Will Labourâ€™s winner have a clear mandate?
2015 hasnâ€™t been the happiest of years for Labour. They have had worse ones â€“ 1931, perhaps â€“ but itâ€™s still been a bit of a shocker. Todayâ€™s leadership election result ought to close that chapter and open a new and more hopeful one.
Unfortunately for those desperate to put the Miliband era behind them, that may not be the case. The irregularities of the leadership election, where many members and supporters havenâ€™t had the ballot papers they believed they were due while entryists and other dubious Â£3 supporters have cast a vote, can only cast a shadow over the result. If itâ€™s close, there will be at the very least a question of legitimacy and quite possibly legal action to annul the outcome.
To avoid that, the best result would be for Corbyn to win on the first round. Given that the great majority of Kendallâ€™s votes are likely to go to Burnham or Cooper, and that most second round transfers will also avoid Corbyn, a first round win will appear comprehensive whereas a third-round runoff would probably be fifty-something against forty-something, which looks close for that fact alone. By contrast, a first-round win will give Corbyn a share well over double that of whoever finishes second.
But will it be? Corbynâ€™s momentum probably peaked about a fortnight ago and although Khanâ€™s win in the London mayoral nomination should provide a boost for his hopes, it canâ€™t be taken for granted. We know the turnout from union members was low and that the recent record of pollsters is sufficiently tarnished to take their findings, particularly in a difficult election to model, with a degree of scepticism.
If it is close, whether Burnham, Cooper or Corbyn wins, the supporters of the defeated candidate may well be justified in feeling cheated out of victory. Will their candidate take it lying down, whatever the passions of their supporters? Who knows.
What we do know is that if there is a challenge to the leadership result then thereâ€™ll be a knock-on effect. The Deputy Leadership was contested among the same electorate, as â€“ within London â€“ was Labourâ€™s mayoral nomination. To cancel one election will be to cancel all three.
And yet a re-run cannot take place quickly. The time needed for the court case, to then validate the membership and supporters lists to the standards required (because there wonâ€™t be the opportunity to amend the rules on whoâ€™s able to vote), and to hold another set of elections would in all probability push the process well into next year. That wonâ€™t be a disaster for the two leadership posts but would severely hamper Labourâ€™s campaign in London.
But thatâ€™s to get a little ahead of ourselves. Weâ€™ll know more in a few minutes â€¦