Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


The curtain lifted a little this week on Labour’s civil war and it’s not pretty

Saturday, August 27th, 2016


Whoever wins in a month, the struggle will go on

Power struggles are the nature of politics. Usually, the public gets to glimpse only a fraction of the battles waged behind closed doors in what were once smoke-filled rooms. Outsiders end up having to engage in their own form of Kremlinology to work out what’s really going on: piecing together patterns in offhand comments, unattributed press briefings and articles, planted Commons questions or unruly (or unusually quiet) supporters.

The proliferation of such evidence in Labour’s current infighting might have suggested that it’s different there this time; that the battles are much more out in the open. Yes and no. There is much more public hostility but we got a glimpse yesterday of how much worse they are behind the scenes.

That Labour’s conference might have been cancelled due to the lack of an adequate security presence is testament to both the organisational chaos within the party and the depth of the schisms between its factions (the two being closely related). Now that OCS have been appointed to deliver the security arrangements, some will no doubt argue that the conference was never seriously in doubt. Don’t believe it. Labour would not have gone to G4S earlier were they not panicking about an essential aspect of the planning, almost as time ran out.

The brinkmanship involved in having pushed the decision so late won’t have come from the senior party staff; they’d have wanted matters sorted months ago. Far more likely is that sorting conference security in a timely manner was just another casualty in Labour’s ongoing and multifaceted civil war.

Winning control of the leadership is hugely important in the factional battle but it’s far from the only one. Gaining an upper hand in the party’s governing NEC is almost as important. Both at the moment are up for grabs.

In contracting OCS, the party’s General Secretary, the embattled Iain McNicol, has again bought himself time but there’s no doubt that he is in the firing line of people like John McDonnell and Len McClusky. A LabourList article yesterday laid bare the extent to which untrusted staff are under attack from Labour’s left. It hinted at much more.

If, as it suggests, McClusky was a prime mover in the decision to boycott G4S but was sanguine about Labour contracting with Showsec (who are in dispute with the GMB), then he must have been well aware that he was setting up a position where either the conference was cancelled altogether or where it was picketed by the GMB and descended into farce as many delegates – and quite probably the leader – refused to cross the picket lines.

That there can even be the suspicion that the biggest union boss might have been willing to sacrifice conference in order to force out McNicol – the piece quotes McClusky as saying blame for the conference planning lies with the General Secretary – is indicative of how deep the divisions run. Corbyn and MacDonnell being unwilling or unable to restrain him is equally telling.

My money would be on the former: Corbyn has no reason to regard McNicol as a friend and the opportunity to install his own man as General Secretary (or the best man that he could get through the NEC) might well be worth almost any price. Another angle to both the conference and the leadership fights is that McNicol is a former GMB officer and the GMB has backed Owen Smith). Corbyn does of course have the small matter of winning his election first but these games are almost independent of that: if he fails there then all is lost; if he wins then best to have the ground prepared.

But it’s only one aspect. Beyond Unite v GMB, and Corbyn’s proxies v McNicol, Labour has any number of other divisions: PLP v leadership, Momentum v mainstream, and Corbynite ‘pure’ left v Owen Smith’s ‘pragmatic’ left to name three (and that’s before thinking about the wider picture of, for example Europhile membership v Eurosceptic voters). It’s true that all parties have divisions but what Labour is going through is well beyond the normal debates about policy and the jockeying for position that’s the daily diet of politics-as-normal.

Labour’s divisions matter for two big reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, it’s rendering them impotent as a party of opposition. It’s almost impossible for Labour to oppose the Conservatives when they’re spending so much time fighting themselves – and when they do take the argument to the Tories, they don’t do so in an organised way.

Secondly, and even more importantly, it means that Labour won’t split. Not yet anyway. With no one group in control, the battle is very much still on and until one group does gain a firm hand on all the party’s machinery, there is no reason for anyone to walk into the wilderness. Each side’s belief that they can prevail is what’s keeping them going; the belief that the other side/s might – and the understanding of how high the stakes are whoever does – is what’s driving the intensity of the fight.

