Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


Election verdict. Corbyn is staying but he must raise his game

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016


Don Brind has some unlikely advice on where he should look for lessons

It’s a fine sunny day in April 2005 and Tony Blair is about to make a major speech on immigration — responding to a Tory General Election campaign inspired by Lynton Crosby on his first foray into British politics. The venue is Dover and the Labour events team have spent weeks on planning and staging the event. Blair arrives by helicopter and the media pen is positioned so that Blair steps down against the back drop of the white cliffs. Before a word is spoken the message of the image is that Labour, led by Blair is the patriotic party.

Symbols matter 
Fast forward to May 1st this year and Jeremy Corbyn is speaking from the top of red open deck bus, in front of a plastic wrapped construction site. In what is said to be the first appearance by Labour leader at a May Day rally in 50 years he is surrounded by a miscellany of banners and flags – one of the biggest is that of the minuscule Communist Party of Great Britain adorned with a hammer and sickle. We can be sure Tory HQ have got that image squirreled away for later use.

This is not an exercise in Blair nostalgia. Nobody has taken over a party in better condition than Blair did in 1994. The party had been transformed under three predecessors Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Margaret Beckett. The Tories under John Major were flatlining in the polls after crashing out of the European Exchange Mechanism a few months after their 1992 victory.

It’s also true that the Labour vote fell by four million between 1997 and 2010. The Blair-Brown legacy to Miliband and Corbyn was a meagre one. So I suspect we will wait a long time to see Corbyn arriving anywhere by helicopter.

Buses, bikes and trains are his thing. His supporters will see Blair’s white cliffs trip as rather tacky. For them Blair has become a four letter word; “Blairite” the casual,  slur against critics of the leader.

I think they are missing something important. Labour values are British values. In the face of Tory and Ukip populism it is vital that we continually assert that Labour is the patriotic party.

Part of what makes us British and patriotic is that Labour is the anti-Fascist party. I was out on polling day last week with Jane, the daughter of the late Dick Briginshaw, the print union leader, who was in the British Army unit which liberated the Belsen concentration camp in 1945. During the 1970s I remember him vividly describing to TUC delegates the horror of finding those piles of corpses and the emaciated bodies of survivors.

Briginshaw’s anti Fascism was transformed in the 1970s into a broader campaign against all forms of discrimination. The Greater London Council played a key role in that. Under the collective leadership of Ken Livingstone, John McDonnell and Tony Banks campaigns against racism and homophobia fostered many of the progressive, liberal attitudes we take for granted today.

This liberal outlook is such a key part of our self identification that many in the party – including Jeremy Corbyn – have found it hard to come to terms with the charge that we are anti-Semitic. The response was slow and grudging. He has been badly served by his friend Ken Livingstone’s obssession with “proving” that Hitler was a Zionist.

There are, however, there are high hopes that the inquiry led by former Liberty Shami Chakrabarti will provide a fresh start.

Sadiq Khan did get it. The new Mayor, who served with Chakrabarti as chair of Liberty. understood that the perception of anti-Semitism was a fact that had to be confronted through engagement and dialogue. His first official engagement was to attend Holocaust Memorial Ceremony. He was pictured in a hug with the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Symbols really do matter.

Don Brind


Are we witnessing the death of Scottish Labour?

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

It’s not the falling that kills you; it’s the landing

Bafflement and incomprehension are unlikely to be in short supply for Scottish Labour. Each time they hit a new low, the belief is that things can now only get better. With rare exceptions, the belief has continually been wrong.

So again this week. For the fourth election in a row, Scottish Labour lost seats. The progression of their seat totals since the first election to Holyrood, in 1999, now reads: 56 – 50 – 46 – 37 – 24. It’s true that a similar progression could be written for the Westminster parliament (Labour has lost seats at each of the last four elections there too), but there are particular challenges in Scotland that mean that Labour is facing an existential crisis north of the border.

We have of course heard much the same before of other parties. The Scottish Conservatives were supposed to be dead or dying after 1997 (in fact, from a little before). No seats at that election and no more than one at any subsequent Westminster election appears fringe-party status, though it was more representative of a poor efficiency and negative tactical voting; the vote shares weren’t too bad. This week, the Conservatives overtook Labour in vote share, overall seats and constituency seats.

Why might Labour be different? It comes down to purpose. Scottish Labour used to be about taking the fight to the Tories, promoting a centre-left agenda while supporting the union. The SNP is now far better placed to do the first two – hence the result last year – while Labour’s wavering on the independence question has handed the issue even more strongly to the Conservatives. The final, unspoken but very powerful reason for Scottish Labour was machine politics. If you wanted to get on in Scottish politics then in all but a few places, you had to join Labour.

Consequently, the revolution of the last decade has shorn Scottish Labour of all its purposes. It still offers a unique combination of policy stances but that’s a much more niche proposition.

