Archive for the 'Ed Miliband' Category


David Herdson on “Miliband’s leadership landmine”

Saturday, July 25th, 2015


Whoever wins is likely to be there for the duration

There’s something in Ed Miliband of the apocryphal academic who when presented with a result he disapproved of, stated “it might well work in practice but it doesn’t work in theory”. More than once, proposals that Ed Miliband advanced had the look and feel of dealing with the world in abstract rather than the messy and contradictory one we live in. The reforms he initiated to Labour’s leadership process are a case in point and his final legacy to his party.

You can understand the thinking. Indeed, the introduction to the Collins Report says all that’s needed: “Ed’s central objective is to transform Labour so that it becomes a genuinely mass membership party reaching out to all parts of the nation”.

The Liberals adopted one-member-one-vote for leadership elections in the 1970s, with the Tories following suit more-or-less in the late ‘90s. By contrast, Miliband was elected in 2010 under a system which gave ordinary party members only a third of the vote. It didn’t look particularly democratic. You can understand the desire to not just match the other parties but to trump them, to engage beyond the membership and reach out directly to supporters too.

The problem with this sort of initiative is that it tends to overestimate the willingness of supporters to engage with the process. Even under the old system where affiliates got votes for free as part of their membership of another organisation, fewer than 9% of them voted – and one in seven of those votes was invalid. Relying on supporters’ self-nomination produces an outcome as representative as a voodoo poll, where the minority who shout loudest dominate.

Some would argue that the Tories’ system isn’t particularly democratic either in that the membership only gets a say once MPs have whittled the field down to two. There’s some merit in that point but the mechanism remains a feature rather than a bug, deliberately designed to avoid the membership foisting a leader on the parliamentary party which it doesn’t want (and, in the event that it happens anyway, there’s an ejection system controlled solely by the MPs).

Labour’s equivalent check in their leadership process is the very high bar required for nominations. While Conservative leadership candidates only require a proposer and a seconder to get onto the ballot, Labour contenders need at least 15% of the parliamentary party at nomination stage – a provision Collins recommended precisely in order “to ensure that all candidates who are put to the ballot command a substantial body of support in the PLP”. Which is all very well until MPs start ‘lending’ their nominations in order to enable a candidate with little following in parliament but from a wing otherwise unrepresented the chance to put their case. That certainly wouldn’t happen in the Tory Party.

There’s no need to go into much detail about the risk inherent in that kind of thinking; the polls so far are eloquent enough on the matter. What is worth thinking about is what happens after the new leader is elected, whether or not it’s Corbyn.

    We’ve already heard speculation that were he to be elected, Corbyn would be out by Christmas. Don’t believe it. Firstly, Labour has no mechanism for doing it; secondly, Labour has no history of doing it; and thirdly, Corbyn might just be a bit more popular as Leader of the Opposition than his critics expect.

To take those in order, mechanisms aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. A leader who couldn’t find enough MPs to form a Shadow Cabinet would be in an untenable position. But would Labour’s senior MPs all refuse to serve in that manner, in what could only be interpreted as a massive slap in the face to their members? And once one Shadow Cabinet is in place, momentum will keep it there. But as Brown showed, and Blair before him, it is extremely hard to remove a Labour leader who doesn’t want to go, without causing a great deal of counter-productive damage in the process. Furthermore, unless Labour could show the same discipline as the Tories did in 2003, there’d be no guarantee that the outcome would be worth the pain of another election under this system.

That’s if they could do it. Labour has an abysmally poor record of ditching under-performing leaders. There are several reasons for that. The rules themselves are one. A more collectivist mindset than the Tories is another. But a third is that oppositions tend to do reasonably well and optimists – and politicians tend to be optimists by nature – can always make a case that things might well turn out all right, while their party’s winning by-elections and council seats.

And Corbyn might do reasonably well as Leader of the Opposition. ‘Leader’ would be a new experience to him but ‘Opposition’ wouldn’t. In an era of manufactured and manicured politicians, the public often take a like to one who isn’t – unless and until they’re anywhere near power. But in the first instance, whole-hearted opposition to the government’s economic policies would go down very well with some voters, extremely well with many Labour activists, and may well win back a fair chunk of support from the Greens and SNP, while keeping on board the ex-Lib Dem from 2010/11.

Of course, it might not be Corbyn. Indeed, it probably won’t be Corbyn. Chances are he’s peaked too early and that he’ll either gaffe or at least one of the others will find some mojo. But whoever it is, once they’re in place they stand a very good chance of serving out the parliament.

David Herdson


This morning’s MUST READ: the Guardian account of how it all went wrong for LAB/EdM

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015


There’s an extraordinarily comprehensive account by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian this morning of how right up to the moment the exit poll was published at 10pm on May 7th that Ed and his team really believed he was about to become PM. The report opens:

“This is the story of how the election defeat came about, based on extensive interviews with many of Miliband’s closest advisers. It is a story of decisions deferred, of a senior team divided, and of a losing struggle to make the Labour leader electable. At its heart are the twin forces that would prove to be the party’s undoing: the profound doubts about Labour’s instincts on the economy and the surge of nationalism in Labour’s onetime Scottish heartlands. Once those issues – embodied by Miliband’s memory lapse and his rushed deployment of aides north of the border – were skilfully fused together by the Conservatives in the election campaign, they would prove lethal to Labour. And they would ensure that by 8 May, a matter of hours after he had genuinely believed he was about to become Britain’s prime minister, Ed Miliband was gone…”

In another article Wintour focuses on the polling on what the party believed was happening.