But there also lies real risk. When Labour’s self-inflicted civil war is over – and that won’t be this year whether it’s Corbyn or Smith who’s crowned on September 24 – who knows whether what’s left at the end of it is worth winning.

David Herdson


Smith should acknowledge that JC’s the likely winner and press for the highest possible vote to “send a message to the party”

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016


The challenger needs to change strategy

This morning there’s been another effort by the Smith campaign to claim that “private polling” suggests that the battle is close and that he could win.

This might or might not be right but until we see a proper selectorate poll showing something different the overwhelming narrative will be that that JC is heading to hang on to his job.

There’s no point in the Smith campaign making assertions which are simply not believed whatever their substance. Rather he should switch his objective to securing the maximum possible votes which would be putting JC under notice that he has to improve or else there’ll be another summer LAB leadership election in 2017.

That might help with waverers who are worried by Smith’s lack of experience.

An outcome where Corbyn finishes in the lower 50s would have a dramatically different impact than if he reaches or even exceeds the near 60% of last year yet again. If JC’s down into the 50-55% region then it’s going to be harder to play the mandate card. He could be portrayed as being on the decline and that his demise was only a matter of time.

If Labour’s still in the polling doldrums next June and Corbyn’s ratings remain poor then that would set things up for another challenge.

Mike Smithson


Just focusing on states where Hillary Clinton has 10%+ poll leads she’s only 7 seats short in the electoral college

Friday, August 12th, 2016



How things have changed dramatically in just three weeks from the conventions

With so much going on in the Labour party battle the fight for the White House has got sidelined. Things have moved very sharply away from Trump since the conventions and the challenge he now faces is enormous.

As we all know this is about separate state battles and not the overall aggregate vote shares and the above map on the excellent Political Wire site shows the split state by state based solely on those where the latest polling averages give Clinton a lead of 10% or more.

In US politics, of course, the Republican colour is deemed to be red while the Democrats are blue. Those in beige on the map are where it is a toss-up or the Clinton lead is smaller than 10%

While it is simpler to just focus on the national polls there have been some recent extraordinary state polls. Yesterday, for instance, PPP Polls had the Trump lead in South Carolina down to just 2%. Four years ago Romney was winner there with a 10.5% margin.

Based on just adding up the electoral college votes of the Clinton 10%+ states we get to 263 – only 7 short of the 270 required.

Clinton is now a near 80% chance on Betfair.

Mike Smithson


Local By-Election Results : UKIP & LAB gain and lose a seat from each other – LD revival continues

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Beaver (Lab defence) on Ashford
Result: United Kingdom Independence Party 373 (42% +11%), Labour 243 (27% -4%), Conservative 240 (27% unchanged), Green Party 31 (3%, no candidate in 2015)
United Kingdom Independence Party GAIN from Labour with a majority of 130 (15%) on a swing of 7.5% from Labour to UKIP

East Brighton (Lab defence) on Brighton and Hove
Result: Labour 1,488 (58% +11%), Conservatives 514 (20% -3%), Green Party 286 (11% -9%), United Kingdom Independence Party 152 (6%, no candidate in 2015), Liberal Democrat 116 (4% -4%), Independent 31 (1%, no candidate in 2015)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 974 (38%) on a swing of 7% from Con to Lab

Holderness South West (Con defence) on the East Riding of Yorkshire
Result: Conservative 917 (39% +1%), Labour 806 (34% +7%), United Kingdom Independence Party 390 (16% -10%), Independent 173 (7% -3%), Liberal Democrat 98 (4%, no candidate in 2015)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 111 (5%) on a swing of 3% from Con to Lab

Alston Moor (Con defence) on Eden
Result: Liberal Democrat 302 (55%, no candidate in 2015), Conservative 251 (45% +4%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 51 (10%) on a notional swing of 29.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Silverdale and Parksite (Newcastle Independent Group defence, elected as UKIP) on Newcastle under Lyme
Result: Labour 399 (57% +20%), United Kingdom Independence Party 174 (25% -21%), Conservative 80 (11% -1%), Independent 54 (8%, no candidate in 2014)
Labour GAIN from United Kingdom Independence Party with a majority of 225 (32%) on a swing of 20.5% from UKIP to Lab

