Archive for the 'Labour' Category


The Temperate Desert

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

YouGov Left Right

Antifrank asks who will appeal best to centrist voters?

The centre ground of politics used to be very crowded.  And with good reason.  Roughly half the electorate sit in the middle stratum of electoral geology.  In a YouGov poll taken just after the election, 13% described themselves as slightly left of centre, 19% described themselves as centre, 14% described themselves as slightly right of centre and a further 23% didn’t know where to place themselves (presumably they would regard themselves as having mixed left and right views).  Elections will continue to be won and lost among these voters.  Either they will be met on their ground or they will be persuaded to move onto different ground.

Public perception

YouGov regularly asks the public to place parties on a left-right spectrum.  The results up to July last year are shown in the graphic above.

The public in aggregate, incidentally, see themselves as pretty much in the dead centre.  Up to now, the public in aggregate haven’t regarded the Labour party as being as leftwing as they have seen the Conservatives as being rightwing.

The empty centre

7 May 2015 has left the centre ground looking like a wasteland.  The Lib Dems were reduced from 57 to 8 MPs, with relatively few seats even looking like plausible targets for 2020.  The Conservatives long ago ditched the green crap.  And despite Ed Miliband having aimed to engineer a move in the political centre ground towards the left, the reaction of the Labour party membership in the Labour leadership campaign has been to canter further leftwards in pursuit of a real alternative to austerity.  For a group of voters who are supposedly assiduously and obsessively courted, centrist voters are lacking obvious representation right now, particularly those on the centre left.

In the post-election opinion poll referred to above, 31% of the public thought that Labour was slightly left of centre or centre (exactly the same percentage that thought Labour was fairly leftwing or very leftwing), but 44% of the public thought that Labour should aim to be slightly left of centre or centre.  Among those who expressed an opinion, by a margin of nearly 2:1, the public thought that the next Labour leader should try to take the Labour party towards the centre politically rather than take it towards the left (more recent polling has been more equivocal on this last point, however).  There is nothing obvious in any of the polling that suggests that the public wants Labour to turn to the left.  Labour party members seem to believe that they know better.

That said, winning over these voters is not as simple as just plonking yourself as closely as possible to them.  At the last election the Conservatives gathered a greater share of the vote than it had managed since 1992, yet they were the furthest distant from the average member of the public of Labour, the Lib Dems and themselves.  The voters take many things into account other than how much they identify with policy.

This may sound like good news for a Labour party that is exiting stage left.  It is not.  In May, those other things led to the voters decisively preferring the Conservatives despite their greater ideological distance from the public in aggregate.  That decisive preference in favour of the Conservatives will get still stronger, all other things being equal, if Labour withdraw further from the bulk of the voters.

This time around, the other relevant considerations may well have included the quality of the main party leaders, economic credibility and the wish to have a stable government.  We may also have seen some voters deciding to stick with known quantities.

The relevant considerations in 2020 may be different.  Right now it seems entirely possible that all of those will continue to weigh heavily on voters’ minds.  Becoming more ideologically distant from the voters would only make Labour’s challenge harder.

The hopefuls

Nature abhors a vacuum.  Who is going to fill that gap?  The answer isn’t obvious.

The Lib Dems are ideologically close to the average voter.  They will hope to profit from any move to the fringes by Labour while being able to attack the Conservatives in government.  But the Lib Dems’ closeness to the public’s views did not result in the public giving them their support in May.  And the hammering they received will make it harder to get that support back where it counts.  Voters who are motivated by choosing a government will not linger over the possibility of voting for them, new leader and new direction notwithstanding.  The Lib Dems will only gain votes either by persuading voters that it is a costfree choice or by getting voters to conclude that both of the two main parties have drifted too far from the centre.  Even then, such voters might well just decide to abstain.

After their experiences of government, the Lib Dems may wish to pitch themselves as a party of opposition.  Indeed, they have already taunted Labour after the Welfare Bill fiasco with the tagline “Be part of the real Opposition”.  This may be effective at picking up protest votes (though there is heavy competition for these now) and the votes of those who live in safe constituencies.  Centrist voters in marginals who want to choose the next government will, however, be looking for something more constructive.

