Archive for the 'Labour' Category


This will go down as one of the classic Andrew Neil interviews

Thursday, September 29th, 2016


Voters old enough to remember WW2 the least likely to be attracted by Mr. Corbyn and his party

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Findings from the latest ICM and ComRes polls


Joff Wild says the key to a Labour moderate fightback is understanding the Corbyn tribes

Sunday, September 25th, 2016


Just because you know something bad is going to happen does not make it less painful when it does. Since the day that the Labour leadership contest was announced I had been pretty sure that Jeremy Corbyn would win again. I knew with absolute certainty that it would be so one Sunday in late August when I went – nervous, but excited – to an Owen Smith phone bank in the upstairs room of a pub around the corner from my house in Leamington, only to find that no-one else had turned up. So, yesterday was no surprise; but it still hurt like hell.

For Labour moderates like me, the question now becomes what happens next. Some have already made their decision – Twitter is full of pictures of torn up membership cards and the hashtag #LeavingLabour. But while I understand such sentiments, I am not ready for that yet.

I may be hopelessly naïve, but I still think there is a chance to pull the party back from the precipice. I hold onto the fact that among long-standing members – the ones that go to all the meetings and vote in all the internal elections – Owen Smith was a clear winner, as he was among those in the 18-24 age bracket. I tell myself that with 194,000 paid members, the Anti-Corbyn Labour Party is now the second biggest political party in the UK. This excellent blog by Nora Mulready pretty much sums up where I am – now is not the time to give up.

I think there are a few practical reasons for hope. Most significant in the short and medium term is that Corbyn and the hard left do not have control of the NEC. Without that it is very difficult to change the party’s rules on issues such as reselecting MPs and how to nominate leadership candidates, or to get rid of Labour staffers like general secretary Iain McNichol. If, as expected, this week’s conference votes to give specific representation to the Scottish and Welsh front benches then the non-Corbyn bloc on the NEC looks like being in a majority for the foreseeable future (and if that does happen, the oft-criticised Kezia Dugdale deserves the lasting thanks of every single person who wants an electable Labour party).

Corbyn’s big NEC problem is that it is divided into different blocs: MPs, the shadow cabinet, the unions, constituency Labour parties, councillors and others all have guaranteed places. The NEC is not elected on one member one vote – the method Corbyn would dearly love to introduce – and that is highly unlikely to change. The unions, for one, would not stand for it.

Then there is Corbyn himself. Yesterday morning, the newly-elected leader was preaching unity, by the evening it was clear he wanted to overturn the NEC vote on Welsh and Scottish representation, while continuing to stall on shadow cabinet elections. Today on the Andrew Marr show he again refused to rule out mandatory reselection of MPs, while being far from furious about the boundary review. These are not the acts of someone looking to bring the party together.

It is also clear that whatever does finally happen with the shadow cabinet, Corbyn is not capable of leading it effectively. Too many on-the-record stories from too many ex-shadow cabinet members (mostly women) speak of the same thing: someone who lives in a bunker, is not collegiate, does not consult and does not abide by majority decisions. That will not change. Neither will Corbyn’s lack of interest in issues that matter greatly to most Labour members, such as Brexit and the new constituency boundaries.

What the leadership campaign exposed was someone who is inflexible in his views, uninterested in engaging with anyone who does not agree with him and who is more concerned with building a social movement than winning power. Those who voted for Corbyn saw this as much as those who did not; which brings me to the Corbyn tribes.

It is common currency to view those who voted to re-elect Corbyn as one bloc of like-minded people. I have been as guilty as anyone; but it is wrong and it is lazy to see things in that way. Instead, Corbyn got backing from different kinds of Labour supporter and it is only when moderates understand this, and absorb it, that they will have a chance. There are, in fact, at least five types of person who voted for Corbyn:

  • The Trots – these are the entryists, the people from the SWP, the Socialist party and other far left fringe groups who see Corbyn as their way into the mainstream. Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Momentum leadership are probably closest to this group than any other, which is what makes it so significant and dangerous – but it is small. The vast majority of Labour members, new or old, are not Trotskyists.
  • The implacable lefties – not Trots, democratic socialists who see the Blair/Brown years largely as a betrayal of what they think Labour should stand for and who feel that they have their Labour party back with Jeremy Corbyn. They see Corbyn’s weaknesses and they are worried by them, but when push comes to shove they will always support him. To do otherwise would be to risk returning Labour to the “Blairites”; and that would be worse than the Tories winning the next general election. This is the Owen Jones camp.
  • The lefties – they do not subscribe to the idea that the 1997-2010 government was to all intents and purposes a Tory one. Instead, they believe that Blair and Brown did some good things; but could and should have achieved much more. They regard Corbyn as a means of ensuring that Labour becomes more left-wing in outlook and less managerial. They also understand Corbyn has many flaws, but for now (key phrase) are prepared to overlook them because they do not see a more electable alternative. I’d say PB’s Nick Palmer belongs to this camp.
  • The angry – there is a fair bit of overlap here between these folk and the lefties. They are furious that the PLP precipitated “a coup” just at a time when, they believe, Labour could have had the Tories on the ropes. Whatever they think about Corbyn, there was no way on earth they were going to allow the PLP to ride roughshod over the mandate that members had given him in 2015.
  • The anti-Smiths – for me, the leadership election was about whether Labour is primarily a party that seeks to gain power through Parliament or is, instead, a social movement. That’s why I voted for Owen Smith, even though he is to the left of me and clearly was not a great candidate. Others, though, saw the contest in terms of who had the best policies for beating the Tories. Some of those are not lefties or angry, but just did not rate Smith as a candidate – so they voted for Corbyn.

The above is crude and if I had more words to play with I would go into more detail and probably break things down further, but you get the picture: the 314,000 votes Corbyn got were not all from the same kind of people. There is no way on God’s earth that the first two categories are redeemable; the following three are: they want a Labour government above all else and will do whatever they can to secure one.

My contention is that over the coming years Corbyn’s words and deeds will alienate more and more of his supporters: this is a man who cannot unite, cannot lead, cannot collaborate and cannot engage with non-believers. Labour will continue to languish in the polls under Corbyn and will continue to do badly in real elections; his personal ratings are unlikely to improve all that much. This will all be happening as the government – mediocre and unloved – continues to flounder over Brexit and panders to the Tory right over issues such as grammar schools. That will concentrate a lot of Labour minds – especially in the unions. But it will not be enough.

Moderates cannot just wait for Corbyn to fail. They also have to reach out, to think through what it is that they want and to develop policy platforms that can win broad support. Corbyn is in place because Labour moderates failed to make their case, because they were too timid, because they took the Labour membership for granted. Managerialism really isn’t the answer; policy and projection are. So, now is not the time to be planning the next leadership contest. Instead, we need to be working to develop a coherent, left of centre vision that reflects the realities of Brexit Britain. It is only when we have done this and stopped seeing the Labour membership as our enemies that we will deserve to succeed.

Joff Wild



Just how strong is Momentum? Don Brind takes a sceptical look at the numbers

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016


Perceptions about its size could be greater than the reality

I’m only a few years younger than Neil Kinnock so when he tells John Pienaar on Panorama he fears that he may never see another Labour government in his lifetime it’s an “ouch” moment for me.

I regularly go in to bat for Kinnock with fans of Tony Blair, especially when they trot out the line “he won three general elections”. My argument is that Blair benefited hugely from the heavy lifting done by his predecessor in reforming the party in the 1980s. Nobody took over a party in better shape than Blair did in 1994. I worked for the Labour party under Blair and there is no denying he was a brilliant communicator and campaigner and the contrast between him and his Tory opponents was a key factor in three victories. But Labour did hemorrhage millions of votes between 1997 and 2010, most of them while Blair was leader.

Sadly, “Blairite” has become a lazy terms of abuse deployed by Momentum supporters to close down an arguments about the unelectability of Jeremy Corbyn. Watching the double whammy of Panorama and Channel Four’s Dispatches within an hour was a depressing experience for those of us who reckon electing Labour governments is a high priority.

Under cover reporting can be a gimmick but despite the predictable rubbishing by Momentum apologists, Dispatches exposures of entryism and possible breaches of the data protection laws by Momentum made it worthwhile.

The impression from both programmes was of Momentum as an unstoppable force with the potential to make life miserable for Labour MPs when selections to the redrawn constituencies take place in 2018.

But just how strong is Momentum?

