Archive for the 'Labour' Category


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


LAB’s just reignited pensions as a battleground

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

David Herdson says the tuition fees funding proposals could be skating on thin ice

Elections are won on perceptions as much as realities: competence, trustworthiness, whether a person or party is ‘on my side’, and so on. It’s therefore brave of Labour to propose funding a cut in university tuition fees from taxes raised on pensions. In doing so, the unintended consequence of opening up a policy front on what ought to be a relatively strong policy subject for them may be to divert it instead to a much weaker one.

Labour’s record in government on pensions was not a happy one. Part of this was accident – longer life expectancy and lower yield rates were largely generational or global events – but part was not: Gordon Brown’s raid on pension funds in his first two Budgets. That act did not of itself kill off final salary pensions but it did accelerate the trend. As a result of the declining returns, many middle-class voters have lost out. For Labour to revisit pensions as a tax source invites comparisons with 1997/8, particularly given Ed Balls’ positions then and now, and also given the propensity of the Middle class and middle aged to vote.

Where the Tories and Lib Dems can attack – beyond basic economic trustworthiness – is on the reduction in the size of an individual’s maximum overall tax-free fund to £1m. Obviously it would be a mistake to go on that specific: £1m sounds like a lot to ordinary people and the technicalities of having to explain why it’s not will turn most voters off. In fact, it would affect many workers on comfortable but not massive incomes such as many public sector workers paying higher rate tax. “Does Labour plan to raid your pension again?” could be a potent slogan.

For the time being, it doesn’t matter; there’s enough mileage for the government in the fees story itself what with richer former students benefitting most from Miliband’s message. Labour may dispute that and will in any case be keen to remind voters of the Lib Dems’ perfidy on the subject, though it may be optimistic of Labour to expect an exemption from the voters in respect of politicians’ pledges when so many voters see the main parties as ‘all the same’.

What’s also worth asking is whether the fees policy will actually change votes. We know a huge number of voters switched from Lib Dem to Lab in 2010 and we also know that virtually none have gone back, so who is the policy aimed at? Not those who’ve gone on to UKIP presumably given the small numbers there in the 18-25 age group. likewise, not those who’ve gone SNP given the different arrangements in Scotland. Lab-Green switchers is possible but trying to outflank the Greens on tax and spend is like the Tories trying to outflank UKIP on immigration (though perhaps not the best time to mention that topic).

Which is why the unintended consequences of the policy could be far more significant than the effects of the proposal itself.

David Herdson


Who Will Deliver The First Budget After The May 2015 General Election?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

The Sunday Times are reporting (££) that

Ed Miliband has been urged to demote Ed Balls after the general election, amid simmering tensions in the Labour leadership over how to pay for a cut in university tuition fees.

A shadow cabinet member said if Miliband becomes prime minister he should move the shadow chancellor and accused Balls of behaving with “contempt” towards colleagues and “undermining the leader’s agenda”.

Frontbenchers attacked Balls last night for committing Labour’s two worst gaffes of the election campaign so far.

They said his reputation as a “safe pair of hands” had been shattered when he failed to name a single Labour business backer and told voters they should get a receipt for work done cash in hand, both of which attracted ridicule.

The tensions between the two Eds have been long known, so this isn’t a new thing.

The Sunday Times notes

There is a belief among Miliband’s allies that much of what Balls does is calculated to be of maximum benefit not to the Labour party but to his wife, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary. She is among the favourites to succeed Miliband if he fails to win in May.

Some think Miliband should remove Balls from the Treasury if he wins. A shadow minister said: “Ed M will be in a strong position because he will have won when some people have written him off. He’ll be in a position to get rid of people who have not been loyal.”

On current polling, Labour will be the largest party in May, which should theoretically allow them to form the next government and provide the Chancellor of the Exchequer after the  election, at the time of writing, William Hill had a market up on Who Will Deliver The First Budget After The May 2015 General Election?

On the basis of this story some might wish to back Chuka Ummuna and Rachel Reeves at 7/1 and 14/1 respectively, it is a shame that Andy Burnham isn’t quoted. But if you think Ed Miliband will follow Lyndon Baines Johnson maxim on dealing with difficult colleagues Ed Balls is 11/8.



Henry G Manson says that in past fortnight we’ve seen a different EdM with an effective gameplan

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Why he’s becoming like tennis player Lleyton Hewitt at his prime

It’s easy to look at British politics as though it were boxing. Journalists will often speak of whether there were any ‘knock out blows’ in Prime Minister’s. Instead I look at the it through the prism of sport I love, which PB old hands know is tennis. Of course there are some key points in a set but overall it’s a rhythmic battle in which small margins can give a player a big advantage if sustained long enough.

Every player has a weakness and the more you bring that out over the course of a match the more likely you are to win. Right now Ed Miliband looks like he has a new coach and has identified a form of play that has linked his opponent’s weaknesses into his strength. Ed Miliband is beginning to play like Lleyton Hewitt approaching his prime.

