A week or so ago, a few folk noticed the bookies’ odds putting Yvette Cooper in second place in the Labour leadership stakes, in front of Andy Burnham, and wondered if maybe this meant she could catch Jeremy Corbyn. This very movement might well have encouraged some to have a punt on Yvette, so the odds of a Corbyn win briefly lengthened very slightly. Since then, though, the odds on a Corbyn win have become ever shorter. Cooper’s miles back, but now firmly in second place. The bookies think Corbyn is 50 times more likely to win than Cooper, but also (implicitly, rather than technically) that Cooper is well ahead of Burnham.
All this shows that Andy Burnham was in the right place all along, as far as any mainstream politician could have been. Burnham went further left than many Labour MPs felt reasonable, or even coherent, even while Ed was still in charge. That was because he correctly saw how far left the new, post-Falkirk, voting system would push the dialogue (i.e. it would be about the philosophical purpose of the party rather than about whether the party should be able to win elections); Cooper didn’t – she just sat there, neither a Blairite nor far left enough to win.
When Corbyn managed to make the ballot, though, Burnham thought it might be all over. He went as far left as he could, holding on to many who – released from their regular, orthodox inhibitions – quite fancied Corbyn. But in truth he saw exactly what was about to happen, way before the bookies did.
Cooper overhauling Burnham is not about her even nibbling at Corbyn – it’s about Burnham’s Corbyn-fanciers finally deciding that it’s all over and so doing the rational thing and voting Corbyn after all.
I had a very New Labour colleague at the House of Commons I truly admired who, as Burnham moved left, used to regularly ask me (and plenty of others, no doubt): “what’s the point of Andy Burnham”? Now I think that of all the mainstream politicians, Burnham’s shown himself the only former SpAd at the front rank who’s properly come of age. He was bang-on on Labour’s move way left. I hope he sticks with Labour and serves in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet; if he goes, it’ll be the end for Labour, I think. The same goes for Tom Watson. For now, the post-Corbyn-election future looks like Watson v Burnham (with the odds very much favouring Watson and Starmer still in the early stages of garnering support with intellectual heft) – but that’s just a bit of fun this early on.
Oh, yeah, and obviously the ‘sampling’ being done as the votes come in has been leaking to the media like a sieve! That’ll be camp followers rather than Labour staffers, though.