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Labour’s TINA* nightmare.

September 27th, 2016

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Don Brind evokes Mrs Thatcher’s memorable assertion

It’s International Peace Day and I’m in the strange position, for me, of defending Jeremy Corbyn. My audience is someone who ought to be a natural Corbynista – a veteran campaigner for peace and international development.

“I like Jeremy as a person,” I tell her”. He’s a decent man.” She is having none of it. “I think he’s a vain old man. He’s loving all that adulation but he’s peddling false hope.”

Fast forward to Liverpool and the Labour Women’s conference, where a delegate from Tooting gets into conversation with one of the leader’s most ardent and longstanding supporters. “He needs to shape up,” says Tooting woman. The reply is an eye-opener. “The trouble is, he is difficult to manage.”

Labour’s nightmare is that after a second leadership landslide this “difficult to manage, vain old man” is Labour’s TINA*. There Is No alternative to him — no credible rivals either on his own side or amongst his many doubters.

But the need for Corbyn to “shape up” and raise his game as leader was emphasised by the inept way his media chief Seamus Milne made last minute autocue changes to the speech by Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis.

I know and like Lewis but I haven’t seen him face-to-face to get his reaction to being Milned but his treatment is depressingly reminiscent of the experiences of Lilian Greenwood, Chi Onwurah, Gloria de Piero, Sharon Hodgson, Nia Griffiths and others that led them to resign from the Shadow Cabinet.

So it shouldn’t have come as a shock to Lewis – and indeed it won’t have done. When he declared his support for Corbyn’s in late July Lewis said: “We must also acknowledge that the leadership of the party has not been good enough yet – that is Corbyn’s fault, just as much as it is mine and my colleagues.”

Lewis’s speech in which he effectively sank Corbyn’s hopes of committing Labour to opposing Trident renewal was hailed by Owen Jones as evidence of his potential as a future leader.

And while the polls remain so dire the leadership question will hang over the party despite a declaration by Chuka Umunna that Corbyn’s victory had settled the issue. The idea that a change may be necessary is supported by Corbyn’s critical friend Owen Jones. He argues that “If the challenges aren’t being met, and the polling remains disastrous, then it will be time to consider somebody else better placed to communicate radical ideas in a way that convinces and inspires, perhaps from the new intake of MPs.”

But for now the issue is making the party an effective force in Parliament. It’s in this context that I believe Corbyn ought to embrace the idea of elections to the Shadow Cabinet elections — rather than “not ruling it out”.  It would be the most substantial olive branch he could proffer.

It would allow those who resigned or refused to serve an honourable way back. Implemented in the right spirit it could promote mutual respect between the leader and those who are asked to confront the Tories at Westminster.

It will be a signal from the leader that he knows he has fault and limitations but that he is determined to be the best that he can be.

*It was, of course, Margaret Thatcher who was nicknamed TINA for her repeated assertion that her neo-economic policies were the only show in town. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_is_no_alternative

Don Brind




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The WH2016 betting moves markedly back to Clinton after convincing first debate performance

September 27th, 2016

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On Betfair it is now Clinton 68% Trump 30%

Well over £3m was traded on Betfair as the market moves back to Hillary Clinton following a confident first debate performance against Donald Trump.

This is how Taegan Goddard of Political Wire summed up the night’s event:

“. Clinton was particularly effective when needling him on not releasing his tax returns, saying, “Why won’t he release his tax returns? Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is.”

Trump couldn’t resist and in the resulting back-and-forth, he actually bragged about not paying his workers and not paying taxes. “It’s called business,” he repeatedly said.

On the substance of the debate, Clinton was the clear winner. She was controlled and methodical in making her case. Trump was constantly interrupting and spit out jumbled talking points that sounded like they came from some obscure corner of the Internet.

It wasn’t even close. Clinton crushed him…”

There are still two more Clinton Trump events as well as the VP debate and we must remember that in 2012 Romney hammered a lacklustre Obama in the first session but was beaten in the remaining two encounters. My guess is that Trump will learn from what’s happened and be better prepared next time.

The Clinton campaign will be clearly hoping that the narrative of the election will move back following a difficult period when everything seemed to be moving against her.

The next national and swing state voting polls are eagerly awaited.

Mike Smithson




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The Clinton versus Trump debate thread

September 27th, 2016



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The PB LAB leadership Election Prediction Competition Winners: Alex Bolton and John Loony get closest

September 26th, 2016

This was the election result.

Eligible voters: 654,006
Votes cast: 506,438
Spoilt ballots: 1,042
Corbyn: 313,209 – 61.85%
Smith: 193,229 – 38.15%
Margin: 23.70%

Alex Bolton and John Loony will win in addition to the bragging rights copies of what’s set to be the political best seller of 2016 which has just been published. This is the follow up to the 2015 hit “Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box” called imaginatively “More Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box”. It is by two very notable academics Phil Cowley and Robert Ford.

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Congratulations.

