Archive for the 'Labour' Category


A Labour man in a Labour job. What’s not to like about Andrew Adonis?

Friday, October 9th, 2015


Don Brind on Friday

The Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell likes to get away from politics by sailing his little Skipper 17 trailer sailer on the Norfolk Broads, he told the Eastern Daily Press.  McDonnell was brought up in Great Yarmouth where the three Broads rivers enter the sea. Like all lovers of Broads sailing he will know that the worst part of the experience has been getting there. Bottlenecks in the A11 have long been a nightmare.

The then Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis took the train to Norwich in 2010 with a solution. A re-elected Labour government he promised was “committed to completing the dualling of the A11 with construction beginning this year.” He had a real passion for his brief and as Labour press officer in the General Election I found it an easy sell. It went down well with the EDP and the rest of the regional media. It couldn’t, however, prevent a string of Labour losses in Norfolk and Suffolk and Adonis next turns up as one of the negotiators with Nick Clegg seeking to create a Labour Lib Dem coalition. His Five Days in May is a definitive account of Labour’s unsuccessful quest to hold on to power.

So, he never got the chance to make good on his announcement. The Coalition government eventually picked up the scheme and announced its completion in 2014.

Adonis was an influential figure under Ed Miliband who spotted that the Coalition were pretty rubbish at infrastructure planning. In 2012 the Labour leader set up an independent review under Sir John Amrit and followed this up by putting Adonis in charge of a growth commission which reported in July 2014. The aim of Miliband’s policy was to build a political consensus for pushing ahead with big infrastructure policies. That policy has been vindicated Chancellor George Osborne’s appointment of Adonis.

    The smart response from Labour is to welcome it but to question whether Osborne can deliver given his approach to austerity. The appointment gives McDonnell a platform to argue for his growth strategy for cutting the deficit.

Steve Richards underlines the gap between Osborne’s ambition and his budget plans.  “It does not cost very much money to hire Lord Adonis to run an Infrastructure Commission, but it is very expensive to build infrastructure. Osborne does not want to borrow for capital spending even though he could raise the money at bargain interest rates.” The fact is that McDonnell and Labour’s willingness to borrow to fund infrastructure would give Adonis a better chance of success.

    Anyone in the Labour Party who is not concerned about the ambition to extend the Tory appeal revealed by Osborne and the David Cameron in Manchester is being absurdly complacent. 

But they are only ambitions.

Their rhetoric clashes at many points with the reality of what the Government is doing. Take, for instance, the critique of Osborne’s Northern powerhouse, by Jim McMahon the Leader of Oldham Council  “Getting local areas to deliver the Work Programme for instance isn’t devolution, it’s just recommissioning. Taking over £78m from stamp duty income in Greater Manchester and giving back just £30m to boost housing development isn’t really devolution either.”

There is plenty of scope for Labour front bench teams at Westminster to produce similar forensic work on other Tory government policies. Cameron and Osborne have locked themselves into their cuts to family tax credits offering Labour the opportunity for a board-based national campaign which will have at least tacit support from the Mail and the Sun.

Similarly, the forced sale of social housing is likely to be an embarrassment to Zac Goldsmith in the London Mayoral campaign.

 The Cameron and Osborne speeches made me think they had been reading Lord Ashcroft. No. Not that book.

With a month to go to the General Election, the estranged Tory peer reported on one of his series of focus groups. The key finding was that the parties were reinforcing the views that voters held of them. “They cannot change in four weeks what they have been unable or unwilling to change in five years.” His point was that both Tory and Labour need to broaden their appeal. Cameron and Osborne showed this week that they get it. The majority of Labour MPs on the front and back benches also get it.

What they would dearly love to hear, when he’s back from his well-earned holiday and the euphoria of his landslide victory abates, is that their leader gets it too.


Lots of rumours going round of a major LAB figure about to quit the party

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Could it be linked to Osbo’s speech tomorrow?

I’ve no information whatsoever but I just wonder whether we might see a high level defection from the red team to the blues. Osbo speaks tomorrow and he’s the sort of guy who could well be behind such a move.

