Exclusive: Poll of members shows leadership race too close to call

Sienna Rodgers

Labour’s leadership race appears to be narrowing with Rebecca Long-Bailey coming out just ahead of her opponents on the basis of first preferences in a new poll of party members – with Keir Starmer close behind.

Long-Bailey, who is on the Labour left and widely seen as a Corbynite, has had a slow start to her campaign – but was still the most popular first-ranked contender in a survey of LabourList readers conducted by Survation and weighted to reflect the membership.

If the election took place today, the results of the poll suggest that Long-Bailey would win 42% of first preferences while Starmer would receive 37%. Jess Phillips is far behind on 9%, Lisa Nandy on 7% and Emily Thornberry on just 1%.

Although Starmer receives the majority of second preferences from all candidates in the race, they are not enough to eliminate Long-Bailey’s first round lead, with Long-Bailey leading 51% to 49% after second preferences are taken into account.

The Holborn and St Pancras MP, who has pitched to the left in his campaign so far, also picks up high proportions of second preferences from rivals Phillips (60%) and Nandy (63%) in the poll.

The first poll of Labour members by YouGov for the Party Members Project put Starmer ahead both in terms of first preferences and the overall result. The new research suggests there is all to play for in Labour’s leadership contest.

34% of Labour members surveyed by LabourList/Survation said they had not decided who they would be voting for in the leadership election, and of those ranking candidates for leader, only 22% said they were certain that they would not change their preferences.

50% of those participating ranked Phillips – the most openly Corbynsceptic of the leadership candidates – as their sixth preference choice, suggesting that she could be the most divisive contender.

The LabourList/Survation poll includes Clive Lewis as a candidate, but the Norwich MP is now out of the running as he failed to secure the necessary MP and MEP nominations to continue.

Lisa Nandy comes behind Jess Phillips in fourth place on first preferences among those surveyed, but excluding Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy was the most popular second choice and joint with Emily Thornberry for most popular third choice.

The research also indicates that party members are not familiar with the Wigan MP and her policy platform. 24% said they were unfamiliar with Nandy and what she stands for, compared to 5% for Starmer and 8% for Long-Bailey.

This could show that the ‘soft left’ candidate has much room for improvement as she becomes better known. She came out in favour of free movement today in a key speech.

Emily Thornberry had the lowest percentage of respondents – 37% – saying they were familiar to her and her policy platform, according to the fresh poll. This compares to 77% for Starmer and 73% for Long-Bailey.

In Labour’s deputy leadership race, the poll shows Angela Rayner far ahead of her opponents as she wins the contest on the basis of first preferences alone with a huge 60% of top rankings.

Richard Burgon, often considered the most left-wing of the deputy leadership candidates, comes second with 19% of first preferences in the simulation. But, along with vocal Corbynsceptic Ian Murray, he is also one of the most divisive contenders.

Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP, was ranked sixth by 39% of respondents, while Burgon was put in last place by 31%.

The Edinburgh South representative and Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan were found to be the least well-known candidates for deputy, with 63% and 60% of respondents respectively selecting the low familiarity option.

Survation surveyed 3,835 Labour members between 8th and 13th January 2020 via LabourList’s database. Data were weighted to the profile of party members by age, sex, and UK region, with targets derived from Labour membership composition data, 2016.

LabourList has partnered up with Survation to add statistical heft to our reader surveys. Full data tables and methodology can be viewed here and a summary presentation of the polling can be found here.

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