Labour First call on Progress to recommend transfer votes to stop Corbyn

27th July, 2015 2:39 pm

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour First, the group that represents the non-New Labour moderate flank of the party, has written an open letter to Progress chiefs Richard Angell and John Woodcock MP, calling on them to support tactical voting to stop Jeremy Corbyn. Earlier this month, Progress endorsed Liz Kendall in the leadership race.

The letter is signed by Labour First’s chair, Keith Dibble, secretary, Luke Akehurst, and MP John Spellar. It is addressed to Woodcock, as chair of Progress, and Angell, as director, and expresses concern that Progress “have not recommended use of second and third preferences to stop Corbyn”. They warn that “Jeremy Corbyn represents the most serious threat of a Hard Left victory in the Labour Party” in 30 years.

They write:

“We know that Progress has decided to support Liz Kendall and respect that this is the view of your Strategy Board.

However, we are concerned that you have not recommended use of second and third preferences to stop Corbyn and that some individual members of your Strategy Board are suggesting not using their second or third votes.

We are therefore writing to ask you to consider helping us demonstrate the unity of moderate and mainstream forces in the Labour Party and the strategic priority of stopping a Corbyn victory by amending your position slightly so that as well as continuing to support Liz you join us in recommending people use their second and third preference votes for the other mainstream candidates.”

Labour First has not taken a position on the leadership outside of organising to prevent a Corbyn victory, and the letter claims that the group has “high profile supporters of each of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall”. Dibble is supporting Burnham, while both Spellar and Akehurst are supporting Cooper. You can read the full letter here.

Previously, an email from the group leaked showing them encouraging the transfer of votes between Burnham, Cooper and Kendall supporters at Constituency Labour Party (CLP) nomination meetings to prevent further Corbyn nominations.

However, it is unclear how successful this letter will be. The Progress endorsement is decided by their Strategy Board, which is elected by Progress members – neither Angell nor Woodcock, the two addressees of the letter, are able to make official endorsements.

And although they have not recommended preferential voting of this nature, when Tony Blair spoke at a Progress event last week, while he refused to give his backing to any candidate, he made it quite clear that he did not want Corbyn to win. The former PM described Corbyn as “the Tory preference” for Labour leader.

The letter also comes just a day after Angell penned a piece for The Times Red Box, warning that Burnham and Cooper are running the risk of being seen as “Corbyn-lite” and need to “draw a line to their left flanks”. His analysis of the Burnham and Cooper campaigns was not altogether positive:

“Talk of Corbyn’s victory might have bought the race to life but if Burnham and Cooper do not start a step-change towards the centre, their respective bids for No 10 might be dead before they have even started.”

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