Both pieces are well researched outline of what led up to that dramatic night and how so many people, myself included, were so misled by the published polling which, as will be recalled, was turning Labour’s way on election morning.

The hero from the Tory perspective is Lynton Crosby.

Mike Smithson


If LAB’s polling gap with CON had throughout been 6% worse than it was Miliband would have been replaced

Monday, June 1st, 2015

YouGov monthly averages 2013-15

What kept him in place were LAB’s good voting intention numbers

The table above shows the YouGov monthly averages from its daily polls for the period 2013-2015. These numbers are being highlighted to make a statement about all the pollsters – that for much of the last parliament Labour enjoyed substantial leads and it was only in recent months that this started to decline.

These voting intention shares were being recorded in poll and after poll even though Ed’s personal ratings remained very poor and, of course, his party trailed badly on issues relating to the economy.

The general view was that by polling day the numbers would have sorted themselves out. But as we all know that did not happen and all the surveys published beforehand got it badly wrong.

All of this is making me wonder about the counterfactual. What would have happened if the polls had actually been showing LAB in a 6% worse position in relation to the Tories throughout? Could that have led to Ed not staying the course and another leader chosen instead?

At several stages there were suggestions that this was being discussed with at one point Yvette Cooper being tipped as the likely replacement and at another point Andy Burnham.

My guess is that if the voting intention numbers had been 6% worse a leadership change would taken place in 2011 or 2014 and who knows we could have had a different general election outcome.

The polls saved Ed and helped Dave to his majority.

Mike Smithson


This could have been the moment when Boris lost the next CON leadership contest

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Being able to confront Ed was an opportunity that he fluffed

For me one of the best bits of TV during the campaign was at the end of yesterday’s Andrew Marr show when the programme’s two main participants traditionally join each other on the sofa for the closing couple of minutes. This time it was Boris and Ed and the wide judgement was that the Mayor lost.

This is how Nick Robinson saw it.

The timing is important because we could be only a couple of weeks away from a Conservative leadership contest even if the Tories do win most seats. It is hard to see Cameron staying if he ceases to be PM and there are those saying, unfairly in my view, that he should stand aside anyway if his party fails again to win an overall majority.

A Conservative contest involves two very distinct phases. Firstly the Parliamentary Party has a series of elections to decide which two candidates should be put to the party membership in a postal ballot.

The history of these contests is such that odds on favourites, like Michael Portillo in 2001, don’t even make it to the final cut. Then it will be recalled that Portillo failed by two votes to make the top two in the MPs ballot which left IDS and Ken Clarke being the ones left to fight it out in the membership vote.

Boris Johnson has not been an MP since 2008 which means that in the likely post general election parliamentary party many won’t really know him – a fact that might hamper efforts in the first phase. There has always been a risk that he could suffer a fate similar to Portillo.

If it does come to a contest you can bet that the mayor’s detractors will be using the above clip to undermine him. Methinks Boris would struggle to win a 2015 contest.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Labour’s hoping that taking on the non doms could be a narrative changer

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

The first big policy development of the campaign

Today’s announcement by Miliband that if they win power they’d end the special tax status of non-doms is the first genuine policy surprise of the campaign and could be quite a tricky one for Cameron/Osborne to respond to.

For the perception that the blues are on the side of the rich and not “people like us” is very clear from the polling and is probably the Conservatives’ biggest negative. It also fits with the ongoing narrative on tax avoidance.

Patrick Wintour gives details of the plan in a front page splash in the Guardian.

“In a speech in Warwick on Wednesday, Miliband is expected to say the non-dom rule, believed to be used by more than 110,000 wealthy people in a system unique to the UK, is born of a discredited belief that “anything goes for those at the top and that what is good for the rich is always good for Britain”.

Non-doms pay UK income tax and capital gains tax on their UK sources of income and gains, and whatever income generated overseas they choose to remit to the UK. By contrast, UK domiciles have to pay tax on all of their income and gains, wherever in the world they are made – Britain or overseas.”

My guess is that the Tory response will say that driving the super rich out of the UK will be bad for the economy and could cost jobs. But they have to be careful because of the way the party is perceived.

Labour has been very keen to move on from the Scottish issues and the idea that they will be in the SNP’s pocket. I’m told that Labour canvassers are finding that the Tory message on this has been hitting home. Maybe non doms will move things on.

This could run for a few days which is what LAB wants. Osborne has to find a way of closing it down quickly.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


CON retains its TNS 1% lead, encouraging YouGov ratings news for Ed, and the CON spread lead moves up to 14

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

The second morning of GE2015

TNS, with its new online polling series, becomes the first internet firm since the Paxo events to report a CON lead, albeit a small one.

The LAB camp, meanwhile, will take some heart from the range of EdM findings featured above. The key thing here is the direction they are going. “Would he be up to the job of being PM?” – was 23 to 59 in February while the latest has that at 30 to 45. The recovery seems to be all coming from LAB voters who now back their man by 79% to 9.

I’ve long taken the view that Ed ratings amongst those who support the party are a good pointer. Labour’s got to maximise its vote on May 7th if it has to have a chance then faith in the leadership amongst party voters is key.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Does this explain the Tory optimism about May

Friday, March 6th, 2015

“Labour voters are also generally lukewarm about their leader in a way that Conservatives are not about theirs.” – Opinium

The above chart shows how well Dave and badly Ed do among their own supporters, as other pollsters generally find as well. I’m of the view, that Ed’s poor ratings are priced into the voting intention, and that the voting intention is largely correct.

We’re going to find out in nine weeks time if it is priced in or not. These types of findings might well explain why particularly on betfair, the prices are much more bullish on the Tories doing better than the current polling suggests.

Opinium have also been tracking this “For a while now we’ve been asking voters to predict the 2015 election with the options being majorities for either big party or a hung parliament with either Labour or the Conservatives as the largest party. We defined a “win” as a party winning a majority or being the largest party in a hung parliament.”

This probably also probably explains the Tory optimism and expectation about May and feeds through to betfair.

Back in 2013, when Labour was routinely recording 10-point leads, 54% of voters expected Labour to ‘win’ vs. just 24% for the Conservatives. Now that both parties are at parity, Labour’s figure has dropped to 33% while the Conservatives’ has risen to 49%.

Among Labour voters themselves, the proportion predicting a win was 82% in 2013 but just 67% do so now. Conservative voters have gone from 60% expecting a win to 82% now.

To an extent this is just voters reading the polls and coverage of them which show that, even if momentum may not exactly be with the Tories, Labour have bled support across the country to the SNP, UKIP and more recently the Greens.

This also feeds into who they expect to be prime minister after the election. Overall Cameron leads Miliband by 46% to 23% but while 75% of Conservatives expect their leader to stay at No. 10, just 47% of Labour voters expect Ed Miliband to replace him.

The full data is available here



Henry G Manson says that in past fortnight we’ve seen a different EdM with an effective gameplan

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Why he’s becoming like tennis player Lleyton Hewitt at his prime

It’s easy to look at British politics as though it were boxing. Journalists will often speak of whether there were any ‘knock out blows’ in Prime Minister’s. Instead I look at the it through the prism of sport I love, which PB old hands know is tennis. Of course there are some key points in a set but overall it’s a rhythmic battle in which small margins can give a player a big advantage if sustained long enough.

Every player has a weakness and the more you bring that out over the course of a match the more likely you are to win. Right now Ed Miliband looks like he has a new coach and has identified a form of play that has linked his opponent’s weaknesses into his strength. Ed Miliband is beginning to play like Lleyton Hewitt approaching his prime.

Fourteen years ago Hewitt was the best counter-puncher around. He didn’t have a big serve, or big forehand or backhand. Despite this for several years he took the booming ground-shots and serves of opponents and steered them back with interest.

Hewitt would look like he shouldn’t have any chance but developed a knack of dissembling his supposedly superior opponents’ game and ensure the ball landed at the most awkward point. As with Ed, it took a while for the tennis commentators to understand how the Aussie could and did win.

This last two weeks has seen a different Ed Miliband on court and there’s every sign he’s got an effective gameplan at his disposal at the time that matters most. Like Hewitt, Miliband has turned huge crunching groundshots against him into winning returns his opponent isn’t used to seeing fly back past the net.

    The response to the orchestrated attack through Boots boss Stefano Pessina and other big businesses close to the Tory party is the most significant political event of the election campaign.

    Over two weeks Ed Miliband and Labour have turned an assault on his business credibility into a issues of tax fairness which voters can identify with.

He’s drawn on the HSBC revelations and steered it onto the arrangements of Conservative donors. As a result it is now David Cameron and his party that is now stretching and is badly off balance.

After PMQs David Cameron was overheard complaining of Miliband’s “horrid” line of attack. In a revealing remark he said that it was only because Ed Miliband was losing. But that’s the point, if you aren’t winning in tennis you change your game.

The Ed Miliband I see right now is different to the leader at the time of the Murdoch crisis. He’s scrapping, harrying and resilient and he shows signs of having read and sussed his opponent’s plays. In the next few months the attacks will keep on raining down on him, but the signs are this is precisely what he needs to capture public support.

Like Hewitt, Ed cannot easily generate huge shots on his own. We’ve seen several listless years in opposition broken only by a challenge to energy companies. Ed needs his opponents to inject the pace for him to get his winning returns. If he can continue to do this under his new coaching team then he will likely become Prime Minister in May. How his counter-punching style will work in Downing Street against a different leader Tory remains to be seen. But for now, Ed has more earned himself a trademark Hewitt scream of ‘C’mon!’

Henry G Manson