Bingham (Con defence) on Nottinghamshire
Result: Conservative 1,270 (44% +2%), Independent 1,232 (43%, no candidate in 2013), Labour 382 (13% -7%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 38 (1%) on a notional swing of 22.5% from Con to Ind

Carnmer (Con defence) on Rushcliffe
Result: Conservative 318 (54% -17%), Independent 138 (24%, no candidate in 2015), Labour 130 (22% -7%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 180 (30%) on a notional swing of 20.5% from Con to Ind


According to Michael Crick Steven Woolfe has failed to get on the UKIP ballot

Sunday, July 31st, 2016


This’ll will turn the betting on its head

On seeing Crick’s Tweet I managed to lay as much was was available on Betfair. If this is indeed the case I’m £666 up on the afternoon.

When the Crick Tweet came out Woolfe was a 72% chance on Betfair.

Big question now is who will get the job.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Parliamentary pain is not just bad for Labour, but for the country as a whole

Saturday, July 30th, 2016



Joff Wild on the divides in the main opposition party

Today’s Daily Telegraph ran an intriguing piece about plans being hatched by some Labour MPs if, as expected, Jeremy Corbyn wins the party’s leadership election in September. According to the newspaper’s political correspondent Ben Riley-Smith, rebels are exploring the possibility of setting up a semi-independent party in the Commons that would have its own leader and front bench, and would aim to replace Corbyn’s Labour as the official opposition. There may even be a legal challenge about ownership of the Labour name.

Time will tell if the story has any legs – I have my doubts – but it does speak to a real and profoundly important issue: what happens when the party that holds the second most seats in the Commons – and will almost certainly continue to do so even after catastrophic general election defeat – has no real interest in providing an alternative to the government or in seriously opposing it inside Parliament? For that is the situation we face should Jeremy Corbyn be elected Labour leader once more.

Both Corbyn and John McDonnell have explicitly rejected Parliament as a means through which to secure significant change. In an interview with Vice in April last year, McDonnell – sitting next to Corbyn – stated: “You can’t change the world through the parliamentary system.” He continued: “Getting political representation is important, but change comes through using direct action, campaigning, and trade unions.” Corbyn agreed: “Get involved in campaigns, in a union, with the peace movement, get involved with Occupy & UK Uncut”; before adding as an afterthought: “and also be in a political party.”

For Corbyn and McDonnell, and other members of the hard left, what really makes a difference is demonstration and agitation. Thousands on the street or packed into halls, hundreds of Tweets and reTweets, hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes and myriad groups are a far more potent weapon than a parliamentary majority and the compromises that inevitably come with securing one. Yes, seriously – Martin Robbins in this week’s New Statesman sums it up perfectly.

Their attitude is probably best illustrated by the interactions they have had with a number of shadow ministers – or lack of them. You only have to read accounts from the likes of Lilian Greenwood, Angela Eagle, Sharon Hodgson and Thangam Debbonaire, as well as Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, to see how seriously Corbyn and McDonnell take Parliament. They just don’t think it matters. (What is it about the hard left and women, by the way?)

Away from Parliament, Corbyn-supporting Momentum has rejected winning elections (except within the Labour party). In a Tweet sent out on 10th July, the organisation’s millionaire founder Jon Lansmann memorably stated: “Democracy gives power to people, “Winning” is the small bit that matters to political elites that want to keep power themselves”. Lansman, of course – like fellow Momentum leader, the ex-Liberal Democrat public schoolboy, James Schneider; Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s Winchester-educated director of strategy and communications; and Corbyn himself – has never needed a Labour government or had to worry about the possible consequences of a Tory one.

The same can be said of many Labour members, 75% of whom are ABC1s (full disclosure: that includes me). As Nick Cohen observed in a powerful piece for the Spectator last year, Corbyn’s middle class Labour supporters actually do pretty well under Tory governments and are not directly affected by policies that may have a negative impact on the poorest and the most vulnerable. Most Labour members and the party’s leaders do not need to worry personally about bedroom taxes, cuts to public services, reduced benefits and increased NHS waiting times. Instead, they can afford to put ideological purity before the dirty work of pursuing power.