By contrast, the SNP have (nearly) all their dreams come true. Despite missing out on another absolute majority, their strategic position is now even stronger than it was before the election. I wrote back in March 2015 that the SNP’s big gameplan was to have the Conservatives form the official opposition to them in Holyrood (though I thought a Labour government in London necessary to engineer that outcome). Such a position significantly reinforces the SNP’s strength as whereas a resurgent Labour could win enough support to gain back power, the Conservatives’ vote-ceiling is much lower. On top of that, the likely English reaction to continued SNP dominance in Scotland may well increase the chances of a successful second independence referendum.

But where does that leave Labour? The Conservatives were able to recover because no-one else was willing to fight for the right-of-centre votes. The Lib Dems might survive by retreating into their historic heartlands and continuing to play the community-level politics they’ve traditionally excelled at. But Labour? The Greens, SNP and Lib Dems are all playing for some part of their electoral coalition. With their machine politics purpose no longer valid, they might find themselves forced to reengage and start campaigning in a way they hadn’t done in once-safe seats. Alternatively, the shock and the lack of local campaigning experience might just as easily result in incoherent paralysis.

Labour is of course still heavily supported by the unions, in Scotland as much as elsewhere. While that continues to be the case, the party will have a life-support system. But if another party can deliver what the unions want, wouldn’t there be a case for reassessing that relationship? It won’t happen quite yet – the dynamic of UK politics plays too much across that question – but the possibility has to be there in the background, particularly with the Conservatives now the main opposition to the SNP.

When parties die, the signs were usually there long before people recognised them. For Scottish Labour, those signs are there now. Their spiral downwards isn’t yet terminal but unless they can find a reason for living that chimes with the public, it soon will be.

David Herdson


It’s the economy, stupid

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

If Leave wants to win they need to show that Brexit is the better option for the economy and the financial wellbeing of voters.

We’ve been here before. We see the headline voting intention figures showing it neck and neck, yet the supplementaries on the economy show one side extending their clear lead further. Looking at the above supplementary questions from this week’s YouGov poll that showed Leave ahead by 1%, this referendum campaign, with the supplementaries showing more and more voters saying Brexit would be bad for the economy, jobs, and their personal financial situation, with Remain being the best option, is all very reminiscent of the polling we saw at the 2015 general election, the Tories and Labour tied but the Tories significantly ahead on the economy.

The YouGov supplementaries aren’t atypical.

David Cameron and George Osborne have their detractors, but it appears that with their recent Treasury analysis, and President Obama’s intervention, more and more voters see Brexit as damaging to the UK economy, jobs, and to voters personally. Focusing on the risks of Brexit is a clever strategy as the polls show the economy will be the most important issue in how voters decide which way they will vote in this referendum.

A few weeks ago ComRes found the most important issue in how voters would vote in the the referendum was the economy at 47% followed by immigration at 24%. Ipsos Mori had a similar finding. As with the Scottish Independence referendum, I expect a majority of voters won’t choose to make themselves worse off, saying to voters that they can be only £25 per year better/worse off is enough to change the minds of some of the voters in this referendum.

Unless Brexiters manage to improve the economic polling figures, I fully expect Remain to win. The voters won’t vote for anything that will make the country and themselves worse off. With prominent Leaver Arron Banks very publicly claiming earlier on this week each household losing £4,300 a year would be a price worth paying for Brexit and the Economists for Brexit saying Brexit would mostly eliminate manufacturing, Cameron & Osborne must privately be echoing the mantra of Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’

Once the local council, London Mayoral, and devolved elections are out of the way, the referendum campaign proper starts a week on Monday, that might be enough time for Leave to turn the economic perceptions of Brexit in their favour by June 23rd.



Why Cameron and his team are targeting parents with children

Monday, April 25th, 2016

The polling that shows that looking after kids more likely to be for IN

Datawrapper    tHA5r    Visualize

The more we learn about the Tory campaign at GE2015 the more we realise that micro-targeting specific demographic group on Facebook played a big part and looks set to be ever more significant in future election. You tailor a special message to those who fit the criteria and don’t waste money on those who don’t.

The polling above TNS highlights clearly the differing views of parents with kids at home and those who don’t. What IN needs is for them to actually turnout.

No doubt OUT is doing the same about other sub-groups.

Mike Smithson


Cameron’s Ipsos-MORI ratings continue to decline while Corbyn’s improve

Monday, April 25th, 2016


We are now at Peak Bern

Monday, April 11th, 2016


Hillary should finally start to gather momentum after Bernie’s last boost

It’s a measure of how weak a candidate Hillary Clinton is that not only has she failed to swat away Bernie Sanders’ challenge for the nomination but three-fifths of the way through she’s still conceding ground to the septuagenarian socialist.

