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Jeremy Corbyn 'cautious' of Labour victory chance as poll gives him big lead

Published 11/08/2015

Jeremy Corbyn has nearly doubled his lead in just a week, according to a poll.
Jeremy Corbyn has nearly doubled his lead in just a week, according to a poll.

Jeremy Corbyn is "cautious" about his chances of victory in the Labour leadership contest despite an opinion poll giving him a clear lead and the bookmakers installing him as favourite to win.

The veteran campaigner said he found the "Corbynmania" which has seen thousands of people pack into venues to hear him speak "a bit embarrassing".

The left-winger now has the support of more than half of those with a vote in the Labour leadership contest, a YouGov poll suggested.

The survey for The Times of 1,411 eligible voters in the contest to succeed Ed Miliband found Mr Corbyn had nearly doubled his lead in a week to 32%.

It gave him 53% - enough to win without a need to count second preferences - with Andy Burnham losing five points to 21%, Yvette Cooper slipping two to 18% and Liz Kendall down three on 8%.

Mr Corbyn said: "The campaign is going very well but I think we should be a little bit cautious because there is still time for people to register to join the party or register as supporters and no ballot papers have yet been sent out and we won't know the result until next month. So let's be a bit cautious."

The Corbyn campaign has continued to gather momentum despite warnings from a string of senior party figures that choosing the veteran left-winger would be catastrophic for Labour's electoral chances, with one grandee comparing him to former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Islington North MP Mr Corbyn told BBC London the contest was "very democratic", with large numbers of people taking part including some who had not been involved in party politics before.

"If they choose somebody as leader that the others don't like, well, I think they have to accept there's a democratic process," he said.

Mr Corbyn said he wanted a "set of aims and values for the party" that "was prepared for public ownership or public administration of key industries" such as Royal Mail and the railways but denied this was an attempt to reinstate Clause IV of the party's constitution.

"It is not going to be the same wording that I am going to suggest as the old Clause IV, that was written in 1918, I think we need something that reflects modern society," he said.

Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has urged Labour supporters to sign up to vote for "anyone but Corbyn" to help the party "stop itself driving over a cliff".

Lord Soley, a former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, compared the prospect of a victory for Mr Corbyn to Mr Duncan Smith's disastrous leadership of the Conservatives.

Serial rebel Mr Corbyn had been accepted as a "maverick" within the party but discipline was needed in Parliament, Lord Soley said.

He added: "It might focus minds before this important vote if we recall how delighted we were when Iain Duncan Smith became leader of the Tory party. We wanted him to stay. We should not fall into the same careless way of thinking."

Bookmakers have slashed the odds on a Corbyn victory following the YouGov poll.

William Hill cut Mr Corbyn's odds twice in just two hours as money piled in for the left-winger following the survey, with bets of up to £2,000 recorded.

At 9am he was a 5/4 shot, yet by 10am he had been trimmed to 1/2 and less than an hour later he was as short as 1/3.

Spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "We can recall no other example of a 200/1 chance becoming an odds-on favourite in a political betting market in our 50-plus year history of political betting."

Ladbrokes said Mr Corbyn was the "red-hot favourite" after his odds collapsed in recent weeks.

Former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain said he had switched his support from Mr Burnham to Ms Cooper.

But he said to beat Mr Corbyn, Ms Cooper would need to light up the campaign with a fresh appeal to Labour supporters.

Mr Hain told the BBC's World at One: "The truth is the two most credible candidates, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, have not been able to catch the mood in the party in the way I had hoped.

"I don't think Jeremy Corbyn will make a successful party leader, I don't think he will put us in a position to win the next election unless there is some kind of major seismic change in British politics."

He added: "Most party members feel underwhelmed by the choice they have been offered. We have very able candidates, all four of them in different ways.

"I had been tending towards Andy and I am now going to vote for Yvette Cooper because I think she has been clear it wasn't the Labour deficit, it was the bankers who caused the economic crisis and all the debt and deficit and borrowing problems we had.

"I think Yvette Cooper can still win this election but she has to really set this campaign alight in the next few days. There isn't much time left."

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn revealed plans to create a Ministry of Labour if he wins the leadership and to repeal the Tories' "anti-trade union" laws.

The new government department would work to create a better trained workforce in more secure jobs and give all workers the access to trade union membership and employment tribunals without prohibitive fees.

Replying to questions from members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) in an online video, he said : "What I'm looking for is a comprehensive introduction of workers' rights legislation in the next parliament which would repeal much of what the Conservatives are doing, particularly the latest piece of anti-trade union legislation they are introducing.

"But also recreate a Ministry of Labour so that we have a specific government department whose job is to deal with work and working conditions, health and safety and the issues that go with that."

Mr Corbyn, who has the backing of the CWU, also called on Labour MPs who have criticised him to respect the results of the leadership election if he wins.

"We are servants of the movement not the masters of it and the parliamentary Labour Party I'm sure will respect and understand the results of this leadership election, whoever is elected the leader."

He added: "I hope those that have said uncalled for comments in the campaign, we can just draw a line under it and move on."

Labour MP Simon Danczuk has called for the leadership election to be re-run, claiming so many people from other parties have signed up to vote in the contest that it is untenable.

A change in the party's rules to allow members of the public to sign up to vote in the race as a "registered supporter" for £3 has led to fears of that hard-left groups and Tories are seeking to influence the outcome of the contest.

Labour has insisted it has robust procedures to weed out anti-Labour voters but Mr Danczuk claimed between a quarter to a third of registered supporters in his Rochdale constituency should not be voting.

He told LBC radio: "Having seen the list in relation to Rochdale and hearing the horror stories from around the country in terms of entryism within the Labour party, I do think we're moving to a position where the election probably isn't tenable"

Mr Danczuk called on Harriet Harman and other shadow cabinet members "to take stock of the situation...see whether it is tenable to carry on with an election in this way, to really drill down into who is joining the party, who is infiltrating the party."

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