I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked how it would be possible for Labour to pick Jeremy Corbyn as leader and then select Tessa Jowell as their mayoral candidate.
There seems to be little the pair agree on and so not much overlap in their appeal to Labour’s selectorate – especially those who’ve joined more recently to, as all signs suggest, deliver Corbyn an unexpected victory.
But an article written this week by Peter Kellner may hold the answer.
The YouGov pollster suggests Corbyn’s likely success is linked to the belief that none of his rivals for the leadership can win the next General Election, so members and registered supporters don’t feel that they’re undermining the party’s chances by voting for him.
“Today, none of the candidates look to Labour’s selectorate as a sure-fire election-winner. And if none of them are seen as a Prime Minister in waiting, the second instrumental quality, competence, matters less. These perceptions remove the main cost of casting an expressive vote—the fear that the outcome would deprive Labour of an election victory that it would otherwise be fairly sure to secure. If the selectorate concludes that Labour’s prospects are not that great, whoever leads the party, why not simply back the candidate they like most? That, it seems, is precisely what most of Labour’s selectorate plan to do.”
But in London the polls have consistently suggested that Tessa Jowell would win against Zac Goldmsith, the biggest electoral force the Conservatives can hope to muster.
If we apply Kellner’s logic to the London race, a vote for anyone other than Jowell is a gamble against the polls and their clear message of what the public say they want.
It’s therefore not as guilt-free as a vote for Corbyn in the leadership battle.
Does this explain how the same selectorate in parallel elections could, in a few weeks time, put tribal differences to one side and elect two such diverse figures?