Normally, by this stage in the race, one candidate is dominant and the money and coverage will have dried up for the rest. Instead, Sanders has won seven of the last eight contests and has closed the gap in the national polls to just 2.5% according to the Huffington Post average. Of course, the national average doesn’t count for all that much – those delegates already assigned from earlier contests are hardwired into the election (give or take state conventions and the like), and the rest will depend on the opinion in the states to come.

And on that point, there’ve been three clear trends. Sanders wins caucuses and where the electorate is white and rural; Clinton wins primaries and where the electorate has large black and urban elements. Of those last eight, only Wisconsin (a primary) went even slightly against those trends.

But Sanders should now have reached his zenith. For all that he has the momentum with him in the national polls, Clinton still remains ahead (just). More pertinently, the 600+ delegates available later this month all come in closed or semi-closed primaries and mostly in states that should lean to Hillary.

Assuming that she can make good there, that will reverse the media narrative. Bernie’s fightback will be over and political reality will reassert itself: Hillary’s modest lead in elected delegates and overwhelming lead in superdelegates becomes ever more impregnable with each state win. Actually, her lead’s been sufficient to assure her of the nomination for a month or so (barring accidents), but that fact has jarred when set against Sanders’ good run so hasn’t been given much attention. New York and the April 26 contests give her the very strong chance to bring her dominant position into alignment with current events. Sanders will no doubt fight on – perhaps all the way to the convention – but it’ll be seen to be increasingly futile.

The journey’s been an arduous one for Clinton, far more so than it should have been, but she’s finally crested the pass of Peak Bern and barring accidents will splutter on to the nomination.

David Herdson


Philip Hammond: worth backing at 28/1

Friday, April 8th, 2016


Another grey man might be just the thing to pick up the pieces

If asked for a role model, few aspiring politicians would opt for John Major. Unfashionable, uncharismatic, comprehensively battered at the 1997 election: why would they? Yet the travails of the 1992-7 parliament culminating in that electoral apocalypse overshadow what he achieved in his first 18 months: reuniting a party riven by Europe and re-establishing the Conservatives as economically competent, ideologically pragmatic and on the side of ordinary people. Plus ça change.

Fast forward to the present and to the statement that Major’s successor-but-three as Conservative leader gave, that he will not resign whatever the outcome of the referendum this June. That might or might not be Cameron’s intent (he could hardly say any different without risking Remain’s chances, for fear of giving Tory opponents an incentive to vote Leave), but even if it is, the matter doesn’t lie entirely within his control.

That’s not to say that the one will necessarily follow the other but there’s a strong chance it would. So suppose Cameron does fall this summer. The new leader will almost certainly be either Boris or one of the current cabinet. Unlike in Labour, Conservative members (never mind ‘supporters’) will not get the chance to vote for mavericks that the MPs don’t support. So who would they get the chance to vote for?

Precedent is not everything but it can often be a very good guide and there are two worth considering here. Firstly, every midterm change of PM since WWII has seen either the Chancellor or the Foreign Secretary take the top job. Secondly, Conservative leaders are invariably chosen as much for who and what they are not as for what they are – in other words, a candidate without strong negatives starts at a considerable advantage.

That first point can be overstated. We certainly shouldn’t rule out Boris or May or Gove (for example) just because of their current job. There’ve only been six midterm changes of PM since 1945 and in most of them there were serious candidates who held neither springboard Great Office.

But the second point is one to take very seriously. Almost every current leading candidate to take over from Cameron has at least one big question mark hanging over them, whether that be political judgement, public popularity, experience, media ability or whatever.

By contrast, Philip Hammond doesn’t. True, as Foreign Secretary, he cannot entirely disassociate himself from Cameron’s referendum. If there is a leadership change this summer then it follows that Conservative voters, never mind members, will have rejected the deal on offer and so he’d find himself on the wrong side of that divide. However, he’s kept a remarkably low profile in the campaign so far and the negotiations themselves were very much Cameron’s baby. Hammond may have done some bag-carrying but he’s not deeply complicit. In fact, if there were a withdrawal to negotiate, a former Foreign Secretary might be a good person to lead it.

Indeed, a safe pair of hands might well be seen by the Conservatives as the ideal contrast to Labour’s unorthodox choice as leader.

The question is whether Hammond could secure the support of enough MPs in the first phase to make it onto the ballot paper. After the recent dimming of the stars of Osborne, Boris and Javid, there has to be a realistic chance; none of his potential opponents appears to be the beneficiary of any groundswell of support.

It may well of course be that there isn’t a leadership election this year. Cameron may comfortably win his referendum, or he may survive a different result anyway. All the same, the 28/1 available for him represents good odds that are only realistically explicable by his lack of visibility. On any other consideration, he’d be given a much better chance.

David Herdson


New Ipsos Referendum phone poll has the REMAIN lead down to 8%

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

The pollster has changed its methodology which I will write about later