Also I’m delighted to announce that the Referendum Prediction Competition was won by Mike K. Sorry if this has been a long time coming but there was so much news in the period after June 23rd that this got squeezed out week after week and then I went on holiday. My apologies.

Thanks again to Mark Hopkins of Nojam for setting up the system to operate both competitions.

Mike Smithson




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Voters old enough to remember WW2 the least likely to be attracted by Mr. Corbyn and his party

September 26th, 2016

Findings from the latest ICM and ComRes polls



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Tonight’s the big one in WH2016 and the betting could be turned on its head

September 26th, 2016

In previous White House Races the first debate has been seen as a sort of official start to hostilities. This is said to be the point when voters start to get engaged. This time that is much less so because public interest in the fight to succeed Obama has been far higher than anything we’ve seen before.

The fight for the GOP nomination saw the biggest TV debate audiences ever and records are expected to be broken overnight.

The reason is, of course, the ultimate marmite contender, the real estate magnate turned TV star and now GOP nominee, Donald Trump. He’s a totally divisive figure who is up against an opponent who arouses equal hostility or backing. Never before have the two contenders had such negative personal poll ratings.

As the CNN report at the top shows it is going to be very hard for TV viewers to avoid the debate because it is being carried on so many networks and no doubt Tuesday will be dominated by reporting, analysis and reaction.

For WH2016 punters there’s a good chance that things could look markedly different tomorrow. There’ll be the initial polling reaction on who won and this will be followed by new national and state voting polls over the next few days.

In past elections it is not who is deemed to have came out of the debate best that mattered but how they looked and what their responses said about them. In 2008 when McCain faced Obama a big and damaging story was that the Republican had not even looked at his opponent for the entire debate.

I am long on Trump after betting on him on July 25th on Betfair when his price was not as tight as it is today. I can’t decide whether to take my profits now or risk things changing post debate.

For UK viewers both Sky and BBC news will be showing this live.

Mike Smithson




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Joff Wild says the key to a Labour moderate fightback is understanding the Corbyn tribes

September 25th, 2016

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Just because you know something bad is going to happen does not make it less painful when it does. Since the day that the Labour leadership contest was announced I had been pretty sure that Jeremy Corbyn would win again. I knew with absolute certainty that it would be so one Sunday in late August when I went – nervous, but excited – to an Owen Smith phone bank in the upstairs room of a pub around the corner from my house in Leamington, only to find that no-one else had turned up. So, yesterday was no surprise; but it still hurt like hell.

For Labour moderates like me, the question now becomes what happens next. Some have already made their decision – Twitter is full of pictures of torn up membership cards and the hashtag #LeavingLabour. But while I understand such sentiments, I am not ready for that yet.

I may be hopelessly naïve, but I still think there is a chance to pull the party back from the precipice. I hold onto the fact that among long-standing members – the ones that go to all the meetings and vote in all the internal elections – Owen Smith was a clear winner, as he was among those in the 18-24 age bracket. I tell myself that with 194,000 paid members, the Anti-Corbyn Labour Party is now the second biggest political party in the UK. This excellent blog by Nora Mulready pretty much sums up where I am – now is not the time to give up.

I think there are a few practical reasons for hope. Most significant in the short and medium term is that Corbyn and the hard left do not have control of the NEC. Without that it is very difficult to change the party’s rules on issues such as reselecting MPs and how to nominate leadership candidates, or to get rid of Labour staffers like general secretary Iain McNichol. If, as expected, this week’s conference votes to give specific representation to the Scottish and Welsh front benches then the non-Corbyn bloc on the NEC looks like being in a majority for the foreseeable future (and if that does happen, the oft-criticised Kezia Dugdale deserves the lasting thanks of every single person who wants an electable Labour party).

Corbyn’s big NEC problem is that it is divided into different blocs: MPs, the shadow cabinet, the unions, constituency Labour parties, councillors and others all have guaranteed places. The NEC is not elected on one member one vote – the method Corbyn would dearly love to introduce – and that is highly unlikely to change. The unions, for one, would not stand for it.

Then there is Corbyn himself. Yesterday morning, the newly-elected leader was preaching unity, by the evening it was clear he wanted to overturn the NEC vote on Welsh and Scottish representation, while continuing to stall on shadow cabinet elections. Today on the Andrew Marr show he again refused to rule out mandatory reselection of MPs, while being far from furious about the boundary review. These are not the acts of someone looking to bring the party together.

It is also clear that whatever does finally happen with the shadow cabinet, Corbyn is not capable of leading it effectively. Too many on-the-record stories from too many ex-shadow cabinet members (mostly women) speak of the same thing: someone who lives in a bunker, is not collegiate, does not consult and does not abide by majority decisions. That will not change. Neither will Corbyn’s lack of interest in issues that matter greatly to most Labour members, such as Brexit and the new constituency boundaries.

