First, Corbyn will not win 50% of first preferences. This is a fair guess. His questionable political ties and perceived unelectability may have increasingly rattled members as the campaign has progressed. It is also possible social desirability skewed the poll results. Supporting Corbyn is very much in vogue, particularly among younger members. It is plausible Corbynistas are more willing to discuss the contest when contacted by polling companies. Additionally, supporters of the other three candidates may be ‘shy’ about revealing their preferred leader given Corbyn’s popularity.

Second, Andy Burnham’s and Liz Kendall’s support will hold steady. There is no evidence to suggest Burnham has recruited more followers since the YouGov poll – and the overall poor standard of his campaign would suggest he’s more likely to lose than gain support.  Kendall has upped her Twitter game but there is little to suggest she has substantially increased her number of first preferences.

Third, Cooper will take first preferences directly from Corbyn. Let’s pick an arbitrary figure: 10% of Corbynistas will defect to Cooper before Saturday. The first preference breakdown then looks like this:

Corbyn – 43%

Cooper – 28%

Burnham – 21%

Kendall – 8%

Fourth, the majority of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper.  The YouGov poll indicates 5/8 of her second preferences go to Cooper; 2/8 go to Burnham; and 1/8 go to Corbyn. Internal party polling puts Cooper’s support much higher, with 85% of Kendall’s second preferences going to her. Given this, let’s speculate Burnham has lost half of his Kendall second preferences following his ‘time not right’ gaffe. The vote breakdown after Kendall’s second preferences are distributed looks as follows:

Corbyn – 44%

Cooper – 34%

Burnham – 22%

Cooper then needs to gain a further 17% – 77% of Burnham’s second preferences – to win the leadership. However, the YouGov poll suggests approximately two thirds of Burnham second preferences would go to Cooper. The final standings would therefore be:

Corbyn – 51.3%

Cooper – 48.7%

The more recent internal party polling suggests the ‘overwhelming majority ’ of Burnham’s second preferences will go to Cooper. If this is the case, and Cooper can take a significant chunk of Corbyn’s vote, the final result will be closer than expected, regardless of who wins.

And now for some truths. First, Corbyn will win the most first preferences, and is therefore still the clear favourite to win on Saturday. There is no reliable evidence to suggest otherwise. His first preference tally must be closer to 40% than 50% for Cooper to stand a chance at winning in the final round.

Second, Cooper needs to take a significant number of votes directly from Corbyn. Taking votes from Burnham or Kendall does nothing to dent  Corbyn’s first preference tally. If she fails to do so, Corbyn wins.

Third, Cooper is the only candidate who could meet Corbyn in the final round of voting. On available evidence, it is unlikely Burnham will pick up a sufficient chunk of Kendall’s second preferences to make the final round.

Consequently, Burnham supporters will cast the deciding vote, should the contest go to the final round. Their man can’t win but their second preferences will decide Labour’s next leader.

Kenny Stevenson is a Politics PhD student studying UK immigration policy and public opinion. He is a member of Glasgow Cathcart CLP

Tags: , , , , ,

15 Responses to “Burnham can’t win, but his supporters could stop Corbyn if enough back Cooper”

  1. Tafia says:

    Burnham can’t win, but his supporters could stop Corbyn if enough back Cooper

    Stop being an utterly cheap piece of childish garbage.

    The same could be said if you switched Burnham with Cooper (incidentally both are low grade candidates who couldn’t make Prime Minister if you added them together in a composite. )

    It’s all over now and you accept and carry out the instructions – rally round and support Corbyn, or you are a traitor.

  2. Richard says:

    As you stated clearly, no recent polls make this all guesswork and if you add to this the clear unreliability of polls in general then much of your argument is conjecture, pure hope in fact.
    That’s fair enough but my despair is more about the Anyone But Corbyn nature of the debate from sections of the party, including the argument above.
    Why not run with policies and principles and enthuse the membership in the way that Corbyn has rather than continue with this negative approach? Do you not understand that it is the ‘machine politics’ approach that is one of the things that is alienating so many people, reducing satisfaction and turnout, and Corbyn is capitalising on this. You even present evidence for this argument yourself when you talk of the Cooper surge. When did she surge? When she spoke with honesty and passion, with a sense of morality and in the face of what appeared to be public opinion at the time, in the face of any notion that even ‘Red Ed’ had with that daft mug on immigration.
    Rather than worrying about not having Corbyn as leader, though I am still struggling why he causes so much consternation when I look at German politics and support from economists, get on with persuading Party members that what you are proposing is worth taking to friends, family and to workplaces and estates, just as Corbyn has. Get on with what politics should be about which is persuading people that we have something to bother voting FOR.

  3. Robert says:

    This is basically accurate and I think that Cooper will finish first or second. To win, she will need a high proportion of the second and third preferences of Burnham and Kendall supporters. It is important for people who want stop Corbyn that they use all of their preferences (three in this case). This will mean that Corbyn needs half of the votes to win.