Can Labour offer them something more constructive?  If Labour move leftwards, they will need to persuade a sizeable section of voters – from opposition – that their more hardline critique is worthy of trust in government and they will need to do so without frightening a similar sized section of voters into the arms of the Conservative party.  Labour seem likely to embark on this strategy.  I don’t fancy their chances if they do.

A different strategy might have been to offer a broad tent based around themes that all strands of left and centrist opinion could rally under.  None of the three mainstream candidates for Labour leader have been able to articulate such themes and the opportunity is going begging.  It seems unlikely now that the Labour party will take that chance in the next few years.

If the Labour party is not going to appeal to centrist and centre-left voters, preferring to broadcast a hard left message, might a breakaway party take up the slack?  All things are possible but the prospect looks unlikely and past precedent is offputting.  Establishing a new national party needs a clear message, big names, organisation, nerve and luck.  Labour moderates do not seem to have any of these right now.  The SDP was stronger on almost all of these counts in the early 1980s and still it ultimately failed to break the mould.  Only two of the eight Lib Dem MPs were in the SDP.  They are outnumbered by Conservative MPs with an SDP past.

Speaking of which, can the Conservatives extend their advantage with centrist voters?  Unlike Labour, they certainly want to try.  The summer budget showed George Osborne gleefully trying on progressive clothes for size.

The Conservatives face a different problem, which is that they have long been seen as further from the centre than either Labour or the Lib Dems, as can be seen from the diagram above.  Changing longterm perceptions takes a lot of doing.  At a time when the government is undertaking extensive spending cuts, are they really going to be able to achieve this?  Also, this Parliament is going to be dominated by the referendum on EU membership.  It would be highly surprising if traditional Conservative rightwingers are not heard at great length in this process, undermining any Tory attempts to colonise the middle ground further.

So far as the Conservatives are concerned, in the short term the question is a bit of a red herring.  They don’t need centrist voters to identify with them.  They only need them to continue voting for them in preference to other parties.  Enough of these voters gave them their support on 7 May, however unenthusiastically.  They would settle for that in 2020 as well.

In the longer term, however, we are looking at an unstable political landscape where the voters must choose between parties with prospectuses that do not enthuse them and a party with a prospectus that they do not believe will stand a chance of being implemented.  This cannot last indefinitely.  Sooner or later, the gap will be filled.



ORB/Indy poll finds that 76% think that LAB less electable now than it was on May 7th

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

But does this poll really tell us anything?

An ORB poll for the Independent carried out over the weekend finds that 76% of those who had a view believe that LAB is less electable now than it was at the general election.

We’ve not yet seen the dataset or the precise question wording but the overall picture looks gloomy for the red team and sets out very clearly the challenge facing the new leader when he/she takes over the party on September 12th.

    Aren’t we just seeing what happens to most political parties less than three months after a devastating election defeat?

I can’t recall a similar post general election poll on a party that has lost power and is going through the process of finding a new leader.

How, for instance would the Tories have performed in a similar survey eleven weeks after their 1997 election defeat by Tony Blair’s new Labour or in the aftermath of GE2001 when IDS, Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo were slugging it out. In the latter the blue team ended up with the leader who was the most unelectable – something that was blindingly obvious to many inside and outside the party

Inevitably leadership contests highlight divisions because that’s their very nature and we know that voters are more reluctant to give their support to split parties.

The big question is how LAB will be seen when the new leader is in place.

Mike Smithson


Antifrank considers what the Blairites could do if Liz Kendall comes last

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Blair Faith

Go fourth and multiply

The Labour leadership election hasn’t gone according to the Blairites’ plan, to put it mildly.  Dan Jarvis declined to run and Chuka Umunna launched an in-and-out campaign that prefigured the performance of England’s top order in the last Test, leaving Liz Kendall as the sole standard bearer of the right of the Labour party in the contest.

She has chosen, probably unwisely, to drop some truth bombs on her electorate.  This has not gone down well.  Social media amplifies the voice of the left wing, which has freely characterised her as a Tory.  Many have suggested that with her views she ought to decamp to the Conservative party, often with an invitation of sex and travel thrown in.

For whatever reason, her campaign has not ignited.  Right now it seems probable that she will finish last: Paddy Power are quoting 1/6 on this and given the one published opinion poll has placed her a distant fourth, that price is hard to argue with.

Let’s assume that Liz Kendall indeed comes a poor fourth and that Jeremy Corbyn does well.  (Those assumptions are consistent with all the evidence we have, so we should plan on that basis).  How should the Blairites react to such a comprehensive rejection of everything they stand for?

They effectively have five choices.

1) Knuckle down quietly

The Blairites could accept office under a new leader taking a more leftwing direction, hoping to influence policy direction rightwards in whatever ways they can.  This is what most Blairites did under Ed Miliband, hoping by their loyalty to secure a more favourable candidate on the other side of the general election.  But far from deciding that the party had swung too far to the left, the membership appears to have concluded that the party was too right wing or was simply led too ineffectually.

Even before the leadership election is over, there is talk of a second leadership election in 2018 or even sooner.  Some Blairites will hold out for that hope.  There is no evidence at present that the party will then take a more Blairite view of the world at that point.  Nor, given the way in which British politics focuses on the party leader, is there much hope of dragging policy rightwards in any very significant way.

2) Sulk

The Blairites may feel that the new leadership direction is too leftwing for them and decline to serve in the shadow Cabinet, but remain quietly on the backbenches, occasionally giving coded speeches.    This would again be on the premise that at a later date the party would swing back in their direction.  As noted above, there is no particular reason to assume that this will happen any time soon.

3) Noisily oppose within the party

The Blairites may decide to fight, fight and fight again to save the party they love.  Tony Blair obviously thinks this would be the way forward.  In his conversation with Progress on 22 July, he said that ” ‘Unity’ does not work if you’re all together in the bus going over the edge of the cliff”.

If the Blairites are going to fight, they need to decide what victory looks like.  Right now, it’s not at all clear that they know the answer to that question.  It’s still less clear that they can win any battle that they pick.  They may do better fighting a guerrilla war, ambushing the leadership on specific topics where they can more easily command popular support.

This type of action would need sustained co-ordination among the Blairites.  To date they have not shown any organisational skills in opposition.  If this is their option, they need to caucus.

4) Leave the Labour party

If the Blairites decide to caucus, might they do so in a different party where their aims might be achieved more effectively?  That again begs the question what their aims are.  I identify the guiding thread of Blairites as the pursuit of power to implement social justice by pragmatic means and by building broader public confidence in the means of implementation.  Given the parlous state of the Lib Dems, they are not going to offer power any time soon.  The Conservatives do not focus on the plight of the poor to the extent that most Blairites believe necessary.

Might the Blairites found a new party?  Any defectors will be doing so without the blessing of Tony Blair, who has said that he would not leave the Labour party if Jeremy Corbyn wins, declaring himself Labour through and through.

The SDP was founded by a similar breakaway group, but the circumstances were more conducive to success.  Three of the four founding members of the SDP were more considerable than any of the current Blairites active in politics (the same is not true of the eminences grises, of course).  Secondly, the SDP was founded at a time when the Labour party were heading left and the Conservative party were heading right simultaneously.  Right now, the Conservatives at least are trying to look as if they are occupying the centre ground.  Nor have the current generation of Blairites exhibited organisational prowess.  And even in much more favourable circumstances, the SDP fizzled in seat numbers at the 1983 election.

The odds are firmly stacked against those seeking to found new parties and none of the current crop of Blairites looks to have the appetite for such a challenge.  While individual MPs may defect to other parties, I do not expect them to do so en masse.  In point of fact, I suspect that defections to the Lib Dems by disillusioned MPs not traditionally identified as Blairites are more likely.

5) Retire

Being a politician is not compulsory.  The Blairites aren’t obliged to keep staking out a position without wider support.  Many of them are young and ambitious.  If politics is not going to help them achieve their ambitions, they may choose to look at new opportunities in the private sector or in senior NGO positions.  Rather than do anything dramatic, they may simply fade away.

If they follow this course of action, the left of centre of British politics will hollow out.  Nature abhors a vacuum and the question will be whether their voters get co-opted by the Lib Dems or by the left of the Conservative party or whether the new left Labour can hang onto them.  None of those three options will look attractive to Blairites.

Which way will they jump?

