Archive for the 'Ed Miliband' Category

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Miliband needs to avoid being caught in a Greek pincer

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

David Herdson’s Saturday column

Every Labour government ends up running out of money, though not all go to the trouble of leaving a note to their successor to say so. That they do so is not exactly a feature of left-of-centre politics but it’s not far off: a belief in a big state and increased protection for low-income and vulnerable groups inevitably means lots more spending and because of the protests that would come as a result, a structural deficit builds as taxes don’t go up sufficiently to pay for it. (Of course, right-of-centre governments can make the same mistake from the opposite side by cutting taxes excessively but that’s a point for another day).

There is, consequently, a tension in any left-of-centre party seeking government between on the one hand, appearing competence and capable so as to reassure financial markets and centrist floating voters, and on the other, building the new Jerusalem, inspiring the movement and delivering the goods for their electoral coalition.

Nowhere is there a better example of this than in Greece. There, for about thirty years, the political scene was dominated by two parties: the centre-right New Democracy and the centre-left Pasok. Once the party stopped in 2008, however, Pasok had to choose between their policies and economic reality. They chose – under extremely heavy pressure from the EU and IMF – economic reality; a move that did not go down well with the Greek voters in general and the Pasok supporters in particular. From a combined share of more than 85% in 2007, the duopoly slumped to just 32% in May 2012. Pasok’s vote was 44% in 2009; it’s currently running at 4-5%. In UK terms they’ve gone from more popular than Blair’s Labour to about half the support of Clegg’s Lib Dems in less than six years.

While Pasok opted to move to the centre, the space they created on the denialist left has been filled by Syriza, who if the polls are right and there’s no late swing, will win the election next week, perhaps with an overall majority. Put simply, the Pasok politicians might have recognised reality but their erstwhile supporters haven’t.

Would any of this matter for Britain even if Syriza were to win? Yes, it would. Apart from the havoc that would likely result Greece and to a lesser extent the Eurozone and wider EU, it would rearrange the priorities of what the media and, resultantly, the public think important and put Labour on the spot about their own spending and taxation plans.

Eds Miliband and Balls are well aware that Britain’s left-of-centre voters, not unlike Greece’s (though not perhaps to the same extent), have similarly unrealistic expectations about what is possible. Austerity might be a constraint rather than a government lifestyle choice but it has been one of the main drivers of voters from the Lib Dems to Labour. As a result, for at least the last year, they’ve been trying to simultaneously appear to have Pasok-light fiscal rectitude while engaging in Syriza-light populist campaigning, depending on the intended audience. The problem is that while all parts of Labour’s coalition finds one of those positions attractive, few find both of them so and some find the apparent contradiction disingenuous. However, neither can be dropped without upset too many voters.

Miliband may yet get lucky and see New Democracy elected. If not, avoiding being caught in the Greek pincer will become far harder, as evidence of what happens if you start off your government by running out of money. After all, it’s not the issues that are seen as important now that matter; it’s those that’ll be seen as important in three and a half months that count.

David Herdson



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Henry G Manson on Tony Blair’s criticism of Miliband’s election strategy

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Labour could win a different way in 2015

Tony Blair has not offered Ed Miliband the same courtesy It is a sign of desperation that Blair has intervened publicly with The Economist in this way. His ‘wing’ of the party is a ragged mess. Many closest supporters and former ministers are no longer MPs, a leadership contest that should have been a shoo-in for David Miliband was lost while Jim Murphy in Scotland showing any sign of political yet faces a struggle against the nationalists. Aspiring Labour parliamentary candidates either keep their distance from the Progress group which promotes New Labour policies.

    Since 1997 the myth that only a New Labour government could be elected has been carefully promoted and perpetuated. The fact a social democratic John Smith-led Labour Party was heading to a solid working majority in 1994 has been buried on the isle of Iona with him.

Blair befriended media owners leading to ridiculous the scenario of the former Labour leader being ‘garbed in white’ on the bank of the River Jordan to be godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. In contrast Ed Miliband took direct aim at News International during the phone hacking scandal and its ‘sense of immunity’.

