Will Labour pay a price if there is no contest?

Will Labour pay a price if there is no contest?

    The Guardian steps up the rhetoric against a Brown coronation?

The feature of its ICM poll that the Guardian focuses on this morning is the hugely negative response to questions about whether Gordon Brown should take over from Tony Blair unopposed.

Under the heading “When in doubt, trust the voters” the paper’s main leader notes “Many Labour people have persuaded themselves that a leadership contest to succeed Tony Blair would not be, in that dreadful word so beloved of party loyalists, helpful.”

The leader argues, Our ICM poll today exposes the trap into which Labour risks falling as a result of such understandable but misguided views. When ICM asks about the way Mr Blair’s successor should be chosen, the response is conclusive. Fully 78% of all voters answer that Labour should have a contest, against only 16% who think they should rally around the chancellor and elect him unopposed, as Labour orthodoxy increasingly favours. Most striking of all is the finding, by a three to one margin, that Labour’s own supporters think there should be a contest too. Labour leaders, in other words, are out of touch with the mood of the public and of their own voters…Labour MPs and activists are betting the house on a strategy of electing Mr Brown unopposed.

With all the recent focus on whether or not Miliband was going to put his hat into the ring there has been hardly any discussion of what voters will think if this is how the country’s next prime minister is chosen.

One key factor – a contest would have blocked Cameron and the Tories generally out of the news for nearly two months and whenever this has happened the opposition party’s ratings have slumped.

    A reason why the Tories are down substantially at the moment is that it has been hard for them to get a look in because of the focus on Labour. Oppositions need constant publicity.

As it is Labour has made itself a sitting target for the Tories especially as Gordon looks set to wait in the wings for seven weeks as the only candidate while process in gone through.

Latest Labour leadership betting has seen the Brown price tighten to 0.13/1.

Mike Smithson

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