Katy Balls

Is the Labour leadership contest already a done deal?

Is the Labour leadership contest already a done deal?
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Labour's leadership contest has been attracting less and less media interest as it goes on. Despite this, Jeremy Corbyn's successor won't be announced until April so there's still over a month of the contest to go. Part of the reason for the lack of excitement is a growing sense that it isn't really a contest anymore; barring a major upset, Keir Starmer will be the victor. Starmer has a significant lead on Constituency Labour party nominations at 280, to Rebecca Long-Bailey's 132 (as of the weekend). And he even won in Jeremy Corbyn's Islington constituency.

His main rival Long-Bailey's campaign is yet to achieve the levels of excitement that Corbyn's triggered in 2015. Meanwhile Lisa Nandy appears to be generating more attention in Westminster than across the country – with a respectable 56 CLP nominations. In the 2015 contest, the point where people really began to believe Corbyn could win was when CLPs started to nominate him. Meanwhile, a data-hacking row involving Starmer is being viewed by some of his supporters as a 'smear campaign' because he is simply so far ahead.

So is it really a done deal? There are a few reasons for scepticism. One worry among the anti-Corbyn contingent – who would content themselves with Starmer as leader – is that a lot of the new members don't go to local party meetings. So CLPs could be a red herring and instead the power of the pro-Corbyn grassroots campaign group Momentum could lead Long-Bailey to a surprise victory. However, one-time Blairite Liam Byrne's recent selection as Labour candidate for West Midlands mayor by members over two comparatively left-wing candidates is encouraging Starmer supporters that the power of Unite and Momentum – who backed Salma Yaqoob – is dwindling.

Not that Starmer's team are taking any chances. The shadow Brexit secretary continues to lurch to the left ahead of the final membership stage of the contest. This week he has vowed to stick with Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of scrapping student tuition fees. He has also revealed ten pledges – from ending illegal wars to increasing income tax for the highest earners – in a bid to prove to members that he will maintain Corbyn's 'radical values'. This shows Starmer's team don't believe it's a done deal even if all the signs are pointing that way.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor. She is also a columnist for the i paper.

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