Blair’s record as Prime Minister is continually being re-evaluated by events. The decision of Brown to prevent Blair’s government from joining the Eurozone has been vindicated. The free movement of labour throughout the European Union has helped fuel the rise of UKIP and increased the real risk of an EU exit. Over in the USA the President which Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with in going to war in Iraq was replaced by a Democrat who was against the war and defeated the Clinton machine and approach. While Blair urged the West to militarily intervene in Syria, the UK pulled back as a result of Labour and public opposition.

Here lies the threat of Ed Miliband to Tony Blair. Labour’s leader stands very close to showing that it is possible to win without the New Labour playbook. This will have serious implications for Blair as a relatively young ex-Prime Minister who still seeks to influence events. An Ed Miliband victory will end any sense that Blair is the guardian of some secret code to a Labour election victory and will limit his ability to anoint a future leader (currently in the form of Chuka Umunna). As soon as it is accepted that there is more than one way for Labour to win it could lead to a more critical reassessment of Blair’s tenure and squandering of political capital from two giant parliamentary majorities. The radical policies of Cameron in spite of failing to secure a majority already cast those first two terms in a different light.

In many ways it is entirely rational for Tony Blair to want Ed Miliband to lose. His stake in Britain is limited. It’s hard to feel empathy for the working poor of Peterborough while aboard a billionaire’s yacht in the Mediterranean. By intervening in this way Blair further erodes the support of those in the Labour party who were proud of what Labour achieved under his leadership. It is strange, unedifying and sad to watch a leader who preached the importance of party loyalty now sniping from the sidelines. It is indeed a sign of Blair’s weakness not his strength. If Ed wins in May it won’t just be David Cameron who is defeated, but Tony Blair’s reputation will suffer as Labour shows there is another way to win.

Henry G Manson



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Lord Ashcroft corrects his Doncaster N poll – EdM NOT in danger from UKIP in Doncaster North

Monday, December 1st, 2014

This post will be updated when this week’s Ashcroft national poll is published



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David Herdson on Saturday: Harriet Harman could become LAB’s Michael Howard?

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

harriet

The risks of an election can be avoided by not holding one

Sixty thousand tweets of support for Ed Miliband this last week may have put a dampener on speculation about his leadership survival prospects, though not as much as the definitive statement from Alan Johnson ruling himself out of any future contest. For all the goodwill in the country, those who have the Labour leader’s future in their hands remain the MPs and shadow ministers at Westminster.

For the reality remains that as long as Miliband’s personal ratings remain so poor, and as long as the direction of travel in Labour’s polling is southward, he is only one blunder or comment or interpretation from ‘another leadership crisis’ in the reporting of the media.

That may not matter as far as his future as leader goes: Labour has little history of ditching its leaders and the very fact of the tweetfest shows the instinctive loyalty of many of his supporters. On the other hand, that it was felt necessary is also telling. Even so, talk is easy; action is much harder and in the Labour Party, the rules make it nigh-on impossible to shift a leader through the formal procedures, if he’s intent on staying.

The formal rules, however, are not the be all and end all, though they do frame the context in which the debate about Miliband’s future should be seen. It’s generally accepted that had David Miliband resigned at the same time as James Purnell, in June 2009 when Labour was sinking to less than 16% in the European election, he would have had no choice but to go. Being party leader is not enough: you have to be able to put a government together (or be capable of doing so as Leader of the Opposition).

The problem, for any group seeking to mount a coup is that it’s not enough to engineer Miliband’s removal; they’d need to be reasonably sure that the outcome would be sufficiently beneficial to make the disruption worth it and elections are inherently uncertain processes, as well as being, in Labour’s case, expensive and time-consuming.

There is, however, a loophole to be exploited. Labour doesn’t demand a leadership election be held at the earliest convenience in the event of a vacancy; it could be deferred until the summer, with the result to be announced at the party conference. In the interim, the Deputy Leader would step up to the top job. In other words, all it would take for Miliband to be deposed is for enough shadow cabinet members and/or MPs to believe it necessary, and for the NEC to be squared about the timetable thereafter.

