Why the Edinburgh East primary should be re-run

The Labour leadership primary in Edinburgh East was cast into doubt this evening when it became clear that only 300 people had voted in a contest which used the wrong rules.

This article is jointly written by Shamik Das and Will Straw

With the Labour leadership race entering the home straight, the result of the Edinburgh East primary was cast in doubt this evening when it became clear that only 300 people had voted in a contest which used the wrong rules.

The Edinburgh East primary was held using first-past-the-post in contravention of the Labour party’s rulebook. A spokesman for the Labour party confirmed to Left Foot Forward that CLP supporting nominations must be held using the transferable vote system – also known as Alternative Vote – the same as used in the election itself. Around 1,000 ballot papers were distributed in recent weeks with a reported turnout of 27 per cent. The turnout was significantly lower than the 5,000 people who voted in the Bassetlaw primary.

The YouGov poll of Labour Party members last month indicated that Ed Miliband won 61 per cent of second preferences from supporters of Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, and Andy Burnham. If this held true in the Edinburgh it would have been enough to give Ed Miliband the narrowest of victories, possibly a margin of just one vote.

Local MP, Sheila Gilmore, nominated Diane Abbott but had pledged to give her vote – which is equivalent to the ballots of 1,000 members in the CLP section of the electoral college – to the winner of the primary. She will now come under pressure to organise a re-run.

While the David Miliband campaign claimed victory, a spokesman for Ed Miliband told Left Foot Forward:

“This result shows that the leadership election is absolutely all to play for. Ed intends to use the next few weeks to continue speaking to as many labour members and trade union members as possible. His message that Labour must change to win again is being well received.”

UPDATE 18.17

The David Miliband campaign have been in touch asking us to clarify that the Edinburgh East CLP’s supporting nomination went to Ed Miliband earlier this summer. The primary vote which concluded today was an indicative poll to influence Sheila Gilmore’s vote in the electoral college. It is, of course, up to the MP as to whether to cast her vote on this basis, particularly in light of the question marks over the rules used in the ballot.

UPDATE 10.15 24/8

Jon Rentoul has a blog this morning questioning the methodology used in our analysis above. I wanted to post the following comment but the Indy’s bizarre comments system won’t let me using Open ID. It’s here instead:

“A fair point and glad you liked the picture. But the reason for our post was not to conclusively suggest that Ed Miliband had won. How could we know? Indeed, the sample of 329 ABB supporters is sufficiently small that the margin of victory would have been well inside the margin of error as your post also shows.

“The point of the post was to show that the election had been conducted using an electoral system (first-past-the-post) which the party never uses and which both Milibands are committed to opposing. Given that the outcome is being used to determine how Sheila Gilmore votes, it should either be re-run or she should adopt the Burkean position of almost all her PLP colleagues and vote for the Miliband (or other candidate) that she wants to see as leader.”

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