Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


Labour’s TINA* nightmare.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016


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.

Don Brind


The Clinton versus Trump debate thread

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016


Well done to Corbyn on his victory and to YouGov for getting another leadership election spot on

Saturday, September 24th, 2016



Now lets see if his party’s fortunes can improve


The Boundary Review: Round-up

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016


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