All the options right now will look invidious to the Blairites.  On the most optimistic outlook, their star is going to be occulted for some years.  They are not a homogeneous group and they may well take different options.  But my best guess is that the greater portion of them will seek to oppose the new leadership from within.  If that is correct, the Labour party is going to look divided for some years to come.  Plan your long term betting accordingly.



Harriet: I’m a fan but you got it wrong

Friday, July 17th, 2015


A message for the acting LOTO from Don Brind

I was proud to have been a member of Team Harman that won the deputy leadership of the Labour Party for Harriet in 2007. I admire her as a consistent campaigner for radical causes, championing feminism, equality and diversity in and out of government. Her politics is rooted in London communities – in North West London where she was legal adviser to the Grunwick strikers in the 1970s and in South East London where she was elected as MP for Peckham in 1982.

She has been a long-standing advocate of family-friendly policies arguing that what works for families works for the country. She had considerable success in persuading three successive Labour leaders of the value of this insight.

So it was with some surprise and sadness that I watched last weekend as she took up a position that seemed to me at odds with her own values by backing George Osborne’s plan to limit child tax credit to the first two children and a lower cap on total household benefit.It’s hard to see how the losers can be anyone other than working families.

She is absolutely right and has wide support for her broad view that Labour should not automatically oppose everything the Tories bring forward was. On the face of it she was adopting the definition of leadership put forward by my old boss, the wise and wonderful BBC political editor John Cole. He said part of the duty a party leader was “to chip away at the prejudices of their followers.” That was obviously what Harriet thought she was doing.

But he Cole doctrine of involves patient argument and assembling allies. It quickly became apparent Harman was short of some key allies, notably the people who are hoping to take over from her on September 12th. And ironically a wrecking amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill has been tabled Helen Goodman, one of the stalwarts of the Harman deputy leadership campaign, has put down.

Underlying the row is a dilemma about how to tackle the tricks and traps of the Chancellor George Osborne. Labour blogger Mark Thompson gloomily observed that the Tories had been clear what they’d do about welfare and “we need to accept this is largely what the electorate want … that makes a lot of the electorate a bunch of selfish pricks but that’s where we are.”

Harman reportedly told Andy Burnham that the election defeat meant Labour had “lost the argument”. For the next Shadow Cabinet meeting Burnham might like to take along a printout of Fraser Nelson’s Spectator piece which argues “Miliband lost the election, but won the argument on the minimum wage with “Yes, Miliband failed to win the election. But he gave the Tories the fright of their life during the election campaign … credit where it’s due. Politics is about ideas as well as power. Those of us who derided Miliband for so many years really ought to accept that he has, on this totemic issue, won the Tories over on a very important argument.”

Osborne has clearly been enjoying himself over the past few days and his vanity will have been boosted by an extraordinary piece by the Mail’s Chris Deerin headed “Things are looking good for Gorgeous George Osborne, our next prime minister”. . Deerin recalled his own thoughts as he watched his hero deliver the Budget –“good cheekbones. And not just cheekbones. Sharp hair, clear skin and an impressively trim figure. Majority government seems to be agreeing with newly Gorgeous George.”

The piece, which nestles happily among the Mail Online menu of celebrities in varying states of emotional and physical exposure, has a serious point. With Osborne, argues Deerin, “principle regularly gives way to calculation. From inheritance tax thresholds to the National Living Wage, from the Northern Powerhouse to increased defence spending, he is focused on using the tools of office to hold and retain power.”

I should, perhaps, confess my own rather different reaction to watching Osborne. He brings to mind what the aforementioned John Cole once wrote about another Tory master spinner Kenneth Baker: “I’ve seen the future and it smirks.” I’m also a believer in the adage that there are two kinds of chancellors – failures and those who got out in time.

May 7th was far an emphatic endorsement of Osborne’s economic record. The Tories won despite his failures on the deficit anf living standards. And his talk of a long term economic plan was a “mirage” said as Labour’s Seema Malhotra during the Budget debate. “The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the Chancellor will miss his export target in 2020 by a massive £370 billion, ” she pointed out.

That point was amplified by the Times (£) which suggests that Osborne is quietly abandoning the export target which is key to rebalancing the economy from consumption towards trade.