The benefits of such a manoeuvre are obvious. For the party, it would save the best part of two months’ infighting and hundreds of thousands of pounds in printing and postage and provide an image of unity. For the other potential leadership candidates, Harman is, at 64, enough of an old pope for young cardinals to vote for. Even were she to win the election, she’d be unlikely to serve more than a term and a half. The Burnhams, Coopers and Umunnas would still stand a chance of their bite at the cherry. In addition, while she undoubtedly has her critics, she wouldn’t be quite the generic politician as Clegg, Cameron or Miliband are. Her gender alone would mark her out, should she choose to mention it.

Do I expect Labour to dump Miliband? No, I don’t – but he is currently skating on very thin ice and the wrong mis-step at the wrong time would prove terminal, so nor would I rule it out entirely. If so, Harriet could be the man.

David Herdson

Harman is available at 40/1 to be next Labour leader and 80/1 to be next PM



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Labour insider, Henry G Manson, on the changed mood within the movement about EdM

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

EdM comeback speech

The leader renews his vows with the party & role as underdog

The grassroots response to Ed Miliband’s recent leadership uncertainties showed more enthusiasm for his leadership than at any other time – including at the point of his election. While certain MPs were wobbling, the party’s foot soldiers and supporters were bashing out 60,000 tweets of support.

Yes, Labour folk are suckers for an underdog, but this felt different. There were reasons why they backed him. The stance on Murdoch, pledging to repeal the Health and Social Care Tax, getting rid of the bedroom tax, standing up to rip-off energy companies and so on. It was not a bad shopping list and it needs to be woven into something meaningful and memorable. More on that later*.

    What those dissenting MPs hadn’t bargained on was the membership rising so clearly to Ed Miliband’s defence. Previously the discussion has been about how the public would view a party that considered ditched its leader. Would possible gains be worth the blood spilt? What those plotters hadn’t factored in was the growing role of the Labour’s members.

Six months out from an election and you simply can’t afford to marginalise the people you’re banking on pounding the streets to win the seats. The members weren’t just defending their leader they were opposing the idea that unnamed MPs could fire their leader without their approval or consent.

Just prior to his election as leader I pointed out on these threads how worried I was that Ed would be elected through the college but not win the most votes among members. That’s hung over for him for a while but not any longer. His grassroots back him more than ever, the unions remain supportive and any prospect of a leadership change ended the moment Alan Johnson ruled himself out in any circumstances. How would Ed respond from all this? Business as usual? Well it seems things have changed.

Lucy Powell has now taken charge of the election campaign and is providing the authority it badly needed. She knows Ed’s mind better than anyone and unlike Douglas Alexander is trusted wholeheartedly. She’s already clearing the log-jams and creating a sense of order, pace and purpose that wasn’t previously there. She had mixed reviews when previously Ed’s Head of Office but now she’s an MP and Shadow Minister she’s a transformed politician with some authority. This could easily prove to be one of the most politically important of Ed’s appointments.

Jon Trickett’s involvement will give a dash of the Red Ed. Already we’ve seen the leader back firefighters and defending their retirement age . This hasn’t just cheered the workers involved (who aren’t affiliated to Labour any more) but has given a morale boost and nod to the other public sector workers who have faced a tough time from cuts. This is Ed siding with the underdogs and it’s where he’s most effective.

Some athletes simply aren’t suited to be front-runners. Same goes for horses and for politicians. Ed’s one of them. Labour’s poll lead under Ed often became a source of complacency, conservativism or inertia. Now there’s a real fight on I expect Labour to strike some radical and populist positions that wouldn’t have previously got an airing.

Ed Miliband’s speech today was important. It wasn’t just about making sense of a shopping list* but about getting a taste for the fight. Renewed from the last few weeks he is showing a focus and a hunger that at party conference seemed strangely lacking. Thankfully his Shadow Cabinet will be soon presented as an alternative government in waiting rather than hidden away as potential rivals to the spotlight. Can Ed kick on and win? He can if it’s sustained.

If the Tories underestimate Ed Miliband then they could make a costly mistake. David Cameron reminds me of stronger and slicker horse ‘War Admiral’ but in the last week Ed Miliband has shown he can become the smart and plucky ‘Seabiscuit’. As most of us who enjoy our racing know, underdogs can and do win and the Labour are united and up for the contest: see

Henry G Manson



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Leading psephologist argues that likeability ratings are better predictor of voting behaviour than “best leader” questions

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

On this measure Ed is not far behind

One of the issues that the current Ed Miliband issue has brought out is what are the best form of leader ratings.