This might be nothing or it might be a major development. Philip Blond who put out the above tweet is a serious enough figure not to have done so lightly.

Clearly there are a lot of unhappy figures within Labour at the moment.

Mike Smithson


Next year’s London Mayoral election next will be the big test for the Corbyn leadership.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015


Don Brind on the day the CON Mayoral candidate will be announced

“Sadiq. Wow” said the text message that came in as I was walking down an Italian hillside. It alerted me to the fact that Sadiq Khan had won the Labour London Mayoral selection by a decisive margin.

The friend who sent it knew I was heavily invested in Khan stocks. Not only is he my local MP – and a brilliant one too – but no less than six years ago I had called for him to be Labour’s mayoral candidate in place of Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone had been a very effective Mayor but his defence of the job in the 2008 election was woeful. As a member of the party’s media team I looked on as he failed to nail Boris Johnson’s weaknesses. My article suggested that for the 2012 election Labour should pick an ethnic minority candidate to reflect the capital’s diversity. My journalism ensured that I wasn’t invited to rejoin the media team. Ken duly lost.

This time round the former Mayor gave his blessing to Khan in preference to Diane Abbott. Khan had nominated Corbyn to get him into the race but – unlike Abbott — he didn’t vote for him. Abbott came in third and it was the transfer of votes from her to Khan that took him past Tessa Jowell.

Thus Khan was the main beneficiary of the Corbyn surge in London.

In his role as elder statesman of the Corbynistas Livingstone has, in my view, made a shrewd judgement in backing Khan. Labour victory in London next year is vital for Corbyn. Defeat in the party’s strongest region would cement the widely held view — at Westminster and amongst longstanding members — that their leader is unelectable and that with him defeat in 2020 is inevitable.

A Khan victory would hush the doubters. And on the face of it he ought to win. He was the party’s campaign chief in the capital in 2014 when Labour gained ground in both the European and borough elections and in the General election in May.

    But the Mayoral election involves a different challenge. Under the Supplementary Vote voters can indicate a first and second preference. In May there were 1.5 million Labour voters. The Tories trailed by 300,00 with 1.2 million. That gave Labour 45 of the capitals 73 seats. But there 285,000 Ukip voters, 270,000 Lib Dems and 170,000 Greens. Next year the hunt for second preferences amongst supporters of the also-rans will be fascinating.

Khan has made it clear he knows it won’t a “shoo in”. He plans to make the election a referendum on London’s housing crisis. He promises to be a green Mayor and a business friendly Mayor. The environmentalist Euro sceptic Zac Goldsmith is not an indentikit Tory.

But as well as policies election are about the candidates’ characters and life stories. I think this will give Khan the edge.

Am I biased? Just a bit. I was the chair of governors at Ernest Bevin school Tooting in the 80s when we appointed the first Muslim head of a London school. That head, Naz Bokhari, became a role model and mentor for the young Sadiq, the son of a bus driver who had migrated from Pakistan. Goldsmith, of course, is an old Etonian, who inherited millions from his financial wheeler-dealing father.

Khan will highlight that contrast but he will be careful to make it a story about aspiration and opportunity rather than about class. He hopes his personal narrative — of working hard, getting to university on his merits, running a law firm employing 50 people and then becoming MP for his home patch — will resonate with the ambitions of Londoners for themselves and their families. And crucially, he will take every opportunity to underline that he is his own man, independent of the new Labour leader.

He is likely to be ruthlessly hard-headed in involving the Jeremy Corbyn in his campaign only where his impact will be positive.

The negatives that stem from having a a leader who celebrates his own authenticity whatever problems it causes for his colleagues was demonstrated by the wholly unnecessary row over Trident. It overshadowed Khan’s speech, as well as excellent final morning speeches by the Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer, the Health team Luciana Berger and Heidi Alexander, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell and deputy leader Tom Watson. Taken together they were a demonstration that Corbyn has established a “big tent” with a team that is more united and ready to take on the Tories than many had feared.