According to Paul Mason, who believes passionately in its potential, it has about 18,000 members.  That is a big jump since June when according to Labour List the figure was 8,000.

The Momentum website has a map of local groups. They total fewer than a hundred. There are six in the South West and eight across the South, where there you can count the number of Labour MPs on one hand. There are roughly similar numbers in the North East (8), Yorkshire (7) East Midlands (11), West Midlands (11) where Labour MPs are much thicker on the ground.

There are 16 Momentum groups in the North West and 19 in London– double the number a few months ago. But the Evening Standard’s Pippa Crerar reports that  “The founding meeting of Momentum, London East End, covering an area with up to 10,000 party members, attracted just 50 people.

“It’s largely made up of angry young women with dyed pink hair and old crusties,” said one Labour member. “I don’t think Rushanara Ali or Meg Hillier have anything to worry about with Momentum. They’re not as strong in London as some people think.” Crerar adds “The group poses a more serious threat in Haringey, Lambeth and Lewisham, where it is said to have plans to unseat moderate MPs.”

For the record I now think it will be Momentum who will be cheering in Liverpool on Saturday. Having argued for some time that Owen Smith had a chance I am worried by some recent turnout figures. As of a few days ago, just 68% of party members had voted compared to 83.5% in 2015. That should be worrying for Smith. Voting by registered supporters 82% could yet match the 2015 figure of 93% and the 42% of affiliated supporters could come close to 2015’s 48.5%.

Don Brind


Whatever you think about Momentum it sure knows how to get media attention

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Quite how serious this is we don’t know but it will sure set off a narrative

Well done to Paul Waugh of Huff Post for another great political story – this time on a the plan to create Momentum Kids.

Reading his article it almost appears like some massive trolling effort which will further focus attention on the group set up to support Corbyn and mould Labour in a manner that is causing massive controversy.

The howls about children being indoctrinated have already started. Quite whether this is for real or is just a PR move time will tell.

Mike Smithson


Why the LDs won’t be too unhappy if Corbyn is re-elected

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Continued splits in LAB could help a rejuvenation of the yellows

The LDs are gathering in Brighton for their annual conference which, unlike the coalition years, is barely getting any attention. That’s understandable. Having just 8 MPs and the Tories having a majority means they are not important anymore.

The polls suggest they haven’t progressed from the 8% of GE2015 but there’s one glimmer of hope – they are doing remarkably well at a local level. They made the most net gains of any party last May and now hardly a week goes by without them gaining further council seats. Last Thursday it was taking a LAB seat in Derbyshire on a 36% swing and the week before a gain from LAB in Sheffield.

As can be seen from the chart they’ve had a good period since last May and, unlike the coalition years, they are finding it easier to pick up ex-LAB voters something that’s being reinforced by the leadership travails.

An unsubtle part of the LD message in Brighton is that they are united.

So the expected JC LAB leadership win next weekend is likely to reinforce the trend. If Farron’s party is to make any sort of recovery it will start at the local level.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn and the boundary review: not the disaster for LAB that it is but an opportunity for the hard left

Thursday, September 15th, 2016


Joff Wild is puzzled by the half-hearted response of Corbyn’s team. It’s as if they don’t care

The only question from a Labour perspective about the result of the Parliamentary constituency review for England and Wales is just how bad it will be for the party. The most optimistic prognosis I saw was from Paul Waugh in the Huffington Post, who reported that under the new boundaries the Tories would lose 17 seats and Labour would lose 23. But probably more realistic is the assessment provided by Anthony Wells, who put losses at 28 for Labour, 10 for the Tories, four for the Liberal Democrats and one for the Greens. Either way, though, the Conservatives – elected on just under 37% of the vote last year – would have won an even larger overall majority on the new boundaries than they actually managed to.

As a supporter of PR for all my adult life – who believes that the Commons is not there to reflect the results of a series of one-off, winner takes all contests, but the votes of the electorate – the boundary review was always going to be depressing. As a Labour supporter, it fills me with despair. One estimate I saw yesterday was that with Scotland lost to the SNP, to win an overall majority of one at the next general election, the party would need to make 92 gains in England and Wales – something that would involve gaining Tory seats with notional five figure majorities.