  4. don’t trust the bookies. Stephen Bush has correctly pointed out they aim to maximise profit, not predict outcomes.

    Maybe, but I find bookies’ odds are pretty good guide to likely outcomes. There are just as good, if not better, than opinion polls in that respect.

    Punters like to maximise their profits too. So if anyone thinks the bookies have it wrong and that Yvette Cooper has a realistic chance of winning the their offered odds of 7-1 might seem somewhat generous. In percentage terms they represent a 12.5% chance.

    I don’t think she’s got even that so would advise Kenny against increasing his student loan by having a flutter on Yvette.

  5. Historyintime says:

    Delusionary. Bookies have Yvette at 10% implied probability. However, if Yvette can come a good second (ie 45% or so) she’s well positioned to take over when JC falters.

  6. I think I read earlier that Burnham’s campaign think that a large proportion of his supporters’ second preferences go to Corbyn which hurts Cooper.

  7. David Walker says:

    Having just taken a look at Oddschecker, that spike appears to have been short-lived. Corbyn is now best-priced at 2/9 with Boyle and as short as 1/6 with Ladbrokes.

    Cooper can be backed at 7/1 with SkyBet and Stan James. The Betfair price, as always, is the most important as it is a peer-to-peer exchange…

    Corbyn 2/9
    Cooper 39/5 (just under 8/1)
    Burnham 10/1
    Kendall 218/1

    I’ve been keeping an eye on this market, pretty-much every day. I can’t remember Corbyn being this short, nor his competitors being this easy to back.

    If I had to make a guess, I would say that those who understand betting (and make their living from it) have decided that Corbyn has won by a landslide, but they also think there is a 15-20% chance that the party will find a way to stitch him up and declare the result null and void.

    I would expect Corbyn’s price to shorten further, between now and the result, as Labour MPs seem to be increasingly taking the view that interfering with the democratic process would be even more of a disaster for Labour than accepting Corbyn’s legitimacy.

  8. Ryland1 says:

    what planet are some people on??? have people who write these columns ever been involved in a real election campaign?

    First principle of elections with postal votes is that over 50% of people will vote within 48 hours of receiving the ballot paper ( hence the Labour Party advising Constituencies to treat elections as having 2 separate polling days – postal voting Saturdays when the postal ballots arrive and polling day itself)

    The vast, overwhelming majority of people will already have voted; the number left to vote miniscule… this type of what if this percentage votes for X and then transfers to Y on second preferences is complete nonsense this late. It seems the writer has to write something – anything to calm their nerves.

    my thought = second preferences going to be irrelevant and not needed

  9. Kenny Stevenson says:

    First of all, thanks to everyone who has read the piece. All feedback is much appreciated!

    Please bear in mind I’m only pointing out how Cooper could win using AVAILABLE EVIDENCE. The evidence may be unreliable and Corbyn may emd up walking it on Saturday, but it’s evidence nonetheless. In this particular piece I’m not arguing how members should vote.

    Thanks David Walker for updating me on current odds.

  10. Bob says:

    In the words of Stalin, ‘it’s not who casts the vote but counts it what matters’

  11. Ladbrooks have Corbyn at 7 to 1 on. Hope they are calling correctly.

  12. John P Reid says:

    Tafia,if after a supposed Corbyn victory we’re 25 points behind in the polls, the treachery would be for Jez not to stand down, plus as he voted against the whip 500 times,so that’s 496 times that weren’t Iraq, 90 day detention,abstaining in the welfare bill or PFI, then there’s no loyalty for him

  13. John P Reid says:

    Danny Speight, I’ve also read a large preference of Cooper supporters do the same if someone is going to vote Jez, they’ll do it first choice,so I don’t believe Burnham supporters will put, Jez as second choice, recall 5 years ago when he stood he was a blairite,

  14. John P Reid says:

    Good article by the way

  15. Jonathan Grimes says:

    This sounds like wishful thinking. For all the talk about the “last-minute surge”, Cooper has only had two decent performances – one on immigration, which was pretty cursory, and one attacking Corbynomics, the latter of which was characteristically negative. She’s done well in rallying a section the Blairite grandees behind her, but apart from identity issues all she’s positively achieved is demonstrate her disdain for enlarging the public sector at a time when all the indications are that registered supporters, the CLP and Labour voters are crying out for it. Burnham is loathed by the Blairites as a sort of Kerensky figure, but for all his opportunism he’s been polling consistently well and he’s successfully isolated the centre-left vote, making him a decent home for those of us who favour 90% of Corbynism but have doubts about his policies on UND, immigration and territorial integrity. I expect he’ll finish a good ten percentiles above Cooper, and unless you’re a Blairite ultra who prefers dying in a ditch to living with a compromise, he’s the only remotely viable alternative to Corbyn.

Leave a Reply