During his own speech Corbyn got the loudest appluase for his attack on cyber bullying: “I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less. So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks. The cyberbullying. And especially the misogynistic abuse online. And let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.”

To his supporters who are looking for a fight, the leader’s message was: Not In My Name. It needed saying.

Don Brind


The flaw in Corbyn’s plan to win the next election by signing up non-voters and the young

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Labour risk piling up votes where they don’t need it

Mr Corbyn’s plan has the major flaw that in the 100 seats with the lowest turnout in England Labour hold 94 of them, and 95 out of the 100 seats with the lowest turnout in England and Wales. When you extend the analysis to include Scotland, a similar pattern emerges, in the 100 seats with the lowest turnout in Great Britain Labour holds 92 of them, the SNP holds 3 and the Conservatives hold 5 of them.

Boosting turnout in these seats might replicate the mistake of May where Labour piled up votes in safe seats they already hold whilst the Conservatives boosted their votes in the marginals they hold, which will ultimately improve the advantage the Conservatives hold in vote efficiency. The following tweet sums it up.

To win in 2020 Labour needs to win the votes of people who voted Conservative and UKIP in 2015, until Mr Corbyn addresses that Labour won’t be taking power in 2020.

Thanks again to PBer Disraeli for producing the data behind this article.



New Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, could be a tricky one for Osborne to deal with

Monday, September 28th, 2015


His first big speech gets positive responses

John McDonnell first came to prominence in 2007 when he sought to run against Gordon Brown for the party leadership. Unfortunately for him the Brown camp launched a massive effort to ensure that so many of the then PLP backed their man that there weren’t enough left over to get McDonnell on the ballot.

I’ve long been impressed with his communication skills and over the past few days we’ve seen something of his political strengths. He’s sharp and a lot of the success or failure of the Corbyn leadership rests on his shoulders.

His speech today showed that he’s not going to be as easy a foe for Osborne as many might have expected.

Mike Smithson


Polling shows the Labour Party brand in big trouble

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

This Thursday’s poll by Ipsos Mori is bad for Jeremy Corbyn but even worse for Labour, says Keiran Pedley.

Today’s poll looked at public perceptions of Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron and the Labour and Conservative Party brands in detail. In addition to voting intention and asking respondents which of Cameron or Corbyn would make the ‘most capable Prime Minister’, the poll also listed a series of statements and asked which of them applied to each party and their leaders. It’s a useful exercise to go beyond simple voting intention which, let’s face it, is suffering from a lack of credibility at the moment anyway – not least given that the next General Election is due in 2020.

Tough start for Corbyn

The headline figure doing the rounds earlier highlighted that Jeremy Corbyn’s initial net satisfaction rating (-3) is the worst of any new leader in my lifetime (I am 31 in November). In addition, Cameron leads Corbyn on who would make the ‘most capable Prime Minister’ by 53% to 27%. Even the most ardent Corbyn supporter must privately concede that this is a difficult start.

Ipsos Mori

The problem Corbyn faces is that despite this poll showing that Cameron is seen as ‘out of touch’ (64%), he is also seen as a ‘capable leader’ (62%), ‘good in a crisis’ (51%) and having a ‘clear vision for Britain’ (56%). He is seen as competent and I suspect that this is why Lord Ashcroft’s recent book won’t hurt him too much. The public know he is posh but they trust him as PM. (Incidentally, I suspect that as long as Labour attack Cameron for being ‘out of touch’ and posh – rather than attack on the substance of his perceived competence – I suspect that they won’t get very far either).

It isn’t all bad for the Labour leader though. 54% agree that Corbyn is ‘more honest than most politicians’ whilst perhaps more importantly some 31% say that they ‘don’t know’ whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with him. In contrast, just 7% say the same about David Cameron who has a net satisfaction rating of minus 10. This means that, theoretically at least, Corbyn has time to improve his standing with the voters. He just doesn’t have much of it. However, as we know, should Corbyn make it to 2020, he won’t be standing against Cameron anyway which is another plus.

