Archive for the 'Labour' Category


Jeremy: You are right about austerity but you have a long way to go to win over voters

Monday, May 23rd, 2016


Don Brind with some comradely advice

One Twitter user was apparently disappointed when she followed tag #LabEcon2016. She was looking for Labradors but what she got was Labour’s State of the economy conference.

The organisers were delighted that the event, hosted by shadow treasurer John McDonnell and closed by party leader Jeremy Corbyn was trending second on Twitter after the Cup Final.

The large and enthusiastic gathering heard Corbyn’s signature line “austerity is a political choice not a necessity” endorsed by the Cambridge based Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang who for many was the star of the day. He said “No sensible economist agrees with the way the Conservatives are handling the economy at the moment, so I hope this conference will play a major part in developing Labour’s alternative plans for a more dynamic, fairer, and more sustainable economy”.

Chang was in an impressive line up of speakers ranging from Unite general secretary Len McCluskey to Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce and Helen Walbey from the Federation of Small Businesses by way of the economists Linda Yueh, Jonathan Portes and Paul Mason.

Chang observed: “Perhaps if the Conservatives listened to a broader range of viewpoints the economy wouldn’t be in such a mess.” But as one speakers observed during a session on debt the Tories are still getting way with the Big Lie that Labour caused the crash in 2008.

The conference unfortunately clashed with the Fabians’ summer conference which meant Labour front benchers including Angela Eagle the shadow business secretary and Seema Malhotra the shadow chief secretary to the treasury were shuttling between South Kensington and Bloomsbury to chair workshops and breakout sessions. No great hardship — it’s six stops on the Piccadilly line.

For those of us who did both events we got two Labour leaders in one day.In a witty and passionate 45 walk-and-talk address to the Fabians Gordon Brown made the Labour case for Remaining in the EU. He said the party should appeal to the nine million Labour voters, to young people and to mothers who, he said “are worried about the prospects for their children in the future and want to know where the jobs will come from.”

Hearing the two men a few hours apart prompted the question of Team Corbyn’s attitude to the last Labour government. On his way the conference walked past the South Ken museums – he observed that they were free of charges thanks to the Labour government. Many Corbyn supporters are, however, lukewarm about Labour’s 13 years in power.
Yet those governments had many achievements – and they are part of the current case for voting Labour. Bright new radical policies only get you so far – especially if voters hear you trashing what went before.

A Twitter spat involving Ann Pettifor, one of the party’s economic advisers, provided an interesting example. He initial tweet suggested that John McDonnell’s commitment to a sustainable low carbon economy was a break with the past. Under challenge, she quickly conceded that Ed Miliband, as the first Climate Change Secretary, introduced the Climate Change Act in 2008. She claimed however these achievements and policies were “not part of Labour’s narrative & speeches.”

In piled John Ruddy in defence of fellow Scot Gordon Brown. An NHS workers tweeting from Montrose, 60 miles up the coast from Brown’s old seat Ruddy fired off a series of tweets:

“Gordon Brown introduced the Climate Change Levy, reformed company car taxation, introduced APD (advanced passenger duty), set up Stern Review.
“He also created Landfill tax (related to methane emissions), and escalated the tax, created the fuel duty escalator.
“He created differentials for vehicle excise duty, so that more polluting vehicles paid more, the aggregates levy.
“He cut VAT on energy saving materials & micro generation, and introduced Council Tax rebates for energy efficiencies.”

Quite an impressive list. For me, one of the mysteries of the 2015 election was that Ed Miliband, who would have become the greenest Prime Minister we ever had, was virtually silent on the environment. Did that matter? Well, look at these 10 ultra marginals seats where the Tory majority is less than the Green vote.

Seat Tory Majority Green vote
Gower 27 1161
Derby North 41 1618
Croydon Central 165 1454
Bury North 378 1141
Morley&Outwood 422 1264
Plymouth Stn & Dport 523 3401
Brighton Kempton 690 3187
Weaver Vale 806 1183
Telford 730 930

Without those ten seats David Cameron wouldn’t have an overall majority. Voted Green got Blue, was how it worked out.

Jeremy Corbyn’s has differences with his predecessors, especially Tony Blair but he should surely embrace the Miliband-Brown record on the environment. If you want voters to back you need to show them that when they vote Labour good things happen.

Don Brind


Game over. What should the Labour right do now that it has lost?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016


Alastair Meeks looks at the options

As Leonard Cohen once crooned, everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost.  With Labour’s surprisingly good performance in the recent election round, even the faint hope of a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership this year has evaporated.  This will give him the time and space to effect the necessary reforms of the party to ensure that he cannot be ousted by a Parliamentary coup.

