Archive for the 'Labour' Category


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


The disintegrating establishment

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016


In 2010, Britain was being wrestled over by two parties competing to portray themselves to the public as the natural party of government.  In his first conference speech, David Cameron returned repeatedly to the theme of “substance”.  He told his party:

“Real substance is about taking time to think things through, not trotting out easy answers that people might want to hear.  It’s about sticking to your guns.  It’s about character, judgement, and consistency.  It’s about policy, yes.  But it’s about getting it right for the long term.”

Two years later, Gordon Brown regained initiative telling his own party at their conference that it was no time for a novice.  Both parties were appealing to the voters’ innate caution, to the importance of politicians as steady, moderate and above all competent.

British politics has changed completely.  The establishment is under attack as never before, from insurgents on the left and right simultaneously.  

The Labour party has been taken over by a faction that has demonstrated no interest in appealing to competence or caution.  In his opening conference speech, Jeremy Corbyn made a virtue of not wanting to impose leadership lines at all times and of expecting real debate not message discipline at all times, of wishing to carry on being an individual activist.  He has been true to his word on all counts.  Blairites are as appalled by the style as by the substance of what he says.

Meanwhile, the insurgent right is currently consumed by the referendum on EU membership.  Without even a pretence of coherence, they campaign on running away from the complexities of multilateral engagement, variously on immigration, regulation, security concerns or whatever else flits across their minds (how leaving the EU is actually going to help on any of these fronts remains largely unexplored).  Their figureheads, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, campaign on charisma rather than competence.

With the Labour right in longterm internal exile and the Lib Dems obliterated, the sole repository of the flame of good administration at present is the current Cabinet.  Can they withstand the onslaught of the crazies?  You would think that offering competence in government as a USP would be a great vote-winner but everyone else seems to be having too much fun being irresponsible to make adult behaviour look enjoyable.

The wise commentators tell us that the public will be sensible in the votes that really matter.  Perhaps.  But isn’t democracy about giving the public a choice?  If in the foreseeable future there is space for only one responsible party, that doesn’t give much ideological choice for those who value good government.

And sooner or later, a solitary party of good administration will be defeated (probably by its own complacency, lack of direction or flatfootedness).  By default, if there is only one such party, the new government will not be anywhere near as interested in good administration.  It will be about then that the public would find out the virtues of dull competence.

Alastair Meeks


Assessing the mood amongst Labour pragmatists

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016


Ex-MP Nick Palmer on a non-Corbynite Labour focus group

For friendship and nostalgia, I had a dinner last week with 14 veteran campaigners who have mostly been with me in every campaign since 1997. Coincidentally or not, I think I was the only one at the table who had voted for Jeremy Corbyn. The others are pragmatic Labour campaigners who fight every election to win, and turned a safe Tory seat in 1992 (16% margin) into a perpetual marginal. They’d voted for the other three, and are probably a fair focus group for Middle England pragmatic Labour activists.

Some impressions may be of wider interest:

  • The group was generally pessimistic about the short-term outlook: an election tomorrow would be lost. Nobody disliked Corbyn personally, but they didn’t feel he was cutting through with voters at this point.
  • Membership was up hugely as elsewhere, with some of the influx active and some not – “much the same as usual with new members”. One veteran councillor said he discouraged new members from coming to branch meetings as their first activity – “My boring people to death talking about planning decisions and Section 106 agreements is no way to get them involved”.
  • Several had been nervous that the ascendancy of the Left would lead to purges of officers and other in the local party, and were cautiously pleased that the influx was proving tolerant. McDonnell had given a speech to Nottingham Momentum the previous week urging a broad-church approach.
  • Not least because of that, but also because of perceived good performances on Question Time and the coherent-sounding economic strategy, they were cautiously warming to McDonnell. Pragmatists as ever, they wanted a leadership that would win without splitting the party, and felt he was making progress. The past comments on the IRA were shrugged off – “every veteran has said a few odd things”.
  • The idea of a PLP move to force a fresh election without Corbyn on the ballot was seen as a coup and a recipe for civil war, and I had the strong impression that they would mostly support the Left in opposing it. “The PLP needs to let things take their course”, said one. “Either Corbyn will break through or he’ll move on and someone else will, but people who split the party won’t be forgiven.”

What struck me was that pragmatism isn’t quite the same as centrism. The group wanted to find a way forward with a potential win in 2020. I wouldn’t overstate the cautious interest in McDonnell, but the immediate relevance is really point 5. They didn’t favour any sort of split, and didn’t feel winning necessarily had to be led from the centre-right. Punters and plotters alike may think this relevant.

In 2004 Nick Palmer became the first sitting MP of any party to post publicly on PB. He’s been a regular contributor ever since




Why Labour has its concerns about the Tory turmoil

Monday, March 21st, 2016


Donald Brind says a big REMAIN victory remains the objective

They do things different in Battersea. The local Labour party invited along the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn for a fundraising fish and chip supper to launch the formal start of the London election campaign. Then they promptly turned the lights out.