Also in the Times Phil Webster notes that in far from cutting tax as he claimed, Osborne “will raise more than £47 billion in taxes through increases in things like the insurance premium tax, vehicle excise duty and dividend tax over the five years of a parliament. His backbenchers would not have known that as they cheered him to the rafters. It was only later that the figure became clear in the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts

And Osborne’s spin wasn’t a huge hit with voters according to Peter Kellner of YouGov. Surveys immediately after the Budget and a day later when people had had a chance to assess Budget’s implications “suggests that the praise for his political acumen may be premature” says Kellner.

There is a clear lesson for Labour. Don’t to be spooked by the Osborne hype. The approach needs to be forensic and measured but there is every hope that Osborne’s carefully crafted and presented package will unravel.

Labour suffered a serious defeat on May 7th and whoever takes over from Harriet Harman has a huge task in establishing the party’s economic credibility. The Tories will do all they can to make the Labour recovery more difficult by pushing through the boundary changes and curbs on union funding.

It would be a mistake, however, to see the 36.9% of the vote that gave the David Cameron his overall majority as a triumph for Tory values. In fact, the programme set out in Osborne’s Budget is probably best seen as an attempt to do it fix the rather toxic Tory “brand”, revealed by a plethora of pre-election polling by Lord Ashcroft and YouGov.

That polling suggested that the Labour “brand” was stronger – although, of course, the sales team proved to be much weaker.

The new leader will, a la John Cole, need to chip away at the party prejudices, that operation too needs to be careful and measured rather than dump and destroy. The object must be to enhance the Labour brand – and then to sell it more effectively than was done in the last election.

Don Brind


Keiran Pedley says Tessa Jowell looks set to become LAB’s candidate for London Mayor

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Those that read the Evening Standard will know that YouGov has a new poll out on which Labour hopeful would make the best candidate for London Mayor.

As we might expect, the Standard has run with the line ‘David Lammy leaps to second place in Labour’s mayoral candidate race’ but we should be careful when jumping to conclusions.

Once ‘don’t knows’ and ‘none of these’ are excluded, the sample size for this poll is just n=460. This is a perfectly reasonable sample size for a poll of this nature but it does lend itself to sharp fluctuations in poll ratings. For example, Dianne Abbott jumped seven points in April but then fell ten in this poll. Also, with Lammy and Kahn one point apart, margin of error comes into play too. Put simply, it is a good poll for Lammy but time will tell whether it is a genuine surge or not. After all, statistically speaking, it is not clear he is really second anyway.

So what should we make of this poll? Well, with 31% of Labour supporter’s undecided it’s still all to play for. That said, Tessa Jowell is clearly in a very strong position. No clear alternative candidate has emerged to challenge her and there are some very good numbers for her when we dig deeper into the data. She commands a 21 point lead amongst women overall and a 35 point lead amongst the over 60s (who we know will vote). She also actually performs proportionally better among Conservative voters than Labour suggesting that she possesses the ability to reach out to voters she will need to win back for Labour to take the Mayoralty from the Conservatives.

    If there is a crumb of comfort for her opponents, beyond the ‘don’t knows,’ it is that this poll merely looks at a cross-break of those voting Labour in 2015 rather than members specifically.

Given the apparent momentum in the Corbyn campaign for leader, perhaps one of these candidates can emerge as a genuine ‘leftist’ alternative to Jowell. However, unless one of Abbott, Khan or Lammy were to withdraw and support one of the others, it is hard to see her losing her front-runner status any time soon. Given Labour’s electoral system allows for the allocation of preferences and none of her three main opponents consistently lag behind in fourth place, it is not clear why any of them would drop out and what they would gain by doing so.

So, for now, this race is very much Tessa Jowell’s to lose. Labour really needs to win an election soon and perhaps she is its best chance for the time being.

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


Labour need not only a decent leader they also need a decent strategist to help the new leader

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Video: Michael Fallon warning Ed Miliband will stab UK in the back just as he did to his brother David.

It can be argued that the next Labour leader has the hardest task any Labour leader faces since Arthur Henderson. Labour are vulnerable on their left flank, from a Farron led Lib Dem party who will be more attractive to Labour supporters than Nick Clegg. They will also have to deal with the Greens and the SNP on their left. They also have UKIP to contend with on their right flank.

