Archive for the 'Labour' Category


The detailed data that suggests that Corbyn’s own generation, those of 65+, appear to have given up on Labour

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Pensioners are the fastest growing age group

The figures above speak for themselves. They are based on a subsample of 471 which gives us a greater level of confidence.

Those within this segment are more likely to be on the register and much more likely to vote.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn drops to his lowest level yet amongst those who voted LAB last May

Friday, January 29th, 2016

More numbers, no doubt, for Corbynistas to remain in denial about

Every month for more than 40 years the pollster Ipsos MORI has carried out leader ratings. The question format has been the same simply asking people whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the performance of the leaders.

As I’ve argued and shown these ratings have proved to be a better indicator of General Election outcomes than standard voting intentions. If we’d have followed these at GE1992 and GE2015 rather than the party vote shares we would have got both elections right.

So to me the most significant feature of the latest Ipsos-MORI phone poll was not the Tories extending their lead but how Corbyn and Cameron were being rated. The particular numbers that I highlight are how those who voted for the main parties at the last general election now rate the leader. My focus is on those proportion who give a positive rating.

The trend is in the chart. Now fewer that half of those who voted for Miliband’s LAB last May are ready to give a positive rating to Corbyn and the trend is moving away from him.

Clearly we are some way away from the general election and we don’t know yet who the Tory leader will be. But even so the reluctance of 2015 LAB voters to be positive about their man doesn’t bode well for the party.

It is not party members who matter, as the Corbynistas assert, but past Labour voters.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn: Alastair Meeks looks at the options for Labour’s right wing

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn

Believing six impossible things before breakfast

Jeremy Corbyn has come in for much criticism from the right of the Labour party since he took over as leader of the Labour party.  He has been accused of indulging in fantasy politics, of deluding himself that the British public will ever elect a party on such a left wing prospectus and of surrounding himself with third raters whose only virtues are their impeccably socialist credentials.  But the Labour right is just as guilty if not more so of fantasy politics.  Like the Red Queen in Alice through the Looking Glass, it is capable of believing up to six impossible things before breakfast.  Unless it disabuses itself of these notions, it is doomed to defeat and irrelevance.

  1. Jeremy Corbyn will go quietly

Of course he won’t.  He’s got an incredible opportunity to reshape British politics in a direction that he never dreamed he’d get.  He’s grasping it with both hands.  If he goes, it will be because he sees his job as complete and he’s ready to hand over to someone else.  That someone else will not be any more congenial to the Labour right.

If Jeremy Corbyn is going to go, he is going to need to be challenged at some point.

  1. The pendulum in the party will inevitably swing back to the centre at some point

Nothing is inevitable in politics.  No doubt there were Tory wets who were confident that the Conservative party would return to their politics in due course after Margaret Thatcher had her time.  Any such wets are still waiting 40 years later.

Jeremy Corbyn is taking the internal controls of the party and using them in order to bypass the Parliamentary party.  In a few months’ time he will have completed the takeover by the membership of the party institutions.  It may already be too late to stop this.  For so long as the membership’s centre of gravity is far to the left of the Parliamentary party, the Labour right is in a very weak position.

For the pendulum to swing back, someone is going to need to give it a yank.

  1. The members will stop supporting Jeremy Corbyn eventually of their own free will in response to external events

Labour party members were won over by Jeremy Corbyn because he clearly articulated an alternative positive view that they found appealing.  They will not find it less appealing because the public have not warmed to it.  They have discounted his past connections with unsavoury groups in Ireland and the Middle East.  They regard much of the press criticism as a demonstration of media bias, even when based around verbatim quotations.  They will regard electoral setbacks as a manifestation of media bias or caused by other factors, such as internal party sniping.

Unless Jeremy Corbyn abandons his own credo, party members will stay loyal to him until someone puts forward a more compelling case.

  1. Party members and the public don’t need the Labour right to articulate a positive prospectus for their ideas

The right of the Labour party were openly disdainful of Ed Miliband’s election strategy at the last election of largely campaigning on not being the Conservatives.  They are making the same mistake themselves.