So the Labour right are facing defeat in the face.  They will be unable to oust Jeremy Corbyn before the next general election and even if he falls under a political battle bus he will be replaced by someone more or less as hardline.

So decision time approaches.  They have the following options:

1) Sit down and shut up

That is the Corbynites’ preferred choice for them.  It presupposes that the Labour right would prefer a Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn to win as compared with the practical alternatives.  Do Labour rightwingers oppose Jeremy Corbyn because they disagree with his ideas or because they think the British public won’t vote for them?  If it is the second, the time has come to shut up.  That argument can be revisited after the general election but not before.

Labour rightwingers can also present this to themselves as the Mr Micawber option.  In practice, however, there is no particular reason why anything should turn up.  If they would prefer the current Labour leadership to lose in preference to the practical alternatives, what would they do in the run-up to a general election if as seems highly likely Jeremy Corbyn is still in situ?

2) Challenge the leadership head on 

This would be a re-enactment of the Charge of the Light Brigade.  It would be magnificent, but it wouldn’t be politics.  The Labour right would fight and it would lose.  It would then be destroyed by the cannon to the left of them.  If this option were chosen, it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that someone had blundered.

3) Defect

This option presupposes that the Labour right would prefer one of the practical alternatives to Labour success under the programme that Jeremy Corbyn put forward.  For many on the right of the Labour party, combating poverty was what got them into politics.  That is not going to be met by joining the Conservative party.  The Lib Dems might aspire to meet that objective but right now they don’t look like a practical alternative to Labour success, not unless they allow themselves effectively to be taken over by the Labour right (and even then the SDP does not offer an encouraging precedent for this).

4) Break away and form a new party

Again, this option presupposes that the Labour right would prefer not to see Jeremy Corbyn’s programme succeed for Labour.  The idea’s prospects of success are bleaker even than linking up with the Lib Dems, unless the Labour right seeks to form some kind of non-aggression pact with the Conservatives in return for policy concessions.  This would take extraordinary amounts of statesmanship and trust on both sides.  Neither side has so far shown much of either quality.

One point to note: key figures from the Labour right are going to be spending quite a bit of time in the company of the Conservative leadership in the next few weeks.  If the EU referendum can be negotiated with a Remain victory, lines of communication may have been opened up that might prove of some use in future.  After all, the Conservative leadership might be grateful for a new source of support, given how unreliable its own right flank has proved.  There may be the makings of a deal.

5) Give up and leave politics

Relatively lowly rightwing Labour supporters have been stopping their direct debits without much fuss.  Should more senior Labour rightwingers do the same thing?  It would be an admission of defeat and a decision that a substantial strand of British political thought would go unrepresented for the medium term.


None of these options look at all appealing.  The likely outcomes vary between disastrous for the country, disastrous for the Labour party, disastrous for the careers of Labour rightwingers or all three.  Sooner or later, the Labour dissidents are going to have to choose their own quietus.

Me, I expect a little of option 1 and a little of option 5.  The others require courage, principle and vision.  If the Labour right had that, they wouldn’t be in the mess they are already in.

Alastair Meeks


Guest Post: Summer 2016 might lead to a generational shift in the two main parties

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016


Guest Post by Mortimer

Summer 2016 could prove a watershed moment in modern British politics. April and early-May have already seen the incumbent leadership of the English Conservatives shown up in comparison to Ruth Davidson’s success north of the border, and the old guard of an apparently gaffe-obsessed Labour Party cheered by victory in London yet criticised by the triumphant Sadiq Khan. More pressure on the Conservative leadership is likely if, as the polls currently indicate, the referendum on June 23rd really is in the balance.

Perhaps less obvious an influence to our current thinking is the forthcoming Chilcott report, which is (finally) to be published on July 6th and could focus current thinking on past political problems. Whilst the current core Labour leadership were vehemently opposed to the Iraq War, at least two quite prominent members of Corbyn’s current shadow cabinet held positions in Blair’s cabinet during the conflict: Hilary Benn and Lord Falconer..

Other prominent and not-so-prominent politicians from both sides of the aisle who have been in Parliament since 2001, now veritable veterans of some pretty difficult times in British history, might begin to think it is time for fresh Lieutenants, if not young Generals, to take on the burden. Given that MP selections are made earlier and earlier in the electoral cycle, the end of a bruising referendum campaign and the publication of what promises to be a lengthy report into one of the most controversial parliamentary decisions of the modern era, some might begin to consider announcing retirement from public life in the coming months.

So what might be the impact of this confluence of events? Younger, or at least less experienced MPs will surely come to the fore in summer reshuffles.

If Corbyn is serious about uniting the party, which I’m still to be convinced of, he should call on the skills of Dan Jarvis, and promote the likes of Lisa Nandy and Heidi Alexander, both of whom have only been MPs since 2010/11 and yet outperformed their shadow cabinet colleagues in recent months.

For Mr Cameron, if he can survive at a helm, has fewer younger talents to call upon in his immediate cabinet. That said, Greg Clark has, like Justine Greening, only been an MP since 2005 and both are proven media performers. Michael Gove was in the same intake and proved himself in the limelight yet more in the past weeks. Priti Patel and Dominic Raab joined Nandy and Alexander as new MPs in 2010, and must surely hope for promotion to the full cabinet from Minister of State and Parly Under Secretary positions soon.

Moving on to possible leadership replacements – which it would be foolish to ignore given possible threats to both Cameron’s and Corbyn’s position after two divisive election campaigns – might the more youthful Chuka Umunna be ready to commit properly to a Labour leadership contents this time, or has his star fallen in favour of Jarvis and others?

In the Conservative party, of which I am a member and to which I feel slightly more attuned to both signals and noises, I can’t see an obvious youthful replacement for Cameron, and, let us be honest, the leadership coming with the fully-paid up title Prime Minister leaves less room for such an outsider as he was himself in 2005 triumphing. I’ve been tipping Greg Clark to ultimately replace him for several months, but as the life-expectancy of Mr Cameron’s own leadership appears to be dwindling, I’m more convinced that the middle aged Tory cardinals will elect an older Pope. Michael Fallon has proved himself as a campaigner and seemed to much value as the Major-esque unifier to miss for my book (currently 50/1 as next permanent Tory leader with Ladbrokes), but it is hard to look beyond May at the still generous 8/1 in the same market.



From Blair to Corbyn, Livingstone, and Hitler, 19 years is a long time in politics

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Can things only get better for Labour? Not whilst the stench of anti-Semitism swirls around the party

Nineteen years ago today, Tony Blair led the Labour Party back into government after eighteen years in opposition. 418 MPs elected, 145 gains, and a 179 seat majority. The way Labour and Corbyn are heading, they will be lucky to have 179 MPs at the next election, even before Ken Livingstone’s attempt to educate the country about Nazis for Zionism.

These sort of things can take decades for a party to recover from. Twenty-five years after the Tory Party introduced Section 28, the party will still having to deal with the legacy of that pernicious piece of legislation, if Labour don’t resolve the current perceptions of anti-Semitism swirling around the party, then it might take a similar time for the Labour Party to recover from perceptions that they are the new nasty party.

The tragedy for the Labour Party is that in less than a week there are a plethora of elections, and the events of the past week makes it harder for the Labour candidates in these elections to win. It also helps to negate any criticism Labour have of Zac Goldsmith’s campaign to be Mayor of London, as evidenced in the tweet below, which isn’t good news for Sadiq Khan nor Labour.



Livingstone: symptom of a deeper problem

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Confronting the ex-mayor means confronting what it means to be Labour

You know you have a PR problem when your party’s second most successful politician this century* is publicly debating at what point in the 1930s Hitler lost the plot.

Labour’s problem runs a great deal deeper than bad publicity though. To be clear, Labour is unlikely to be the only party with members, activists or elected representatives who’ve said or written something stupid or worse but it is likely to have by far the biggest problem.

There are two interrelated reasons for that. Firstly, Labour has been much more successful in courting the ethnic minority vote than other parties but sometimes, with those voters have come imported intolerant attitudes. Electoral motivations act as at best a disincentive to confront those attitudes and at worst, reason to dog whistle to them.

And secondly, Labour has long promoted itself as inclusive, multicultural and tolerant. Indeed, in his interviews yesterday, Corbyn seemed to take Labour’s tolerance as an article of faith; true simply by assertion. That culture makes it harder to criticise ethnic minority members indulging in bigoted or discriminatory behaviour, in part because it undermines Labour’s self-image but more because those attitudes are misguidedly seen as cultural – just an alternative way of doing things – and as such, beyond criticism. Indeed, criticism of attitudes held disproportionately by one group of another are themselves labelled racist.

    In fact, despite Livingstone’s suspension and the Labour’s setting up of the inquiry into anti-Semitism, there are clear signs that Corbyn still doesn’t get it.

His comment that critics were only saying that Labour was in crisis because they’re worried about Labour’s strength implies that he thinks that their charges are illegitimate and politically motivated. But of course, if you start from the position that Labour has exceptional moral virtue then it follows by definition that it cannot have problem with anti-Semitism, therefore it doesn’t. (Of course it doesn’t, its last leader was Jewish, sort of).

Reversing the truck back down the road however won’t be easy. It will mean both confronting that mind-set and probably confronting no small number of members, both those at fault and those willing to defend them. That a petition calling for John Mann to be disciplined has attracted over 12,000 signatures in little more than a day is itself revealing. It’s possible that those signatories simply regard Mann’s public rant as excessive and unbecoming but going by the comments, I suspect it’s more tribal solidarity among the Labour left.

If so, we could be about to see civil war within Labour: a disproportionate number who’d be in the firing line would be either muslims or on the left. Is Corbyn the man to take on such opponents? Of course not. Ken might be let back, he might be persuaded out, he might even be kicked out – but it’d be him and few others.

David Herdson

* Definitional, of course, but no Labour leader other than Blair has won a general election so we have to look at the next level down. Rhodri Morgan might stake a claim too with two Welsh Assembly wins to Ken’s one in London (plus one as an independent) but Wales is much more a Labour heartland and London is much bigger. That said, Ken’s two losses have to be factored in too. In fact, his defeat in 2012 might be Labour’s only silver lining to the row – at least Ken’s not the candidate or mayor right now.


It’s not just LAB that has an anti semitic problem

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

On a day dominated by the extraordinary events within Labour and the suspension of the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, Prof Tim Bale has Tweeted about some 2015 polling.

As can be seen those sampled were asked whether they thought that “Jews have too much influence on this country”. 18% of Ukip voters agreed compared with 10% of LAB ones and 9% of Tories.

Tom Mludzinski if ComRes gets it right with this Tweet.

What I find hard is to work out whether this will have any impact in the elections a week today. On the face of it this could damage the red team’s hopes in London though I’ve been impressed by the way Khan has dealt with this.

Mike Smithson


The perceptions on the Tories and Labour

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

YouGov have published some polling, conducted within the last week on which groups the voters identify the Tory Party and the Labour Party with. The findings aren’t that surprising. The Tories are perceived to be really close to the rich, businessmen/The City, and voters in the south. Whilst Labour are seen as being really close to trade unions, the working class, and benefit claimants.

The most interesting finding from this polling was that the Tories are seen as being not close to older people, and that Labour have better net rating with how close they are to older people. Now whilst not every older person is a pensioner, you can make a strong case that the segment of society that the governments of David Cameron have looked after the most is older voters, particularly pensioners. Recently the work and pensions select committee announced that they would investigate claims that baby boomers get more out of the state than they put in while younger generations lose out.

I suspect the reason for this particular polling finding is that Labour is seen as being close to benefit claimants, as they have been for a while, and older people such as pensioners because as recipients of the state pension are seen as benefit claimants, whilst with the benefit cap, the Tories are seen as no friends of benefit claimants.

This shows that once again in politics sometimes perceptions matter more than the facts, especially when you consider that a month ago, Iain Duncan Smith resigned as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions ‘because he was frustrated that Downing Street and the Treasury refused to consider controversial cuts to universal pensioner benefits…Friends of the former work and pensions secretary said he was fed up of being asked “again and again” for cuts to working age benefits and those for disabled people, while the money spent on older voters remained untouched.’



Why the Tories could be being complacent over Jeremy Corbyn

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Alastair Meeks says predicting GE2020 is harder than the blues think

Much comment has been passed this week on David Cameron’s falling ratings.  He now ranks behind Jeremy Corbyn on favourability ratings with YouGov.  “How low he has sunk” is the usual comment, and it is true.

But as the table above shows, this is not a problem confined to David Cameron.  He actually rates better head-to-head against Jeremy Corbyn on the question “who would make the best prime minister” than either Boris Johnson or George Osborne.  Indeed, George Osborne trails Jeremy Corbyn by a considerable distance.  Three clear conclusions can be drawn:

  1. The referendum is destroying the Conservatives’ image with the public.
  2. The Conservatives believe that taking on Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is like the Oxford rowing team racing a pedalo. But that is not particularly easy to justify on present polling: Labour is edging ahead in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn is looking competitive in the leadership ratings.
  3. The Conservatives cannot just choose anyone they like as Conservative leader and expect to romp to victory.

Right now the Conservative party is fixated on the EU referendum.  It has more than two months more to rip itself apart about this.  Does anyone think that its polling is going to improve in that period?  The damage to the Conservatives’ reputation might be very long-lasting indeed.

Far from being the unspeakable against the unelectable, we might be looking at a three-legged race where both main parties voluntarily hobble themselves with introspective policy programmes and deeply unattractive leaders.  Predicting a winner might be far harder than the Conservatives currently believe.

For betting purposes the conclusion is clear: for now at least, bet against the Conservatives in any market that depends on their long term prospects.  They, and too many of their followers, are far too complacent about how match fit they will be.  It’s best to relieve them of their money before they wake up.

Alastair Meeks