But most crucially Labour have to face a Tory party intent on parking its tanks on the centre ground, as further evidenced by George Obsorne’s announcement this week on the living wage. Coming up with policies that appeals to all those groups without annoying any of those groups will also be a challenge.

The new Labour leader also has to contend with how to deal with the previous Labour government’s economic legacy, an issue that proved so damaging for Labour at the last election. Given past trends, Labour are unlikely to win a majority in 2020, but they could be in a position to  form a government in 2020 with SNP support. So the other major issue that they will have to deal with is how to make a Lab/SNP coalition in 2020 appealing to voters in England.

Labour would be making a strategic mistake if they ignored these issues, and hoped that things can only get better for them if the government screws up. If the new Labour leader thinks they don’t have the ability to deal with these strategic issues, then they should bring in someone who can deal with these issues.

There’s only one person who seems egregiously qualified for such a task, that’s Lord Mandelson. He has the track record, he helped Tony Blair with his first two election victories, he also put the party first, by burying the hatchet with Gordon Brown, and helping Gordon Brown’s government. There are those who say, that Mandelson’s approach in the run up to the 2010 election, helped deny the Tories a majority.

It should also help the new Labour leader negate the inevitable deeply personal attacks on them that will come, the Tories weren’t afraid to say from the very start of Ed’s leadership that Ed Miliband was the guy who stabbed his brother in the back, which as in the video at the top of the thread, was amped up during the election campaign, to say you can’t trust him to run the country because he stabbed his brother in the back.

You can see how the Tories might use the events at Stafford Hospital or Yvette Cooper’s past health problems or who her husband is to attack the leadership of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper in the same way they managed to damage Ed Miliband’s leadership from the the very start by not making him look credible or competent, because in the world of politics, sometimes perceptions matter more than the facts.

The most interesting thing I read this week was James Morris, Ed Miliband’s pollster saying, “no point analysing [general election] campaigns as they don’t really matter. The die is cast earlier in the electoral cycle.” Which means the new Leader cannot afford to let the Tories define who he or she is, as Ed Miliband found out to his cost.

Whilst David Cameron will not be fighting the next election, the architects of the Tory majority, George Osborne (in one capacity or another), Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina should all still be there in 2020. Like the advice Eliot Ness was given to defeat Al Capone. They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. Bringing back Mandelson would be the metaphorical gun to the Tory knives.


PS – My bit of a free advice to the Labour party on how to put a positive spin on a potential Lab/SNP coalition at Westminster. Point out that the Tories had an unofficial alliance with the minority SNP government at Holyrood between 2007 and 2011, if the SNP in government is so terrible and evil, why did the Tories inflict it on Scotland for four years?


Pleased to meet you: the Labour intake of 2015

Friday, July 10th, 2015


Antifrank looks at the Labour intake of 2015

The election in May was a huge disappointment for Labour, going backwards rather than forwards.  Despite losing seats, however, over one fifth of the Labour MPs elected in May were not in the House of Commons in the last Parliament.  That is a big chunk of the Parliamentary party and the new MPs will have a big influence over the party’s future direction.  Who are these new MPs, what do they believe and who should we watch out for?

I’ve had a trawl and compiled the following table:

This is harder to compile than you might expect.  Some of the new intake have not advertised everything about their past (for example, Harry Harpham is happy to advertise that he was a striking miner in the 1980s but it took more investigation to find out that he has more recently worked as an assistant to David Blunkett).  Some have defeated me: all I have found out about Ruth Cadbury’s past career so far is that she was a local councillor.  Some have so far betrayed none of their detailed political thoughts, either being publicly on-message at all times or simply not saying much at all.  No doubt we will learn more in the coming months and years.

As you can see, the new intake includes some intriguing MPs.  One, Keir Starmer, was lobbied to stand for the Labour leadership even before he’d taken his seat.  One, Nick Thomas-Symonds, is a well-reviewed biographer.  Two are close relatives of foreign Prime Ministers past and present.  But what themes can we identify?