Personally, as I wrote on this blog last week, I don’t think Corbyn will make it to 2020. Therefore Labour’s chances in 2020, if you think they have any, largely rest on who replaces him as leader and the state of the Labour Party brand when they do. It is here where today’s poll should be most worrying for Labour.

Labour’s brand is in big trouble

Today’s poll showed that the Conservative Party brand largely mirrors that of its leader. They are seen as ‘fit to govern’ (56%) with a ‘good team of leaders’ (49%). Both measures have improved since April and worrying for Labour there isn’t a great deal of difference between the parties on ‘keeps its promises’ or ‘looks after the interests of people like me’.

Ipsos Mori 2

In contrast, Labour really struggles on those attributes that would show them as a serious alternative party of government – just 35% consider them ‘fit to govern’. However, it is when Labour’s numbers are compared to the same statements asked in April when we really see the trouble the party is in. This summer (and the election of Corbyn) has not been kind to the Labour brand. There has been a 22 point increase in those that consider the party ‘extreme’ whilst 75% say that the party is ‘divided’ (up a whopping 32 points from April).

And then comes the real kicker, Labour is now seen as more ‘out of date’ (55%) than the Conservatives (48%). This is ‘just one poll’ and Jeremy Corbyn remains a relative unknown to the public right now but if Labour’s brand woes stick it is hard to articulate just how much trouble the party is in. Regardless of who leads it, whilst Labour is seen as more ‘extreme’, ‘divided’ and ‘out of date’ than a Conservative Party deemed to be led competently, it is unelectable. Individual policies matter little. Voters vote based on the brand of the parties and their leaders and rarely on individual policies. Right now, the Labour Party brand is in big trouble.

So make no mistake, next week’s Labour Party conference is already make or break. Leaders get a small window in which to define themselves and time is running out for Corbyn already. Meanwhile, there are worrying signs that the Labour Party brand is moving towards a position where it is unelectable.  Things can change quickly in politics but Labour should be under no illusions – things are serious and Labour needs to do something about it fast.

Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley


John McDonnell holds the key to the success of Project Corbyn

Friday, September 18th, 2015

John McDonnell

John McDonnell and his leader are dumping negatives so they can concentrate on what really matters to them – austerity.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had a proper national anthem – one that celebrated the country and its people rather than the creepy dirge that got Jeremy Corbyn into trouble at the Battle of Britain memorial service. There’s a case for boycotting God Save the Queen on aesthetic grounds. Compared to the Star Spangled Banner and La Marseillaise – it is truly dire, especially if you get to that sixth verse about crushing rebellious Scots.

But when you become leader of the Opposition singing or not singing is no longer a personal decision. Being a good comrade is key to the Corbyn persona and his silence left two loyal comrades facing the music – Owen Smith on Newsnight and Kate Green on the Today programme. The promise to sing along in future is the right one.

I have a tip for Jeremy as he ponders whether to kneel before the Queen so that he can become a Privy Counsellor. He should follow the lead of our mutual friend Tony Banks. Banks was Corbyn’s first boss within the trade union movement. He was famously caught by the TV cameras crossing his fingers behind his back as he was taking the loyal oath when being sworn in as an MP. The digital twist negated the words being spoken.

It’s a great pity Banksy isn’t still around to take Jezza shopping for a couple of smart suits. Tony’s view was that for a radical being smartly dressed was vital if you want to be taken seriously. In the same vein Joan Ruddock, Harriet Harman’s campaign manager in the 2007 deputy leadership election sent her out to get a new wardrobe at the start of the campaign.

These things shouldn’t matter but they do. If people are looking at what you’re wearing they’re not listening to what you are saying.

Just as important is “dumping negatives” – neutralising issues that get in the way of your focus on what you really care about. Hence Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s double apology on BBC Question Time for remarks about “honouring” members of the IRA and his joke about assassinating Margaret Thatcher.

It means Shadow ministers now have a script “I never agreed with John and I’m glad he apologised. Why are the Tories bringing this up yet again because they don’t want to talk about the issues that matter to my constituents and the damage they are doing to the country.”

