One year on from Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational victory in the 2015 Labour leadership contest, the 2016 contest is about to be concluded. Unlike last year when many people had trouble believing that Corbyn would really win, this time the result is widely regarded as a foregone conclusion.
I said in my 2015 preview that there were two things that could stop Corbyn, neither of them looking likely. And so it is again.
We have only have one opinion poll of Labour‘s selectorate since the candidatures were confirmed, so there is little data to go on. But unless the poll is the roguest of rogues, it clearly shows why a Corbyn victory is so likely.
Cornyn’s overall lead (62-38) over Owen Smith in that poll masked a monumental divide between different cohorts of Labour members. Those joining before the last contest started in May 2015 backed Smith 68-32. But those that joined after it ended in September 2015 backed Corbyn by an enormous 86-14. Because YouGov will know the correct proportions from Labour sources (and can therefore weight by them), there are relatively few things that can go wrong from a polling perspective, except perhaps differential likelihood to vote.
Interestingly, among people voting this year and last year, Corbyn’s support has actually fallen, but because the composition of the selectorate has changed so much (opponents of Corbyn leaving Labour and supporters joining), his share of the vote looks likely to increase despite an apples-to-apples swing against him.
The likeliest outcome is therefore a Corbyn victory with an increased share of first preference votes. How that outcome would play out politically has already been debated by just about everyone. As I wrote earlier today, a party split would have disastrous electoral consequences.