Keir Starmer comfortably leads Labour leader race

Chris CurtisPolitical Research Manager
January 02, 2020, 11:53 AM UTC

YouGov’s first poll for the upcoming Labour leadership election, in partnership with Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University

YouGov’s first poll for the upcoming Labour leadership election, in partnership with Queen Mary’s University, shows Keir Stamer holding a comfortable lead among party members - who will be the largest force in deciding the contest. 

When asked about the seven candidates most likely to run for leader, 36% of the membership said their top preference was Keir Starmer, 13 points ahead of Rebecca Long Bailey on 23%.

Jess Philips is in third place on 12%, while Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy, Yvette Cooper, and Clive Lewis all poll in single figures. This excludes the 12% of party members who are undecided.

However, the Labour Party uses a preferential voting system to decide its leader, meaning it doesn’t just matter who is ahead in this first round - members also get to rank the candidates in order of preference.

We used the polling data to work through the various rounds of voting by removing the bottom candidate one at a time, and then moving their votes over to other candidates depending on their preference, as will be done in the real vote.

This system seems to benefit Starmer more than his closest rival, and he holds a 22 point lead over Rebecca Long Bailey once all rounds of voting are complete, beating her by 61% to 39%.

At this stage in the contest it is important to caveat these results. Firstly, we don’t know what the final list of candidates will look like, as they each have to qualify by gaining the support of trade unions and MPs.

We also don’t know what the final rules of the contest will be. Affiliated members (e.g. members of trade unions) and registered supporters (who can pay a small fee to get a vote in the contest) will also make up a portion of the electorate, and we don’t currently know how their votes will break.

Finally, we don’t know what impact the campaign might have. For example, the left wing membership may be won over by a candidate running on a more radical platform, particularly if they are endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn, a leader they overwhelmingly voted for just four years ago.

But as things currently stand, Keir Starmer is the man to beat. 

The poll was commissioned from YouGov by the Party Members Project, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and run by Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here