My View, Sarah Marshall: A close race is good news for politics

Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn.
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If this year’s General Election taught us anything, it’s that nothing draws out voters more than a neck-and-neck race.

As Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband went head-t0-head on May 7 the battle for Number 10 looked too close to call right up until the first exit polls came in.

As a result the number of people who went to the polls was at an 18-year high as more than 29 million of us turned out to vote in this year’s General Election.

And as the contest to decide which candidate will replace Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband as Labour leader reaches fever pitch – with a hair’s difference in popularity between frontrunners Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham – we seem to be seeing similar scenes once again.

Figures show that 20,000 new members and a further 21,000 registered supporters have signed up to join the Labour Party since nominations for the leadership closed.

This could be because Mr Corbyn and Mr Burnham are poles apart politically, with each representing the old and new incarnations of the Labour Party, respectively.

Whatever the reason – political engagement among Labour party members is at its highest for years.

During a recent interview with Ed Miliband, I was told that the Labour Party in Doncaster had seen a surge in its numbers with 50 new members signing up since May.

This appears to have come as a somewhat of a surprise to Mr Miliband and his fellow supporters.

Despite entering the race as an outsider, Jeremy Corbyn has embarked on what has been described as a ‘rockstar’ tour of the country, during which the Islington North backbench MP has spoken to sold-out crowds in London and Liverpool.

The left-wing candidate is due to arrive on our doorstep on Saturday morning, when organisers say they are expecting to have to turn people away from the event at Doncaster Trades Club in the Frenchgate shopping centre.

The leadership race also appears to have ignited a spark among young people, with Mr Corbyn drawing far younger crowds than you would normally expect to see at a political meeting.

However, some have claimed that this is not representative of the attitude of paid-up Labour members and supporters, who will have the final say when ballot papers are sent out on August 15. Whatever your political views, I personally think anything that can get an often apathetic and disengaged section of the population to take an interest in politics has to be seen as a positive thing.

However, whether this will continue after the new leader of the opposition has been elected and the dust has settled remains to be seen.

* Sarah Marshall, Multi media reporter