Sebastian Payne

How the three stages of the Labour leadership race could benefit Liz Kendall

How the three stages of the Labour leadership race could benefit Liz Kendall
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Liz Kendall is continuing to push herself as the ‘change everything’ candidate for the Labour leadership. During a speech at Reuters this morning, Kendall called for the party to make a big shift on fiscal responsibility if it has any hope of winning the next election — a task some think is beyond Labour in its current state:

‘If we continue to stick with the politics that we had at the last election or, indeed, over the last seven or eight years, we will get the same result. Einstein said the definition of madness was to continue doing the same thing over and over again and expect to get a different result. We need big changes. It’s not just that people didn’t trust us with the economy or with their taxes, or that we didn’t have a positive alternative that everyone can feel part of; people don’t think that we share their values of hard work, responsibility and taking care of yourself and your family.’

Echoing the words of one of her supporters John Woodcock, Kendall continued to talk the language of change and suggest that the candidates Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper aren't sufficiently committed to it:

‘People need to think about 'who is the leadership candidate that isn't just going to argue for a little bit of change, who is going to face up to the scale of the challenge, who is going to be the candidate that the Tories really fear because they are facing head on people's concerns about their money, about welfare and have a properly broad pitch.’

Although the contest has been going since the day after the election, there are still 74 days until the new Labour leader is announced. So far, the contest has been dull, dull, dull — with the only excitement emanating from Jeremy Corbyn’s late entry and him rehashing 1983 agitprop policies. With scores of regional and televised hustings still to come, there is a good month until the public begins to take any notice of the contest. It’s at this point that Liz Kendall has an opportunity.

Thanks to the drawn-out nature of the leadership contest, the process has been split into three stages by the contenders: introducing their candidacy, establishing themselves and then attempting to win. Andy Burnham quickly introduced himself and has established himself as the ‘continuity Miliband’ candidate. Yvette Cooper was already known and has essentially established herself as Gordon Brown Mk II.

Being the unknown quantity, Liz Kendall has spent much of the contest so far introducing herself and is now part of the way through establishing what she stands for. On this basis, her campaign has made decent progress: on May 7, she was a mostly unknown quantity. Now, Westminster and the Labour party have a rough idea who she is. The 'winning' phase won't begin until the race enters its final few weeks.

With this in mind, the key moment of the race has been the Independent’s poll of the public last week. 25 per cent said Kendall was best placed to improve the party's chances at the next election, compared to Burnham on 36 per cent and Cooper on 20 per cent. If Kendall can keep up this momentum and head towards the 30s within the next month, she still has a chance.

But if she fails to keep up the buzz around her candidacy, the 'winning' phase of the contest will become a straight fight between Burnham and Cooper. At this point, Burnham remains the favourite to win and nothing has happened so far to change that. Cooper has a chance of winning based on second preference votes, a strategy that would be helped if Kendall fails to win over more of the party. But if Cooper did win on this basis, expect to see the past five years of Miliband illegitimacy arguments repeated all over again.