The typical response to those Labour NEC election results from more moderate Corbyn supporters is to point out that many Labour members got their votes in before news of Willsman’s rant was widely reported. Clearly some Labour members were firmly JC8 but not JC9* – but just how many of the 70,000 or so who voted for him did so in ignorance of his views?
I thought it would be interesting to put those discussing this issue on Twitter into different categories in an attempt to get a better sense of Labour supporters’ thoughts on the Willsman issue. What evidence is there that most of those who voted for him voted very early, or just hadn’t heard the news?
Using the search terms ‘Willsman’ and ‘NEC’ I categorised roughly 100 tweets – some people were easy to categorise but sometimes I had to do a bit more digging – e.g. someone expressing dismay Willsman had won could be either a JC8 Momentum member or a Tory. I can’t rule out errors either in my counting or in my categorisation, but these are the results I got.
Group 1: People who were both strongly anti Corbyn and anti Willsman: 60 (roughly 53 individuals – some tweeted more than once)
This category isn’t really relevant to my enquiry. It would be odd to find anyone who opposed Corbyn voting for Willsman, even before the controversial recording was released. This large group includes centre left Labour supporters but also those of different political views – a few are definitely Conservatives.
Group 2: Those who supported Corbyn but opposed Willsman. 9
Group 3: Those who supported both Corbyn and Willsman 28 (roughly 23 individuals – some tweeted more than once)
(There were just a few tweets which seemed completely neutral and which I didn’t categorise.)
This, at least at first glance, seems to suggest that a great many either voted for Willsman in full knowledge of the rant episode, or didn’t regret their decision after they found out. Of course one should be wary about extrapolating too much from a small social media sample. It’s possible that Willsman fans would be more likely to crow about his success than JC8 types would be to bemoan it. However it was certainly all too easy to find Labour supporters who were utterly dismissive of the concerns raised over Willsman’s words.
* JC9 was a label applied to the original slate of Momentum/left candidates – but Momentum withdrew its support for Willsman so there was a new hashtag JC8.