It is not enough for Labour rightwingers to present themselves as progressives who are not opposed to Trident, who do not subscribe to neo-Marxist foreign policy objectives, who are not opposed to some discipline on public spending and who do not agree with open-door immigration.  They need to present their prospectus in positive terms. With the honourable exception of Tristram Hunt, no figure from the Labour right has attempted to do this yet.

It is very clear what they stand against.  But to get people to vote for them, whether in the party or in the wider electorate, they need to explain what they stand for.  Assuming, of course, that they stand for something.  Do they?

  1. The right issue to stand and fight on will arise sooner or later

Jeremy Corbyn has picked two major fights so far: Syria and Trident.  On both subjects he is far more in tune with the party rank and file than his opponents are.  So long as he carries on picking fights where the bulk of the membership backs him, he will carry on consolidating his support base.  There’s no reason to assume that he will do otherwise.

Rather than being reactive, the Labour right will need to actively bring up awkward topics to present the leadership with dilemmas that put it on the wrong side of the membership.

  1. Someone else will bell the cat

Jeremy Corbyn is in an internally strong position.  Anyone who goes into open rebellion is risking everything at poor odds of success.  So it is easy to wait for others to act.  But if Labour rightwingers believe that change is required, some of them are going to have to show leadership rather than followership.  Some of them will need to front the rebellion.  Some of them will need to be prepared to face the consequences if they fail, as they are likely to do.

The consequences of failure are not necessarily fatal.  The act of fighting may itself establish them as considerable figures, just as Hilary Benn rose immensely in the public’s estimation when he led the Labour interventionists in Syria.  At worst, they may establish to their satisfaction that Labour is lost and they need to find a new home for their social democratic beliefs.  One thing is certain: doing nothing will achieve nothing.

Sir Walter Raleigh scratched into a window pane “fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall”.  Under it, Queen Elizabeth I scratched “if thy heart fails thee, climb not at all”.  Sir Walter climbed and eventually fell, but not before he had a career that still resounds through the ages.  Do Labour rightwingers have the heart?  We shall soon see.

Alastair Meeks


Why Labour lost in 2015

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

With Corbyn’s personal polling ranging from the calamitous to the cataclysmic it appears Labour are intent on repeating the mistakes of the 2015 general election

This week sees two important reports published, firstly the BPC inquiry into why the polls were wrong, then there’s the publication of the report by Dame Margaret Beckett into why Labour lost, parts of Beckett’s report has been leaked. The four main reasons Labour lost were

  1. A failure to shake off the myth that the last Labour government was responsible for crashing the economy.
  2. An inability to deal with “issues of connection” like immigration and benefits.
  3. A fear among voters of the SNP propping up a minority Labour government.
  4. Miliband was judged to be not as strong a leader as David Cameron.

The study also found that leftwing policies – such as the energy price freeze, and greater potential to bring railways back into public ownership – were some of the most popular put forward by Miliband, but that there was a lack of a coherent overall narrative.

So this might mean that Corbyn’s left wing policies might not be a voter loser as assumed. He is also no supporter of the economics of the New Labour era, so he might also be able to successfully change the economic narrative about the last Labour government, especially if the UK experiences an economic downturn before the next election.

Where Corbyn will struggle is on points 3 and 4, unless he is the new Blair, he will not achieve the swings to gain Labour a majority, so in 2020 the only way Labour can take power is with the SNP, which won’t be good news for Labour nor Corbyn,

For me the most striking from the report is the section that says the [Labour] party’s failed to connect with demographic groups in the centre. It isn’t a controversial thing to say that Jeremy Corbyn is more left wing than Ed Miliband, so I’m not sure how Corbyn will connect with demographic groups in the centre.

With Corbyn’s personal polling ranging from the calamitous to the cataclysmic predicting the outcome of the 2020 general election is quite easy, as the below tweet from Mike shows, as pretty much all the polling shows the potential next Tory leaders leading Corbyn in the polling, even before we take into account Corbyn’s atrocious polling on matters of national security, as I’m convinced the country won’t make Prime Minister who isn’t trusted to keep the country safe and secure.

