Is he getting support by making his challenge a party referendum on Iraq?
John McDonnell, the chair of the Labour parliamentary socialist Campaign group, and the only person so far to put his hat into the ring for the Labour leadership, says he’s now “within striking distance” of getting onto the ballot paper for the election later in the year.
According to the Guardian the man who rebelled against Blair-Brown most in 2006 has been engaged in “a hectic schedule of public meetings with rank-and-file Labour party members and trade unionists up and down the country.”
He is quoted as saying: “…”MPs are coming to me. I am not putting anyone under any pressure. So people are spontaneously saying I am supporting you…People will make up their own minds in the last few weeks and decide the way the ballot paper will go..I am not expecting MPs to sign up to every policy I put forward but I do expect them to allow members to have a democratic election.”
Just like the CONtinutyIDS site in the Tory party which is run by a former IDS aide, McDonnell’s political positioning takes people back to the bygone days of Labour. He has a lot going for him. If he does get on the ballot the broadcasters are likely to give him a fair amount of coverage and from what we have seen so far he should come over well.
As I have observed here before McDonnell is photogenic; his voice is easy on the ear; and he is lucid. In presentation terms he would compare favourably with Brown if TV leadership debates are held – and it’s hard to see how the Chancellor can avoid them.
McDonnell’s big ace is his unstinting opposition to the Iraq War – something that will resonate well with large sections of those taking part in the mass party and trade union ballots.
You can see him getting a reasonable number of votes by making his bid a sort of party referendum on Iraq. Members will feel safe about voting for him because Gordon’s eventual victory looks so much like a foregone conclusion.
Of course he’s not going to do it but you could see him getting 20-25% of the votes in the constituency and trade union sections of the electoral college.
In the betting the latest Betfair price is 210/1 which is bound to tighten if he does find 44 other Labour MPs to sign his nomination. I have a speculative Â£6 on him at an average 474/1 which I will lay when the time is ripe.