The mystery is why Burnham is odds on
â€œItâ€™s Andyâ€™s to lose, right?â€ The bookmakers have Andy Burnham odds on to be the next Labour leader but Iâ€™m just not convinced. To be fair to Andy his campaign is considerably better than in 2010 and he has an impressive array of support from across the party. But despite getting most MP nominations so far and topping the Labourlist survey there are at least three good reasons why he might well fall short.
1. His lead isnâ€™t going to big enough. Andy could well top the poll in the first round of voting before losing on transfers. This would not be controversial. The first round winner in Labourâ€™s last leadership election was David Miliband and in the deputy contest it was Jon Cruddas who was overtaken. If Yvette Cooper finishes ahead of Liz Kendall I would expect many more of Kendallâ€™s supporters to second preference Cooper than Burnham. Put simply Andy is the centre-left candidate, Yvette the centre and Kendall the centre-right candidate in this contest. Plus many of Kendallâ€™s supporters will want a female leader which should increase Cooperâ€™s second round vote further. Which brings me toâ€¦
2. Itâ€™s time for Labour to elect a female leader. The Tories elected their first female leader in 1975. What were you doing in 1975? Labour prides itself on being the party of equality yet has failed to elect a woman to lead it and is 40 years behind the Conservative Party. Many Labour members are acutely conscious of this and embarrassed by it. Thereâ€™s also a view that a female leader may fair better in the Commons against Cameron or a Boris. Harriet Harmanâ€™s election as deputy pipping Alan Johnson owes itself to the Labour partyâ€™s desire to have more gender equality in its leadership team. The recent TV debates captured the freshness of style in female-led SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens. Gender is not going to be the biggest factor, but it will be a growing part of the equation in this contest and especially noticeable in the hustings.
3. Andy’s support has been inflated by his health brief. Burnham has benefited considerably in recent years from having the Shadow Health brief. This has enabled him to win plaudits with the partyâ€™s grassroots. But now heâ€™s going to have to talk about a whole load of others topics â€“ immigration, the economy, Europe, crime, education, foreign policy and so on. Itâ€™s not to say that he wonâ€™t be able to say anything that wonâ€™t appeal to the membership or the wider public, itâ€™s just that itâ€™s going to harder going to maintain that level of grassroots advantage when not talking about health. Cooper on the other hand has been Shadow Home Secretary which is tricky ground to define yourself in. Now she is able to talk about childcare , the technological challenges of the future economy and smashing the glass ceiling for women among other issues. So I expect Andyâ€™s current advantage in support to dip before mid-August when the ballot papers are issued and other candidates in particular Yvetteâ€™s to go up.
Now this doesnâ€™t mean Andy wonâ€™t win. His campaign is in good shape, heâ€™s a decent communicator, he likeable, sincere and has avoided a number of early pitfalls. Itâ€™s just that I believe the job facing him is much harder than initially appears at the moment and the bookies (and punters) have got him too short. In many ways it could be Liz Kendallâ€™s performance that is going to influence the outcome. I donâ€™t yet sense that the party is sufficiently ready for her and she’s not as charismatic as Blair was in 1994, but she could do enough to finish second, knock out Cooper in third and then enable Andy to win.
Straight after the election I wrote how Cooper should be favourite to win and not Andy Burnham. The market was not convinced and went in the opposite direction! But if I were to price it up now Iâ€™d go 11/8 Burnham, 13/8 Cooper and 4/1 Kendall. The dynamics and method of election matter and I remain convinced that the value bet is Yvette Cooper available at a generous 7/2 and 4/1.
Henry G Manson has been PB’s Labour “insider” for many years and has made many profitable calls on party matters