Archive for the 'Labour' Category


Henry G Manson says It’s advantage Sadiq in the London Labour contest

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

LAB Poster (1)

You know when a candidate is losing when they start to blame the rules of the game. We don’t get more proof than in London right now. Len Duvall, a backer of Tessa Jowell’s bid to be Labour mayoral candidate, has publicly warned of the dangers of muslims and trade union members registering to vote in the Labour mayoral selection. He questioned whether this was in the ‘spirit’ of the contest.

It may be shameless but Len knows what he is doing here. In bringing up the threat of mosques and unions Duvall is knowingly stirring up the worst type of anxieties in the Evening Standard. To use this against a muslim opponent is far from subtle and is grim politics.

One of Sadiq Khan’s themes has been unity. He has won the support of old foes Oona King and Ken Livingstone. Margaret Hodge on the right of the party is backing Sadiq Khan as well as left-led unions such as GMB, Unite and UCATT.  Duvall’s crude and clumsy intervention for the Jowell campaign only highlights Khan’s momentum and position as a unity candidate.

Foreign policy matters have always been a domestic concern in such a multicultural city as London. Jowell once famously pledged to ‘throw herself under a bus’ for Tony Blair. Her loyalty to Blair was in some ways admirable but could now prove to be an even bigger handicap.

If Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected leadership bid inspires several thousand anti-war Londoners to register as Labour supporters in order to vote for him in the Labour leadership that will surely be bad news for Tessa. Few of these voters will side with Jowell who was in the Cabinet when Blair’s government decided to take the country to war in Iraq in 2003. Wherever registered Labour supporters come from, the more people that get involved in the process the harder it is for veteran insiders like Duvall to game the contest for their candidate.

In March 2013 I recommended backing Sadiq Khan at 33/1 to be the next London mayor. He’s currently in pole position to win the Labour nomination. Len Duvall’s divisive and desperate intervention suggests the Jowell camp know this too.

Henry G Manson

Response from Mr Duval

If you read the Evening Standard article it is clear I didn’t give any impression that association with mosques or unions is bad thing as you imply. Labour candidates should be reaching out to all Londoners.

As the article says I was asked a question by the journalist and said only that everyone should stick to rules and that it would be damaging if candidates didn’t enter into the selection in spirit it was set up – to encourage as many individual Londoners as possible, from all backgrounds, to participate and have their say.

It seems you are looking for a row where there is none and that your real problem is that I am backing Tessa.


Why Labour needs to be as ruthless with failing leaders as the Tories

Friday, June 12th, 2015

The latest from PB Guest slot writer – Don Brind

It’s Thursday morning in Downing Street: The door to number 10 opens and the manager of the press office is striding down the road with a folder under his arm. I’m there as a BBC political producer and I know him well. I catch him up and with a little bit of persuasion I get my hands of the press release he’s taking to the Press gallery in the House of Commons. Within seconds I’m on my mobile bawling at the news desk: “Thatcher has resigned. Come to us now.”

This was Thursday 22nd November 1990 and the crisis in the Tory party was ending in bitterness and tears. Divisions over Europe and public hostility to the poll tax had given Neil Kinnock and Labour double digit poll leads for the previous 10 months.

    It was testimony to an important fact truth about British politics – the Tory party’s secret weapon is disloyalty. The election of John Major was transformational. The dumping of the leader was followed by the dumping of the poll tax and a more emollient line on Europe.

Major’s stunning victory in the 1992 General Election was, of course, a short-lived triumph. Tory Eurosceptics battling the Maastricht treaty made his life a misery. He responded by staging a leadership election in 1995 in which he beat off a challenge from John Redwood. The Tory ability to dump unsuccessful leaders was demonstrated in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith, ironically one of Major’s chief tormentors lost a no confidence vote.

By contrast, sticking with unpopular leaders is Labour’s fatal weakness. The tone was set by Harold Wilson in 1969 with his classic response to speculation about his leadership with his classic “I know what’s going on,’ (dramatic pause) ‘I’m going on. and the Labour government’s going on.’ – on, of course, to defeat in May 1970.

Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband faced similar speculation that Labour would do better with a change of leader. Mutterings and manoeuvrings came to nothing and they joined the ranks of defeated Labour leaders.

There are signs that the new leader who will be elected on September 12th won’t be able to count on that instinctive loyalty to the leader.

The current leader Harriet Harman has rejected the idea of a “break clause” under which the party would get a chance to change leaders in 2017. And on the activist website Labour List Conor Pope persuasively exposes the flaws in the idea.

It would, says Pope “encourage ambitious Shadow Cabinet members to work towards the goal of being elected leader, rather than focussing on being an effective opposition. It would also “send a message to the public that Labour is not ready to govern, that the party wants to spend yet more time thinking about itself. “None of these candidates are fit to be leader,” the voters would hear, “but in two years we’ll choose one of them anyway.

George Eaton New Statesman Political editor reports that MPs are talking about changing party rules to make it easier to remove a failing leader although “others will argue that rather than amending its constitution, the party should simply have the guts to act if necessary”

    The fact is that electing a new leader is a potential game changer. It certainly worked for the Tories with Major in the early 90s. It might have worked for Labour if Jim Callaghan and Gordon Brown had gambled on elections in 1978 and 2007 respectively.

The Tories will fight the 2020 election under a new leader if David Cameron is true to his word. If that leaderproduces a Tory bounce it will provide Labour with the cue to make their own switch.

Alastair Campbell Tony Blair’s former media chief is ready to lead the charge to replace a leader who isn’t cutting it. “If in three years’ time they’re not winning” he told the Times “and it is obvious we are not going to get close to winning an election, I will not bite my tongue and I will encourage others not to bite their tongues.”

Campbell would not be on his own. Two random conversations I had with MPs – one elected in 1997, the other from the Class of 2015 came up with a similar determination. If the leader looks like a loser she or he would have to go.

Don Brind


Henry G Manson: Tom Watson should be odds-on for LAB deputy

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015


PB’s “Labour insider” gives his view

I recently explained why I think Andy Burnham shouldn’t be priced as the odds on favourite for the Labour leadership contest. Looking at the Deputy race, I think the opposite is the case and that the current favourite Tom Watson should in fact be a good deal shorter.

Watson is stand-out value at 6/4 with William Hill and Ladbrokes – and should be closer to 1/2. There is currently a big field of rivals but the market is distorted by the short price of Stella Creasy. Creasy has commanded support in the betting markets since she declared. She has a strong media profile and a recent Labour List survey had her on the same level of support as Tom Watson with Caroline Flint in 3rd place. All of this overlooks one crucial matter – Creasy is really struggling to get close to the 35 nominations and make the ballot paper. Her relations with fellow MPs are cool if not frosty and there are plenty of alternatives for MPs to nominate instead.

Angela Eagle and has the same number of nominations as Creasy (10), Rushanara Ali has 11, Ben Bradshaw has 13, John Healey is on 18 and Caroline Flint has 32 declared MPs backing her. Tom Watson currently has 50. See the helpful rolling summary from the Staggers blog.

As the nominations reflect, the main opposition to Watson comes from steely Caroline Flint who is also a value saver at 9/2 with Ladbrokes (Hills have it right at 5/2). Take Creasy out of the field and Watson and Flint’s prices will be cut/adjusted considerably. I can’t see Creasy picking up the remaining 25 MPs she needs in the next week. There’s more momentum with female London rival Rushanara Ali who only declared she was running on 24th May and has netted the support of well-known figures Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and John Mann. Stella has cultivated no base in the PLP and this appears to be coming home to roost.

Tom Watson is a deserved front runner and is working harder than any other candidate wooing members around the country and his campaign appears far organised. Expect many of the individual trade union affiliate supporters to back him too.

    While Labour’s leaders move towards the centre ground, Watson can perform the role of the party’s conscience which John Prescott performed to good effect with Tony Blair.

By no means is it in the bag yet for Tom Watson and John Healey, Angela Eagle are also experienced and well-liked campaigners. However it is Caroline Flint who I expect to run him the closest and to run an effective campaign. She’s worth backing as a saver at 9/2. Despite this, I’ll be surprised if Tom Watson isn’t elected as deputy leader in September and anything better than evens is worth snapping up now.

Henry G Manson


New guest slot team member DavidL on the other leadership election – the fight to lead Scottish Labour

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

SLAB posters

I’d like to talk about the Labour leadership election. No, no, not that election but the Scottish one that no one is paying any attention to. On 16th May Jim Murphy announced, having won his vote of no confidence, that he was standing down, not there and then like his esteemed leader but a month later. That month is up next week.

    As always in the Alice in Wonderland of Scottish politics, Scottish Labour can’t go back to yesterday because they were a different person then. Today Labour must run as fast as they can, just to stay in place. And if they wish to go anywhere they must run twice as fast as that. They have not made a propitious start.

Firstly, what are the rules? Well, so far as I can tell Scotland continues to be bound by the rule book that elected winners like Ed Miliband. Unlike that other leadership contest we do not have OMOV in Scotland although they could certainly do with the £3.

Ken Macintosh, one of the potential candidates has written to Jim Murphy and others saying:”This is a time of exceptional political engagement in Scotland and people have never been so active in the politics of our country.  I want to enlist their help in re-shaping and rebuilding the Scottish Labour Party.  I am not going to make bland assertions of seeking party unity if that means protecting or preserving the influence of vested interests, but reclaim this party for the people we seek to represent.”

I believe holding open primaries throughout Scotland will offer Scottish Labour a real opportunity to engage with a politically energised electorate, to listen to their concerns, their hopes and their aspirations and allow our movement to share our principles and our passion for Scotland free from the constraints of an election.

If there has been any reply, it has not been made public. Murphy’s plan was to have a coronation for his deputy and friend Kezia Dugdale who is the interim leader. If you look at the Scottish Labour website you might think that had happened already. There are currently the only two declared candidates but since Murphy’s month has not been used to organise any election, primaries or rules there is plenty of time. After all, “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you here”. Neil Findlay, who came a respectable second to Murphy only last year, is not standing.

One problem that Ken Macintosh might face is that he is a Constituency MSP. He is in a seat where the Tories were a close second but after May 2015 the SNP lurk dangerously in every Scottish seat. Kezia, despite attending my school in Dundee where she was head girl, is a list MSP for Lothian and may have a better chance of hanging on. She says: “The Scottish Parliament is now the centre of Scottish politics, the Labour party has taken a long time to recognise that and I want to be part of a new generation of Labour members that lead that, that put the Scottish Parliament front-and-centre of our party.”

Even as a Tory I recognise the truth in that. Surely Scottish Labour cannot have another leader losing their seat. Despite being Murphy’s anointed (a distinctly mixed blessing) and only having been an MSP for 4 years she looks favourite to me but the only betting odds I have found to date make her an unattractive 1/5 with Paddy Power. Curiouser and curiouser as Alice would no doubt say.


(This is the first post from DavidL, a regular contributor on the site for several years, who has been invited to join the guest slot team to help build up our Scottish expertise. Welcome!)


Solving Labour’s deficit dilemma?

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

The new leader must win back trust on the economy

If there was one moment where Labour’s fate was sealed during April’s election campaign, it was not the unveiling of the Edstone; it was Ed Miliband’s answer to whether he thought Labour had been spending too much prior to the Crash in 2008. He started by simply saying “no, I don’t”.

It may well have been that Labour was already heading for defeat at that point – given how badly wrong many polls were, we’ll never know – but that one answer reinforced a view that Labour couldn’t be trusted with the economy that already had significant traction.

Part of that problem was that Labour’s own line on the deficit contradictory. On the one hand, the coalition was blamed for cutting too far and too fast; on the other, it was criticised for not hitting its deficit reduction targets. Labour accepted the theory of needing to bring the deficit down but in practice opposed just about every cut or tax rise without offering meaningful alternatives.

But the biggest part of the problem was failing to acknowledge responsibility in the first place. After Miliband’s poor start to his answer, he went on to restate the familiar Labour theme that it was the recession that caused the deficit, which only makes sense as contingency planning if you believe Gordon Brown’s claim to have abolished boom and bust. Which was rather like claiming to have abolished day and night.

That failure to differentiate between the structural and cyclical deficits is not some abstruse academic point, except when made in such terms. People instinctively know that if you’re borrowing heavily when times are good then it’s all going to go horribly wrong when times are bad – and at some point, times will be bad. That’s why so many still blamed Labour for the cuts even at the end of the last parliament.

Yet as the excellent Patrick Wintour article in the Guardian this week details, Labour’s collective denial about their failure in office continues. One Miliband advisor is quoted as saying “the question was whether you confront the Tory spin that Labour had overspent, causing the crash …”. Alastair Campbell refers to “the Tory lie on the deficit.” Both miss the point. The Conservatives (and Lib Dems) didn’t claim that Labour’s overspending caused the crash; they claimed that overspending caused the deficit to balloon out of control once the crash did happen. Conflating the issues might have been an attempt to avoid blame but it wasn’t a credible one. What was worse was that in those protests and denials lay the impression that they’d do it all again, given the chance.

Which is where we can move to the future. The question now is how do Labour’s leadership candidates handle the deficit question. That falls into two parts: do they think it needs addressing at all, and if they do, how do they play it firstly to the Labour electorate and secondly to the wider public?

It may be tempting to simply ignore Labour’s time in office, on a desire to ‘move on’. However, as long as the issue’s relevant that won’t be possible, and it is relevant: the deficit remains far too high, cutting it is at the heart of the new government’s economic plan and the risks to the health of the global economy are many and varied. Who knows when the next recession will hit?

But if the question has to be confronted, the first set of people they need to convince are those who can vote them into the leadership. Here, Cooper, Burnham and Kendall will have to be careful in the choices (or concessions) they make because what they say now will frame their leadership through to 2020.

The contrast with the years leading up 1997 is obvious. Gordon Brown’s courtship of the City was a calculated effort to both expand Labour’s appeal and to demonstrate a comfort and competence with economic matters. Combined with the Tories’ ERM shambles, that was one of the critical factors that produced Labour’s landslide (the Conservatives were actually still ahead on economic approval come election day but what mattered was that it was no longer a trump card).

For as long as Labour remains in denial about the cause of the scale of the deficit, that issue will remain a serious drag on their election-winning chances in English marginals. But can any candidate win the leadership while confronting that denial? Of such things are prime ministers made.

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


PB/Polling Matters Podcast: What does Labour do next?

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Polling Matters is an independent, non partisan podcast providing, in conjunction with PB, expert polling news and political analysis in the aftermath of the 2015 General Election.

This week, host Keiran Pedley discusses why Labour lost and what’s next for the party featuring interviews with Lord Foulkes and Professor John Curtice and analysis from regular Polling Matters contributors Rob Vance and Leo Barasi.

Keiran tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley


The GE2020 challenge for LAB: Unless its Scottish losses can be reversed it needs a 12% lead for a majority

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Within a few weeks of each general election Professor John Curtice and other leading psephologists start producing the numbers that will shape the next general election.

The first one is in the Mail piece – what LAB would need to do to secure a majority next time.

Before last week’s election Curtice had said that the Tories would require a 7% lead for a majority depending on how well they performed against the Lib Dems. As it was they did far better on that last measure than just about anybody predicted and the Cameron was able to secure a majority with a GB lead on votes of 6.7%.

    It is a combination of the near wipe-out of the Lib Dems in blue facing seats in England and Wales and the developments in Scotland that make Labour’s challenge look so daunting.

This is the context in which Labour’s search for a new leader is taking place. Essentially Miliband’s successor needs the electoral magic that only Tony Blair has ever had in the entire history of the party.

Mike Smithson