Andy Burnham

The Independent has polled voters on which of the Labour leadership contenders would help that party most:

‘Andy Burnham is the Labour leadership contender most likely to improve the party’s chances at the next general election, according to a survey of 2,000 people for The Independent by ORB. The shadow Health Secretary was cited by 36 per cent when people were asked, irrespective of which party they would support, to say which of the four Labour candidates would most enhance the party’s prospects at the 2020 election.’

Happy news for Team Burnham, no doubt. But there a hearty pinch of salt should be applied – Burnham is probably also the best-known of the runners, and has had plenty of publicity around his status as the front-runner. That might well give him an undue advantage in a poll like this – not unlike those polls asking people about “the greatest song ever written” which tend to give a recent hit a high ranking even though no-one except the singer’s mum will remember it in a few years’ time. Pre-existing name recognition makes such polling a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In that context, the remarkable result is not that Burnham picked up 36 per cent but that Liz Kendall, someone whose name rarely appeared in the headlines until a few weeks ago, was on 25 per cent, ahead of Yvette Cooper (and, alas, ConservativeHome’s preferred candidate, Jeremy Corbyn).

Of course, there’s also the problem that the electorate don’t get to decide who the next leader is – the Labour Party and its various affiliates choose instead. And we know how well that went last time.

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