An open letter to the New Statesman was published today, with 25 failed parliamentary candidates from across the country backing Liz Kendall to win the Labour leadership election. As Stephen Bush writes, the candidates come from across the party and stood inside and outside Labour’s (somewhat defective) list of target seats. Open letters are rarely interesting, but there are two points to note about this.
1. The winners
What isn’t mentioned in the letter or the New Statesman write-up is that all 25 candidates stood in seats where the seat was won by a Conservative. It became rapidly clear during the 2015 election that Labour lost the most ground, not to UKIP or the Greens (or even the SNP in Scotland), but to the Conservatives in England: candidates in seats which were taken by Tories might be somewhat more important for deciding the future direction of the party, at least in terms of electability at the next election. Moreover, Aberconwy is the only seat of the 25 which is not in England.
2. Were the seats winnable?
This, however, is less encouraging. Of the 25 candidates, seven came below second place, including one fourth-place candidacy in East Devon. Meanwhile, the Conservative majorities where Labour came second range from 165 in Croydon Central to 24,115 (!) in Sleaford and North Hykeham, which has never been held by Labour. The average of these majorities is 10,819: not unwinnable, but neither are these candidates the ones from the most marginal and winnable constituencies. This is, really, a broad sample of candidates who were beaten by Tories, regardless of whether they ever had any hope of winning in the first place. The presence of Nuneaton, Norwich North and Croydon Central on the list should give Labour commentators some pause: Nuneaton in particular was the bruising defeat of the election, and if Labour can take Nuneaton in 2020 (or 2019, or 2018, or if/whenever a motion of no confidence is passed in the Government) it will be much further along the road to a majority.
You can see my spreadsheet here.
EDIT: This post and the spreadsheet have been updated as the initial versions had Southend West’s Julian Ware-Lane coming fifth, not second. Thanks to Rory (@roreiy) for the correction.