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Could Diane be this year’s 50/1 winner?

May 20th, 2010

Is it being premature to write her off?

During the morning I’ve wagered about £80 at odds of about 50/1 against Diane Abbott winning the Labour leadership.

Crazy? Maybe – but I’ve had political bets at that price coming good over the past two years* and the way Labour’s election system works makes Abbott just a possibility.

Firstly she’ll probably get the 33 nominations – the first hurdle for each of the contenders which has to be done by next Thursday. It would not surprise me if one or more of the “front runners” ran into difficulty here because for obvious career reasons MPs do like to be seen publicly to be backing the winner. How they vote is a different matter!

This might be not be as big a problem for Abbott because of her gender and ethnicity. There is a strong case for having a woman on the ballot.

Secondly woman voters are more likely to vote for a woman. Labour’s deputy contest in 2007 and the New Hampshire primary in 2008 are two good examples in both cases leading to surprise results.

Thirdly, like Harriet Harman in 2007, Abbott could benefit from more 2nd and 3rd preferences. She is different and you can see her, like Harman three years ago, picking up a disproportionate number of these preferences.

Fourthly she’s the best communicator of all of them. Just listen to Balls, Burnham, and the Miliband duo speaking and none have voices that are easy on the ear. In fact all of them are pretty dreadful. Abbott outclasses them easily.

Fifthly she’ll do well in the TV debates. She’s a professional having both spent part of her pre-MP career in TV and, of course, her regular appearances with Michael Portillo on “This Week”.

  • *In 2008 Barack Obama, who I’d backed and tipped at 50/1 came in while in 2009 I won at the same price with Cathy Ashton for the EU foreign affairs job
  • Mike Smithson