Given this, you would expect a full-on assault from the Labour leadership on what has been announced and a detailed strategy to challenge the outcome. There is plenty of raw meat to play with: the review focused on registered voter numbers, not on overall populations; even then, two million additional people who registered to vote in the EU referendum have not been included; as a result of the review the Prime Minister gets the largest notional majority of any MP in the country, while the Leader of the Opposition’s seat is abolished; and, because of first past the post, it will be even easier for the Tories to win overall majorities on even lower percentages of the vote. Of course, there are cases to be built against all of these claims, but for a determined, motivated, well-led organisation there is a lot to get its teeth into and to galvanise concerted opposition. That brings me to Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leadership knew that the review results were due to be announced on 13th September, it knew that the outcome was not going to be good for Labour and it knew that yesterday was a major opportunity to begin to frame the consultation period debate. The Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Chancellor and the rest of the Labour front bench could and should have been ready with a powerful message of defiance and a detailed plan to do everything possible to ensure that the final outcome is as positive for Labour as possible. But what we got was a brief statement from Jon Ashworth – who almost no ordinary voter has heard of – and individual reactions from some MPs.

For his part, Jeremy Corbyn pretty much confined himself to expressing disappointment and anger that his own constituency is set to go. Instead of outrage, a prominent Corbyn supporter and newly-elected member of the NEC went onto Radio 4 to say that the review is a chance to get rid of MPs who have not shown sufficient loyalty to the leader; Corbyn has made similar noises in the recent past, of course. In reality, Labour rules (unless changed) mean that mass deselection is highly unlikely; but the very strong impression given was that for many of those around Jeremy Corbyn, and by implication for the man himself, the boundary review is not a disaster for Labour, but a great opportunity to eliminate difficult customers and to consolidate control of what remains of the PLP after the next general election.

In my last Political Betting article I said that although Jeremy Corbyn is set to win the Labour leadership election comfortably, in the end his manifest inability to do the job and to unify will lead to his downfall. A lot of Labour members still giving him the benefit of the doubt, I said, will see how he performs over the coming couple of years and will reach the same conclusion that the majority of Labour’s pre-September 2015 membership already have: Corbyn is a disaster with an agenda that does not include leading Labour to victory at the next general election. That will become clear in the way he interacts with the PLP, in his handling of the Brexit debate, in his non-compliance with party policy on issues such as Trident, in his opposition to NATO and in his ongoing refusal to engage with the millions of voters who do not see the world in the way he does, not to mention his past support for the IRA, Hamas et al and his paid work for the Iranian theocracy. We can now add to that list his reaction to the boundary review.

Owen Jones – an influential though not uncritical supporter of Jeremy Corbyn – wrote an impassioned piece for the Guardian denouncing the boundary review. “Our ancestors fought for our democratic rights and freedoms. It would be an insult to this great British tradition if we now remained silent while a political party stitched up the rules in an attempt to keep itself in power forever,” he concluded. Jones, like hundreds of thousands of other Labour members, is about to discover that Jeremy Corbyn is much less bothered about this issue than he is. That will have consequences.

Joff Wild posts on Political Betting as SouthamObserver. Follow him on Twitter at @SpaJW


At the 2010 shadow cabinet elections no MPs with surnames beyond M got elected – an alphabetical discrimination classic

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Big Ben

Those in the 2nd half of the alphabet hit by the “can’t be arsed” effect

One of the extraordinary features of Labour’s last shadow cabinet election in October 2010 is that all the nineteen winners from 49 candidates had surnames starting with letters in the first half of the alphabet.

So many highly competent MPs with names in the second half of the alphabet did not manage to garner enough votes to make it across the line.

It’s a well recorded electoral phenomenon, particularly when you have a long list of candidates. Those who are in the top part of the ballot paper do better than those towards the bottom.

This is seen time and time again in multi-member council wards where there might be a dozen or more candidates. Generally within each party slate those towards the top of the ballot paper do better.

It’s all down to human nature and laziness. Basically when faced with a long list and a lot of choices some voters can’t be arsed going down the full list.

You would expect, however, Labour MPs to act differently and give the shadow cabinet ballot the attention it deserves even though as last time they were faced with a list of 49 possibles of which they had to choose nineteen. Alas those towards the end of the ballot paper suffered.

I have little doubt that there would have been a different outcome if the candidates had been listed in reverse alphabetical order.

If as before there is shadow cabinet betting then go for the top half of the alphabet.

Mike Smithson