What the leadership campaign exposed was someone who is inflexible in his views, uninterested in engaging with anyone who does not agree with him and who is more concerned with building a social movement than winning power. Those who voted for Corbyn saw this as much as those who did not; which brings me to the Corbyn tribes.

It is common currency to view those who voted to re-elect Corbyn as one bloc of like-minded people. I have been as guilty as anyone; but it is wrong and it is lazy to see things in that way. Instead, Corbyn got backing from different kinds of Labour supporter and it is only when moderates understand this, and absorb it, that they will have a chance. There are, in fact, at least five types of person who voted for Corbyn:

  • The Trots – these are the entryists, the people from the SWP, the Socialist party and other far left fringe groups who see Corbyn as their way into the mainstream. Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Momentum leadership are probably closest to this group than any other, which is what makes it so significant and dangerous – but it is small. The vast majority of Labour members, new or old, are not Trotskyists.
  • The implacable lefties – not Trots, democratic socialists who see the Blair/Brown years largely as a betrayal of what they think Labour should stand for and who feel that they have their Labour party back with Jeremy Corbyn. They see Corbyn’s weaknesses and they are worried by them, but when push comes to shove they will always support him. To do otherwise would be to risk returning Labour to the “Blairites”; and that would be worse than the Tories winning the next general election. This is the Owen Jones camp.
  • The lefties – they do not subscribe to the idea that the 1997-2010 government was to all intents and purposes a Tory one. Instead, they believe that Blair and Brown did some good things; but could and should have achieved much more. They regard Corbyn as a means of ensuring that Labour becomes more left-wing in outlook and less managerial. They also understand Corbyn has many flaws, but for now (key phrase) are prepared to overlook them because they do not see a more electable alternative. I’d say PB’s Nick Palmer belongs to this camp.
  • The angry – there is a fair bit of overlap here between these folk and the lefties. They are furious that the PLP precipitated “a coup” just at a time when, they believe, Labour could have had the Tories on the ropes. Whatever they think about Corbyn, there was no way on earth they were going to allow the PLP to ride roughshod over the mandate that members had given him in 2015.
  • The anti-Smiths – for me, the leadership election was about whether Labour is primarily a party that seeks to gain power through Parliament or is, instead, a social movement. That’s why I voted for Owen Smith, even though he is to the left of me and clearly was not a great candidate. Others, though, saw the contest in terms of who had the best policies for beating the Tories. Some of those are not lefties or angry, but just did not rate Smith as a candidate – so they voted for Corbyn.

The above is crude and if I had more words to play with I would go into more detail and probably break things down further, but you get the picture: the 314,000 votes Corbyn got were not all from the same kind of people. There is no way on God’s earth that the first two categories are redeemable; the following three are: they want a Labour government above all else and will do whatever they can to secure one.

My contention is that over the coming years Corbyn’s words and deeds will alienate more and more of his supporters: this is a man who cannot unite, cannot lead, cannot collaborate and cannot engage with non-believers. Labour will continue to languish in the polls under Corbyn and will continue to do badly in real elections; his personal ratings are unlikely to improve all that much. This will all be happening as the government – mediocre and unloved – continues to flounder over Brexit and panders to the Tory right over issues such as grammar schools. That will concentrate a lot of Labour minds – especially in the unions. But it will not be enough.

Moderates cannot just wait for Corbyn to fail. They also have to reach out, to think through what it is that they want and to develop policy platforms that can win broad support. Corbyn is in place because Labour moderates failed to make their case, because they were too timid, because they took the Labour membership for granted. Managerialism really isn’t the answer; policy and projection are. So, now is not the time to be planning the next leadership contest. Instead, we need to be working to develop a coherent, left of centre vision that reflects the realities of Brexit Britain. It is only when we have done this and stopped seeing the Labour membership as our enemies that we will deserve to succeed.

Joff Wild

 





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The betting market that reflects the mess Labour finds itself in

September 25th, 2016

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2031 onwards is the favourite for when Labour will next form a majority government.

Sometimes a betting market beautifully captures the political zeitgeist, and this market from William Hill eloquently expresses Labour’s current predicament with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, it’s not so much Labour are up a certain creek without a paddle, Labour are up that creek sans a canoe too.

If I were forced to choose, I’d go for the 2031 onwards option, but I’m loathe to place bets for time periods longer than five years, 15 years is way outside my comfort zone, so it’s no bet for me, but the anticipated damage to Labour of Corbyn’s leadership will last long after he ceases to be leader.

Even if Labour ditches Corbyn before the next general election and replaces him with someone more centrist and electorally appealing, the Tory attacks lines will adapt to say you cannot risk letting in a Labour government, as Labour are only a heartbeat away from a ‘hard left’ takeover. This is all before we consider the proposed boundary changes which are set to be sub-optimal for Labour.

Of course betting markets can be wrong, and Labour could form a minority government long before 2031. I’m sure if a similar market had existed in mid April 1992, I’m fairly certain Labour winning a majority in or before 1997 would have been very long odds.

TSE