Fourteen years ago Hewitt was the best counter-puncher around. He didn’t have a big serve, or big forehand or backhand. Despite this for several years he took the booming ground-shots and serves of opponents and steered them back with interest.

Hewitt would look like he shouldn’t have any chance but developed a knack of dissembling his supposedly superior opponents’ game and ensure the ball landed at the most awkward point. As with Ed, it took a while for the tennis commentators to understand how the Aussie could and did win.

This last two weeks has seen a different Ed Miliband on court and there’s every sign he’s got an effective gameplan at his disposal at the time that matters most. Like Hewitt, Miliband has turned huge crunching groundshots against him into winning returns his opponent isn’t used to seeing fly back past the net.

    The response to the orchestrated attack through Boots boss Stefano Pessina and other big businesses close to the Tory party is the most significant political event of the election campaign.

    Over two weeks Ed Miliband and Labour have turned an assault on his business credibility into a issues of tax fairness which voters can identify with.

He’s drawn on the HSBC revelations and steered it onto the arrangements of Conservative donors. As a result it is now David Cameron and his party that is now stretching and is badly off balance.

After PMQs David Cameron was overheard complaining of Miliband’s “horrid” line of attack. In a revealing remark he said that it was only because Ed Miliband was losing. But that’s the point, if you aren’t winning in tennis you change your game.

The Ed Miliband I see right now is different to the leader at the time of the Murdoch crisis. He’s scrapping, harrying and resilient and he shows signs of having read and sussed his opponent’s plays. In the next few months the attacks will keep on raining down on him, but the signs are this is precisely what he needs to capture public support.

Like Hewitt, Ed cannot easily generate huge shots on his own. We’ve seen several listless years in opposition broken only by a challenge to energy companies. Ed needs his opponents to inject the pace for him to get his winning returns. If he can continue to do this under his new coaching team then he will likely become Prime Minister in May. How his counter-punching style will work in Downing Street against a different leader Tory remains to be seen. But for now, Ed has more earned himself a trademark Hewitt scream of ‘C’mon!’

Henry G Manson


Henry G Manson’s 33-1 Sadiq for Mayor tip is looking better and better

Friday, January 30th, 2015

You can still get 4/1 on him for the nomination

Back in March 2013 Henry G Manson tipped Sadiq Khan to be next London Mayor when the price was 33/1. Henry’s record on Labour matters is usually pretty good and I was amongst many who got on at that price.

Henry’s reasoning was that Khan had, at the time, just been made Labour’s shadow minister or London – a role that would allow him real links with all parts of the party in the capital and a platform to build up his profile.

In last May’s elections Labour’s biggest success was in London and Khan got much of the credit.

Until now Sadiq hasn’t really registered in the regular Evening Standard YouGov London polls but that has now changed with the latest survey. He’s made a big jump as the favoured candidate of London party supporters and now stands just 7% behind Tessa Jowell who probably enjoys greater name recognition. Coverage like that in the latest Standard is going to further Khan’s position.

You can get 4/1 from William Hill on him winning the party nomination and 6/1 as next Mayor. The latter looks particularly tasty.

Once again well done Henry for his advice.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


First Scottish GE2015 poll of the year finds LAB closing the gap behind the SNP to just 10%

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

The worst poll for the SNP for more than 3 months

This morning we have what is undoubtedly the most important poll so far of this general election year – a new survey by Panelbase of Scottish voting intentions which has the Scottish LAB party in its best position since just after September’s IndyRef.

As can be seen in the Wiki list of Scotland only polls LAB is on 31% and the SNP on 41%. The last time Panelbase reported the gap was 17%. SNP hopes of holding the balance of power at Westminster could be a bit less likely.

    What makes Scotland so important is that at the last general election LAB took 41 of the 59 Westminster seats north of the border and some polls last year pointed to them losing 30+ of them even down to just 3 or 4

On some projections the Panelbase numbers point to LAB retaining half. Clearly any Scottish losses by LAB would have to be offset by more gains in England and Wales

What we have not had but are likely to see very soon are some Scottish single constituency polls. Lord Ashcroft Tweeted a few days ago that these were “in the field” and hopefully it won’t be too long before the findings become available.

National polls like this from Panelbase are one thing but single seat surveys can show what could be hugely important – incumbency and tactical voting element in individual seats.

If Panelbase is supported by other surveys then it is big news for LAB. This has almost no impact on the main CON-LAB battleground although projections from today’s numbers could point to the Tories doubling their total of Scottish MPs from one to two.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


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

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Labour could win a different way in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry G Manson


Jim Murphy wins Scottish Labour leadership election with 56% of votes on first round

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

I like the way in his first Tweet Murphy has shaped the battle with the SNP – is the prize a fairer Scotland or Independence. It’s a powerful message but he and his party are a long way behind.

Given the polling there’s a huge burden on his shoulders and Labour must be hoping that he can turn the situation round. Every seat that Scottish LAB can claw back reduces the target for the party in England and Wales.

Let’s hope there is some new post-Murphy election Scottish polling.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble