Unlike 2010 the unions are most influential at the start of the race
We all remember how the big unions were able to influence the 2010 leadership race by sending out to political levy paying members ballot packs like the one above. This time the rules have changed and the opportunity to influence is most strong at the nomination stage.
Shadow health sec, Andy Burnham, is doing particularly well winning the support of fellow MPs who are prepared to nominate him.
In previous contests a third of the overall electoral college was made of up of MPs/MEPs so chalking up a mass of nominations was a good indicator of how one key section would split. This time the vote of an MP is worth exactly the same as the person handing over Â£3 to the party and registering themselves as a Labour supporter. The election will be determined by just one block of more than 200k voting on an AV basis.
Where MP nominations are crucial is in determining who gets on that ballot. The rules state that a candidate requires the support of 35 of the party’s 232 MPs. So if one candidate can mop up more than 100 or so nominations then chances are that it will prevent more than two or three contenders being put to the member/supporter base.
The UNITE union has most influence at this stage and is using it to encourage union-linked MPs to nominate Burnham thus reducing the number of MPs available to nominate others.
Here individual MPs face a dilemma. Many fear that they end up with a leader whom they did not nominate which could impact strongly on the chances of preferment on which their political careers could rest.
So the more nominations that Burnham gets the more he’s likely to end up with thus potentially squeezing others out of the race.
According to the Guardian Hunt appears to be struggling to get the requisite number while the Kendall campaign claims it has the 35 but it is possible that this could be squeezed at the margin.
Most bookies now have Burnham as odds-on favourite.