Then there are the unions. A bulwark against Militant entryism in the 1980s, all too often these days their most vocal members – the small minority that are involved in union activity and vote in union leadership elections – are on the hard left. As we have seen, the likes of Unite leader Len McCluske cannot afford to upset them if he wants to remain in charge. So despite Corbyn taking anti-union positions on issues such as pharmaceutical R&D, Trident and, just this week, the future of Hinkley Point, McCluskey has no choice but to put the weight of Unite behind the Labour leader. If he were to do otherwise, he would very quickly be out of a job.

Thus, the Parliamentary Labour party is faced with a leadership that does not regard Parliament as a route to real power, an all-pervasive activist organisation that explicitly rejects “winning”, a membership that has no reason to believe in the importance of compromising treasured political principles to gain victory and the leader of the country’s most powerful union having to placate a small, hard-left part of his membership to remain in a job. None of them have a Labour government as a priority. No wonder some Labour MPs may be looking for new ways to hold the government to account.

But this is not only an issue for Labour MPs and the minority of Labour members that seem to share their views about the primacy of Parliament. It is also a problem for the country as a whole. For without a serious Parliamentary opposition, who is there to hold the government to account?

In the absence of a functioning shadow front bench led by someone whose overwhelming desire and priority is to replace the Prime Minister, the government essentially has free rein to do as it wishes. And that lack of scrutiny has the very real potential to lead to sloppy decision making, bad policy and harmful outcomes for the country as a whole. If governments do not believe they can lose elections, they get careless and make mistakes. Can we really be confident that we will get the best Brexit possible, for example, if the only people Theresa May need worry about as she negotiates the deal are right-wing Tory malcontents and Nick Clegg?

A Corbyn victory over Owen Smith will not resolve the impasse between the PLP and the leadership, nor is it likely to change the way that Corbyn views Parliament or does business there. That’s not just disastrous for the Labour party, it’s bad for our entire system of government. At some stage soon, the Speaker will surely be compelled to have quiet words behind the scenes about the effect Labour’s turmoil is having on the functioning of Parliament. Corbyn and McDonnell are likely to ignore these, just as they have ignored the PLP. What happens then is anyone’s guess; but, for the good of the country, something is going to have to give.

Joff Wild (Southam Observer)


The moment when a major US party nominated a woman for President for the first time

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

And Bernie Sanders played his part

Congratulations to Betfair and the other bookies who have been quick to settle long-standing US WH2016 bets as events have unfolded at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It’s now official – Clinton versus Trump.

Given the continuing disquiet amongst some of his followers in the hall the 74 year old socialist from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, played his part in the evening’s choreography. Vermont passed when it was invited to record its votes. Then at the end Sanders was able to make a short speech that many in the party are hoping will be a healing moment.

There’s little doubt that it will be a rough road ahead but party officials hope that the prospect of President Trump will act as a huge unifying force and turnout driver.

In the betting Clinton is down to a 67% chance on Betfair which compares to a high of 75.5% on June 23rd.

Just like the Republicans getting behind Trump the same’s likely to happen with Clinton.

Mike Smithson


If Hillary Clinton does win in November then Michelle Obama’s convention speech will be seen as being crucial

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

The First Lady rescues the Convention

By all accounts the opening hours of the first day at the Democratic Convention had not been good for the Clinton campaign. The leaked emails and the irreconcilable Bernie supporters have made what should have been a showcase into something of a nightmare. There were persistent chants of “lock her up” whenever Clinton’s name was mentioned.

Then Michelle Obama took the stage and made a powerful heartfelt case for the the person who was her husband’s main opponent in 2008 and who to whom he is now giving his full backing.

For one of the unique features of this election is the role being played by the White House. It is very rare for an incumbent to take as high profile a role as Obama is doing and this comes at a time when his leader ratings are high.

The Bernie Sanders speech an hour later was another key development. His aim is to try to harness some of the enthusiasm and energy that his supporters have generated in the primaries and focus on securing not just success in November but backing for a wide range of policies that he has been espousing. There’s no doubt that he’s having a big influence on the party platform.

The betting moved a notch to Clinton during the evening.

Mike Smithson