Even though their victory had looked likely for weeks Team Corbyn hit the ground stumbling. But Labour MPs calling for them to raise their game should be reassured by the appointment to the Leader’s office of Neale Coleman who served Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London and was kept on by Boris Johnson. Livingstone said of Coleman who was a Labour councillor and is the brother of the former Labour MP Iain Coleman:

“He is a brilliant ideas man who will bring well-thought-out, intelligent policies to the table.”

Not only will Coleman be a key player but he should also help the Leader’s Office recruit other talented people – notably a head of media. In the longer term, however, it is McDonnell’s battle with Chancellor George Osborne that will determine the success or otherwise of the Corbyn project. His appointment was controversial but as Patrick Wintour observed it was prompted by a desire for “ideological coherence” at the centre and was prompted by memories of the poor relations between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and, in a minor key, between Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

McDonnell and Corbyn will have enjoyed reading Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman view of his victory. On forecasts of doom for Labour he asks “why commentators who completely failed to predict the Corbyn phenomenon have so much confidence in their analyses of what it means.”

On economic policy, he says, “Corbyn’s rivals essentially supported the Conservative government’s austerity policies. Worse, they all implicitly accepted the bogus justification for those policies, in effect pleading guilty to policy crimes that Labour did not, in fact, commit.”

Encouraging too for McDonnell is the tone of a New Statesman article piece by Alison McGovern, a Liz Kendall supporter, who has just stepped down from the front bench Treasury team.

She argues that the Tory economic record doesn’t match Cameron and Osborne’s boasts. She offers support to McDonnell and his team. “I’ll be there supporting them as they oppose, and hold the government to account. But she adds “We need a proper alternative to austerity – one that is both ambitious in scale and practical in application.”

McDonnell’s deputy, the shadow Chief Secretary, is Seema Malhotra, who supported Yvette Cooper for the leadership, and my sense is that Mc Donnell will be keen to engage with MPs like McGovern. He will also need to take heed of the polling published by the former party policy chief Jon Cruddas suggesting voters do not back an anti-austerity line.

McDonnell clearly gets the point. Even when the leadership campaign was in full spate with him as Corbyn’s campaign chief he told the Guardian: “Deficit denial is a non-starter for anyone to have credibility with the electorate.”

He has a tough job ahead but I think he will give George Osborne a run for his money.

Don Brind


One year on from the Indyref: Why Scottish Independence might be in Labour’s best interests

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Sturgeon Pocket

Exactly one year after Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom it might now be better for Labour if Scotland left.

One of the key elements in my opinion that helped the Tories win a majority in May rather than just being the largest party in a hung parliament was their ruthless approach when it came to Ed Miliband and the likelihood of the SNP propping up a Labour led coalition. As the above poster shows, the Tories managed to make it appear Salmond & Sturgeon were effectively the Mephistopheles to Ed’s Faust.

Speaking as a Unionist the Tory campaign that sought to portray a government featuring the SNP as illegitimate was wrong as the SNP have as much right to be a part of government as any other party, that’s democracy. But Labour should realise this was an inevitable consequence of Labour’s failure to answer the West Lothian question when they came up with the devolution settlement for Scotland & Wales whilst ignoring England. Nature abhors a vacuum and the Tories filled that vacuum to the detriment of Labour.

Given the current electoral geography and the swings required it seems unlikely even that Labour will win a majority in 2020 even if Corbynmania is as successful as his most fervent supporters hope. Any hopes Corbyn has of taking power in 2020 will very likely have to rely on a coalition containing the SNP

If Ed Miliband being propped up by the SNP was unappealing to English voters then I’m fairly certain Jeremy Corbyn being propped up by the SNP won’t be any more appealing to English voters.

Right now Scotland is a millstone* around Labour’s neck for as long as the SNP maintain their stranglehold over Scottish politics which currently shows no signs of abating. For Labour it might be Scottish independence can’t come quick enough if they want to take power at Westminster as they will have no longer have to deal with the Scottish question that so alarms English voters.


*Though what is currently seen as a millstone might not be a millstone in a few years time, as Alex Salmond will attest to.