Prof Paul Whiteley, of University of Essex who ran BPIX, posted an interesting article last night suggesting that some of the standard measures like “best leader” might not be a good indicator of electoral outcomes.

“..Asking who is the best leader is a standard question used by a lot of pollsters to compare the party leaders. However, it is far from an ideal question because it tends to be biased towards the incumbent, regardless of whether they are Labour or Conservatives. The answers, therefore, can give a misleading picture of what people really think.

There is an alternative question which is much better. If you ask voters to provide a score out of ten on a likeability scale, where zero means that a respondent really dislikes a leader and ten means that they really like them, you get quite different results.

It turns out that likeability is closely associated with other desirable traits that a successful leader needs, such as being seen as competent, decisive, in touch with ordinary people and honest. More to the point, it is a powerful predictor of voting intentions and therefore a good guide to what people might do in the general election...”

Looking at the trend in leader likeability Whitley goes on:-

“.. Although Miliband’s score in September 2014 was 3.9, his score among Labour voters was 6.6. In that particular survey 35% of respondents were Labour voters with 33% Conservatives, 7% Liberal Democrats and 12% UKIP.

Labour voters gave Cameron a score of only 2.1 which does not suggest that large numbers of them are about to switch to the Conservatives because they find the prime minister attractive. This was the same score that Conservative voters gave Miliband, so the two leaders are equally disliked by the supporters of their rival parties..

I think that there’s a lot in Whiteley’ analysis. The key thing is, of course, to find the ratings that are the best predictor of how people will vote. Mrs. Thatcher, it will be recalled, was 21% behind James Callaghan as “best PM” three days before she led the Tories to victory in the 1979 general election.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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If the Miliband rumblings haven’t quietened down after the weekend then he could be in trouble

Friday, November 7th, 2014

What seems to have set this off – a New Statesman article

Looking over the past couple of days the trigger for the Miliband leadership speculation appears to have been a highly critical article in the normally Ed-friendly New Statesman by the Editor, Jason Cowley. He then went on to stand by his views on Sky News.

What we don’t know at the moment is whether there’s organised opposition going on or in what form the next move will come.

As is being pointed out is is no easy task getting rid of a LAB leader who is determined to hang on. Unlike the Tories and LDs the rules are complex.

The only way you could see him stepping aside is if he went on his own accord. My reading us that he’s extraordinarily resilient and will endeavour to hang in there.

This close to an election no one wants to be accused of rocking the boat.

In any case LAB insiders are pointing to the potential trouble for Cameron the week after next if Rochester goes to UKIP. Tory MPs are generally less veiled in their public criticism then LAB ones.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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Survation poll for the Mirror showing LAB 4% ahead could take some of the pressure off Ed

Friday, November 7th, 2014

UKIP now within just 3% of the Tories

Although Survation has become a major part of the UK polling scene since GE10 its standard Westminster voting surveys are only a small part of its output. Today, however, there’s a new poll for the Daily Mirror which could provide some relief for the Ed Miliband camp under siege after a day of leadership speculation.

The 4% LAB margin is the biggest in any poll since YouGov recorded a 7% lead nearly a month ago. The last Survation national poll in early October had LAB and CON level-pegging.

Survation has a reputation for producing the best shares for Farage’s party and is the only pollster that always includes it in its prompts.

    The poll is a good reminder that the party that’s most vulnerable to the UKIP surge is CON which has seen much more of its 2010 support seep away to it than either LAB or the LDs.

Meanwhile the most significant other leadership development is a report in the Times that the two front runners for next LAB leader, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, have agreed what’s described as a “non aggression” pact should Ed step down. This sounds like the sort of arrangement that leading Tories had in 2003 when IDS was ousted and Michael Howard became leader unopposed.

If this is indeed the case then my guess is that Burnham would make way for Cooper who didn’t stand in the 2010 contest when her husband, Ed Balls, was a contender. Burnham was one of the losers when Ed won.

Yesterday I got 100/1 on Yvette Cooper with Ladbrokes to be PM for the post general election Queen’s Speech. It seemed a good price.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble