Can Alan Johnson prove YouGov wrong?

Can Alan Johnson prove YouGov wrong?

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    Is the Education secretary worth his favourite status?

After getting the most MP nominations for Labour deputy Alan Johnson has become the early favourite and although his price has eased a touch the best that can be had is 2.1/1.

Yet the problem Johnson faces is that Labour MPs only represent a third of the electoral college that will decide the job – another third being the party membership at large and the final third being trade unionists who pay the political levy.

    And it is with the final two sections of Labour’s electoral college that Johnson seems to be struggling to overhaul Hilary Benn.

After its success in the Tory leadership elections of 2001 and 2005 and a relatively good performance in the 2006 Lib Dem race the internet pollster YouGov has built up a good reputation with membership ballots.

In the last two Tory contests YouGov got the final outcome right to within one per cent in each case – an extraordinary performance and those punters who followed the findings did well.

In the 2006 Lib Dem race YouGov predicted in the only media commissioned membership at the very beginning that Ming Campbell had a 49% to 21% lead over Simon Hughes. Two months later it finished up at Ming 44.7%: Huhne 32.1% and Hughes 23.7%. Chris Huhne was not a runner at the time of the survey.

    What’s striking about YouGov’s performance is that apart from the sudden surge for Cameron after his Blackpool conference speech there was not that much change in any of the numbers during the long campaigns.

So far in the deputy race there have been two YouGov membership polls and both have had Benn on 36%. Johnson, meanwhile, saw a decline in his position from March to the end of April from 22% to 19%.

Only one of the surveys, the first, has looked at the views of trade union voters and these were not too far off the membership findings. In both surveys the other contenders – Harman, Hain, Cruddas and Blears – have been even further behind Benn.

Based on the experience of YouGov’s polling in two Tory races and the Lib Dem one it is hard to see Johnson making the required progress amongst the membership or the trade unionists. He looks set to top the ballot amongst MPs.

A possibly mover during the campaign is John Cruddas who is not well known and has a very different proposition – he does not want to be a minister or deputy PM. He’s likely to get a lot of union support and this could have an impact.

  • In the next few days I’m planning to feature extracts from my book “The Political Punter” on polling performances in leadership elections.

  • Mike Smithson

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