First, there are a lot of new MPs with past experience of national politics, either as special advisers or as parliamentary assistants to MPs.  Even leaving aside the three MPs who are returning to the Commons, at least 12 of the new MPs have held a role of that type (I suspect the number is higher because quite a few of these MPs are strangely reticent about such pasts and my digging may not have uncovered them all). The public and third sector is well-represented: 11 are former union officers, five worked in health or social care and ten have worked in charities or NGOs.  As usual, the lawyers are thick on the ground: eight in total.  (Of course, some MPs have held more than one job so they may feature in more than one of these totals.)

By way of contrast, few have much private sector experience.  Even taking a broad view of what constitutes “private sector”, only four of the new MPs have substantial experience in this area.  This looks like a serious gap in experience on the Labour backbenches and is likely to prove an indicator of the priorities of the new intake.

What of their views?  One great advantage of a leadership election is that it forces the new MPs to nail their colours to the mast at an early stage, even if they are naturally taciturn or avoid internal party debate.  And the first thing to note is that only three out of 53 new MPs chose to back Liz Kendall.  There aren’t many Blairites in the new crop.  Reinforcing the point, 11 chose to nominate Jeremy Corbyn, and while at least four of them apparently did so out of a wish to give party members a choice rather than ideological sympathy, more have made enough public statements to put their firm left credentials beyond dispute.

Since the election, new MPs have had three opportunities to show off their leftwing credentials.  Immediately after the election, ten new MPs called for a leader to set out an alternative to austerity:

At the end of May, many more Labour MPs wrote to defend the union link with Labour:

This was as much about internal Labour party politics as a wider defence:

“Shamefully, there are many in our own party who see the aims of the unions as alien to their own and hurl around the lexicon of our enemies willy-nilly. The phrases trade union ‘barons’, union ‘bullying’ or ‘sabotage’ should have no place in the vocabulary of Labour politicians. Perhaps some of those from the nouveaux wing of the Party should read their history and understand that the unions created the Labour Party and not the other way around.”

At the end of last month, an open letter was sent to the Observer calling for debt cancellation for Greece and an end to the enforcing of austerity policies.  It included 25 MPs among the signatories:

Any signatory of any of these letters (especially the first and the last of these three) can be taken to be on the left of the Labour party.  16 of the new intake signed one or more of these letters.  Seven signed all three.

Fewer of the new intake have come out decisively on the Blairite side.  Wes Streeting has commented that “Never again can the Labour party go into a general election with negative ratings on leadership and economic credibility.”  Rob Marris has said that Labour overspent when in government.  Peter Kyle has agreed with Tristram Hunt that Labour needs a fundamental rethink before putting a fresh offer to voters.  Jo Cox has said: ” We must go out of our way to regain trust on the economy; talking about how much we love the NHS isn’t enough”.  But otherwise MPs have either taken a mainstream line or kept their powder dry.  If the new leader is going to move the party to a new economic position, he or she will be leading the new intake rather than catching up with them.

Which of these MPs are worth looking out for?  It’s early days yet, of course.  Keir Starmer looks likely to be a considerable asset for Labour straight away.  Angela Rayner is a rare example of an MP who started at the bottom as a care worker and worked her way up: she looks capable.  Tulip Siddiq seems to have panache, managing to discomfit Boris Johnson on the campaign trail.  Helen Hayes has an unusual background for an MP as an architect and town planner and she seems to be very much her own woman.  Peter Kyle’s views will be much in demand as the man who was able to take a Conservative seat in the south of England.  Naz Shah’s life experiences will command respect.

Not all of the new MPs inspire immediate excitement: we have been given a heavy sprinkling of council functionaries who so far seem to have more skill at working party machines than to offer inspirational leadership.  But they may yet surprise.  Some look likely to provide entertainment value. Marie Rimmer is awaiting trial next month for assault following an incident in the Scottish independence referendum.

Taken as a whole, this looks like a talented intake and many of them are already finding their voices.  There is an undeniable leftward lean to the intake and a relatively narrow set of backgrounds.  With very few exceptions these new MPs lack experience in the private sector and interest in the getting rather than the spending aspects of politics.  The challenge they face is the same one that the Labour party as a whole faces – addressing the concerns of a much wider cross-section of society than the party as a whole managed in May.



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.