The environmentally savvy Battersea Labourites were taking part in Earth Hour a an international initiative that encourages “individuals, communities households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet”. The hour fell right in the middle of the fundraiser

Benn happily performed and received what he said was his first ever candlelit standing ovation.

Benn is spearheading the Labour Remain campaign along with Alan Johnson and he provided an eloquent statement of the case for membership for EU membership. As well as talking about jobs and living standards he recalled visits to the war graves in northern France. He made passing reference to Iain Duncan Smith, toasting the former Work and Pensions Secretary’s friendly fire on Tory economic policies, which will provide material for thousands of Labour leaflets and press releases.

The following day Benn’s colleague, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Radio Five and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham on Sky sought to switch the focus to the Chancellor George Osborne. McDonnell called for him to “scrap the budget and start again” and Burnham said “It is the Chancellor who should be considering his position today” – code for resignation.

    Labour expected the referendum to cause trouble for the Tories but they can hardly believe their luck at how much damage has been done so quickly – even if there is caution over the first poll lead since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

At first glance it might be expected that Labour would want the Tory turmoil to continue as long as possible – up to and beyond the referendum date. That might mean the perfect result for Labour would be a narrow victory for Remain, guaranteeing months, if not years, of Tory strife.

Hilary Benn’s Battersea speech dispelled such calculations. It was clear that he believes the largest possible margin for Remain is profoundly in the national interest.

Most Labour MPs won’t share platforms with the Tory Remain campaigners – to do so would be counterproductive in winning over Labour supporters and getting them to turn out and vote. But they are on the same side of the argument as Cameron and his Cabinet allies. There is dismay at the impact of the Budget fiasco on credibility of the Tory Remain campaign.

Osborne is damaged goods. There may have been an element of ritual about the call for his resignation. But that will become a more urgent demand if he continues to be a liability to the campaign for continued EU membership.

So Cameron’s role will be more crucial than ever and he will need even greater support for Labour than he envisaged. The is both a challenge and an opportunity for Labour. It is in the party and the country’s interest that Benn et all don’t fluff it.



The blue on blue fight is making the EURef seem like an all-CON affair and that could impact on turnout

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Why we should stay in Europe according to Alan Johnson  Labour    BBC News   YouTube

Donald Brind on the turnout worries within the Labour IN Campaign

Senior women in the Labour party are becoming increasingly concerned that the EU referendum could be lost because women stay away from the polls on June 23rd.

They see a campaign dominated by male voices and polluted by noise from the increasingly vicious Blue on Blue attacks. Labour pro-Europeans fear the arcane battle within the Tory tribe will depress interest in the campaign among Labour voters and especially among women and young people.

There is a two to one majority among Labour voters in favour of Remain, according to YouGov but this only count if Labour voters are sufficiently enthused to actually turn out to vote.

The two key figures in the Labour campaign to stay in Alan Johnson and shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn are regarded as doing a good job. And the party leader Jeremy Corbyn struck a positive note when he entertained delegates from the Party of European Socialists in London last week. As on many issues the Corbyn world view harks back to late 70s and 80s but when anti-Common Marketeers dominated the party and pro Europeans defected to create the SDP. His flirtation with Brexit is, it seems, over.

Labour became the pro-Europe party in 1988 charmed by the fraternal embrace of Jacques Delors, then President of the European Commission. His speech to the TUC in Bournemouth was rewarded with a standing ovation and the singing of “Frere Jacques”.

As the French Socialist observed “Nobody falls in love with a Common Market”. The Labour movement in Thatcherite Britain liked what they heard about his plans for a Social Europe in which “the internal market should be designed to benefit each and every citizen of the Community.” This would involve improvements to “workers’ living and working conditions, and to provide better protection for their health and safety at work.”

The battle lines today are remarkably similar to the formations established in the late eighties. 

For instance, watch Nicola Smith of the TUC arguing against Tory Jacob Rees Mogg on Channel Four News that Brexit would at risk put workers rights like paid holiday, parental leave, health and safety and equal treatment for part-time workers that are guaranteed by the EU. Mogg barely tried to rebut he charge arguing instead that it was more democratic for these issues to be decided at Westminster. Except, of course, Jacob, your Tory majority is based on support from fewer than one in four of the electorate. Yet you are pushing through the deeply partisan Trade Union Bill. Trade unionists would rather take their chances with Brussels even if the high hopes generated by Delors in Bournemouth weren’t fully realised.

Delors’ appeal was reinforced by the fact that he was the latest on the Tory Prime Minister’s list of enemies, even if not quite on a par with General Galtieri of Argentina or Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers. Less than a fortnight after the TUC she repudiated the Delors approach in her speech at the College of Europe in Bruges: “Let me say bluntly on behalf of Britain: we have not embarked on the business of throwing back the frontiers of the state at home, only to see a European super-state getting ready to exercise a new dominance from Brussels.”

Since her words have biblical value for many in the Tory party it’s worth recalling another line from the Bruges speech.

Margaret Thatcher declared: “Britain does not dream of an alternative to a European Community or of a cosy, isolated existence on its fringes. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community”.
Very helpful for David Cameron and his Tory allies in the Remain camp.

Donald Brind