Just look at the response to Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Marr this morning, and imagine a six week general election campaign with Jeremy Corbyn at the heart of it on a daily basis, there will be a coherent narrative, just not one necessarily to Labour’s advantage. It appears Labour are intent on repeating the mistakes of 2015, a poor leader who doesn’t connect with the centre ground will lead to a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result in 2020, as Labour’s most electorally successful leader would put it.



Jeremy Corbyn cannot afford to lose trade union support over Trident – it could be his undoing

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Get the debate over Trident renewal wrong and it might be trade union leaders – rather than the PLP – that Jeremy Corbyn has to worry about most writes Keiran Pedley

Despite a difficult few days, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have emerged from last week’s reshuffle stronger than ever. He may not have got the Shadow Cabinet that he really wanted but piece by piece the Labour leader is shaping the party’s top team in his own image. The steady drip, drip, drip of resignations that followed last week’s reshuffle was unhelpful but as long as party members are behind him, it is hard to see any meaningful challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for the time being.  For now, Labour moves on to yet another divisive battle – this time over the renewal of Trident.

On face value, the Labour leader might be confident of winning this battle too. He now has a Shadow Defence Secretary in Emily Thornberry that supports his policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament (so no Hilary Benn style speeches on this issue) whilst he should also be confident of the support of party members too.  A recent poll showed Labour voters opposing renewal by 40% to 31% with opposition among members likely to be greater still. Despite the official Labour Party policy being to support renewal, there are some in Labour that fear a change in policy is only a matter of time.

However, not only is a change in policy not inevitable but the upcoming debate over Trident may leave Jeremy Corbyn’s continued leadership of the Labour Party in doubt as well.

Two developments have taken place this week that we should pay close attention to. The first relates to a series of comments made by Sir Paul Kenny of the GMB. Speaking to Radio 4 on Monday, the union’s general secretary articulated the GMB’s continued support for the renewal of Trident in no uncertain terms:

“If anybody thinks that unions like the GMB are going to go quietly into the night while tens of thousands of our members’ jobs are literally swannied away by rhetoric then they’ve got another shock coming.”

The second development – along similar lines – relates to a piece in the Huffington Post today in which Paul Waugh outlines how Unite is likely to reconfirm its continued support for Trident this summer. Unite of course is Britain’s biggest union and Labour’s largest financial backer.

If both the GMB and Unite end up supporting the renewal of Trident then Jeremy Corbyn should be worried.  Sir Paul Kenny and Len McCluskey are no dictators but the Labour leader can ill afford to lose their support by falling out with them over this issue. An untold story of last summer’s Labour leadership contest is the financial and organisational muscle that the unions – especially Unite – provided the Corbyn campaign. If he loses their support then Corbyn could end up being very isolated indeed in the face of a disgruntled PLP and what promises to be a difficult set of elections in May (maybe London aside).

This all matters because a shift in attitudes towards Corbyn among trade union leaders could encourage his opponents in the PLP to move against him. On last week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast, Damian McBride outlined how party leaders are often removed through the sheer force of pressure on them to resign rather than because of an actual leadership contest.  If Labour does badly in May and MPs move against him then a statement by Kenny or McCluskey urging Corbyn to step aside would be fatal to his leadership. Rather than fight over Trident, the unions themselves may decide that it’s better to throw their weight behind someone like Owen Smith – or another left-winger – that comes without Corbyn’s 1980s baggage and ultimately has a better chance of winning a General Election.

So in the coming weeks Jeremy Corbyn is going to have to decide how much he is willing to risk over Trident. He is certainly going to have to tread very carefully. A fight with Unite and the GMB is not in his interests right now and you can bet that his opponents in the PLP are watching developments very closely. Corbyn’s position as leader of the Labour Party might seem strong right now but if he loses union support over Trident then that could change very quickly.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and presenter of the PB/Polling Matters podcast.  Please support the podcast by ‘liking’ our Facebook page here. Keiran tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley.


If Labour wasn’t so obsessed with fighting itself it would be having a field day over the doctors’ strike

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

All part of the price for the current power struggle

It is not often that industrial action in the public sector attracts the level of support shown in the overnight Ipsos MORI poll for Newsnight. A split of four to one in favour of the doctors suggests that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, still has a long way to go in winning the political argument over his tough stance.

In normal times this would be a gift to the opposition except you barely see Labour mentioned in the media coverage of the strike. Indeed the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror this morning has had to go to the Lib Dem former minister, Norman Lamb, for quotes criticising the government.

Labour’s leadership, of course, had to deal with another resignation yesterday and last night Corbyn and McDonnell didn’t even turn up to the regular Monday evening meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The beneficiaries are the Tories. What a dream scenario for them as they move into what could be a tricky period ahead of the EURef.

Mike Smithson


Not in my name: Alastair Meeks looks at Corbyn’s leadership style

Friday, January 8th, 2016


No compromise on issue regarded by him as matters of principle

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the burning topic of the day – literally, on occasion –  was religion.  In England, the cutting edge of religious thought was found among what we now call the Puritans.  This label was originally in fact a catch-all term of abuse for a variety of different hardline Protestant groups and not one that those so labelled would have welcomed.  One of the seminal figures was an Islington cleric called Robert Browne.  Unwilling to commune with the Church of England, they suffered fines and other indignities in the early seventeenth century.  They protested very heavily against this, given their deeply held beliefs.  Some emigrated to leave behind this persecution: the Pilgrim Fathers were Puritans.

In the wake of the civil war, Parliament was dominated by a Puritan majority.  But it transpired that the Puritans were not interested in offering freedom of conscience.  Instead they sought to impose their own consciences on the rest of the country, famously seeking to ban Christmas and Easter festivities and reforming the Church of England on presbyterian lines.  Freedom of conscience was only to be allowed to those with consciences functioning on correct lines.

What does that have to do with Jeremy Corbyn?  Well, quite a bit, and not just the Islington connection.  Labour spent the 1980s in a long term fight for the party’s soul.  The right of the party won and the left was purged, marginalised and subjected to constant invigilation by the victors.  Life was tough for the losers of that fight and members of the losing faction were constantly at risk of expulsion.  Seniority was no protection: Dave Nellist, Ken Livingstone and George Galloway were all shown the door at different times.  Leftwingers would constantly claim that they were being oppressed by the victorious right.  Valiantly they ensured that their consciences were respected, some with more vigour than others.  As has often been noted, Jeremy Corbyn rebelled more than 500 times against the Labour leadership (more often than David Cameron).

Now Jeremy Corbyn is leader and a cohort of leftist groups are in the ascendancy in the Labour party.  On becoming leader Jeremy Corbyn announced a kinder politics and set up a shadow Cabinet that included figures from across Labour’s political spectrum.  By installing John McDonnell as shadow Chancellor, he made it clear that he intended to set his mark on economic policy, but by appointing a multilateralist as shadow Defence Secretary and an interventionist as shadow Foreign Secretary, he seemed to acknowledge that he was going to have to allow a plurality of voices.

It rapidly became apparent, however, that while he was willing to include figures from across Labour’s political spectrum in his shadow Cabinet, he was not prepared to compromise with them on points of principle.  Baroness Armstrong said of Jeremy Corbyn:

“Politics is about compromise, and he never wanted to be put in a position where he was expected to compromise.”

He has continued this approach as leader.  He agreed to a review of policy on Trident but immediately announced that he would never authorise its use.  He equivocated about the use of drones to kill Jihadi John and about the appropriateness of a shoot to kill policy in the event of a hypothetical terrorist attack in Britain along the same lines as the Paris attacks, refusing to be reined in by colleagues who were evidently in complete disagreement.  He appointed a unilateralist to oversee the defence review jointly with the shadow Defence Secretary.  An action-packed opening three months culminated in the vote on Syria where more than a third of his own shadow Cabinet including the shadow Foreign Secretary opposed him (in a notionally free vote).

Jeremy Corbyn started the New Year with an attempted purge from his team of those who have publicly dissented from his world view.  A reshuffle after less than four months with no external event prompting it must be some kind of record.  This purge was only partly successful: Hilary Benn remains shadow Foreign Secretary.  But Jeremy Corbyn now has a unilateralist Defence Secretary and dismissed two ministers who had the temerity to contradict some of his more eyebrow-raising musings.

It seems that Jeremy Corbyn concluded that his new politics allowed for shadow Cabinet members from different political strands only if they voiced the same opinions that he held.  So he is reconstituting the shadow Cabinet so far as possible to silence points of view that he does not hold and to marginalise them when he cannot silence them.  He is not going to compromise his beliefs as leader any more than he did as a backbencher.

In many ways this is a more logical approach than the one that he originally adopted.  When the public hear a cacophony of voices from the government in waiting, they hear only chaos.  If they can speak more in harmony, they stand more of a chance of their messages being heard.  If you are the leader, you want them to hear your messages.

But what of Labour MPs who do not hold Jeremy Corbyn’s views?  It is now apparent that Jeremy Corbyn is not going to take an ecumenical approach.  He is going to return the marginalisation and invigilation with interest.  Despite the fact that he represents a tiny minority of the Parliamentary party he evidently intends to lead the party in accordance with the principles that he holds, regardless of how little support they command elsewhere.  The party is going to have to bend to his beliefs.

In justifying his actions, those speaking on his behalf have noted that Jeremy Corbyn rebelled exclusively from the backbenches.  Those who oppose him within the Labour party should take that as their licence to do likewise.  But to use that licence, backbench Labour MPs need to have a credo and to articulate it.  While it may not be popular, Jeremy Corbyn’s credo is clear.  What do his party opponents have to combat it?

Alastair Meeks


The real cost of Corbyn’s reshuffle — Labour is talking about itself not what voters care about.

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


Donald Brind – from a Labour perspective

I woke up this morning to hear a devastating critique of the Chancellor George Osborne’s record on the Today programme. Under him “we haven’t rebalanced the economy towards manufacturing, exports and the regions .. fixing the roof when the sun shines never happened.”

A perfect script for the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell you might think but this was, in fact, John Longworth, head of the British Chambers of Commerce speaking. He had just published a report showing that manufacturing is close to stagnation and growth will be slower than expected.

The Today programme also interviewed the Chancellor about his heavily trailed speech warning of the perils facing the country’s economy

But why no invitation to McDonnell? His absence from the Today studio was, if you like, the “opportunity cost” of Jeremy Corbyn’s protracted reshuffle. McDonnell had been sent off to the Today the previous morning to defend the sacking of shadow Europe Minister Pat McFadden and shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher. He’d had his quota of airtime on the BBC’s flagship news programme.

He was in demand later by the BBC and others but his Today experience illustrated a broader point about the reshuffle – even if it had been well planned and smoothly executed — what it offered voters was Labour talking about itself and not about the things that voters themselves care about.

That cost was also evident at Prime Ministers Questions where the Labour leader’s team had prepared for him a searching list of questions about flood prevention – a classic example of the false economies that are a feature of Osborne’s record as Chancellor. But David Cameron was equally well prepared, glossing over cuts in funding for flood prevention schemes, and scorning the reshuffle in every answer.

He delivered brilliantly an elaborate riff on based on the fact that this year sees the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. “There was a moment when it looked like this reshuffle could go into its twelfth night. It was a revenge reshuffle, so it was going to be as you like it. I think, though, we can conclude that it has turned into something of a comedy of errors—perhaps much ado about nothing. There will be those who worry that love’s Labour’s lost.”

Perhaps those with most reason to be aggrieved about the effects of the reshuffle were Labour’s London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan and the thousands of party supporters who turned up stations across the capital. They were handing out leaflets trumpeting Khan’s key pledge to freeze fares for four years. The reshuffle ensured the campaigning got less media attention than it might have done.

Yet despite the background noise Khan is campaigning strongly and his chances drew upbeat assessments from James Kirkup in the Telegraph and Alice Thomson in the Times.

Thomson pointed to polls putting Khan ahead. “Despite the assumption that all women swoon over Goldsmith, it is Khan who is way ahead with female voters as well as with the young.”

Labour is strong in London, she says, with 45 of the capital’s 73 MPs and more than 80,000 people voted in Labour’s selection but fewer than 9,000 in the Tory equivalent adding “Khan has the better machine.”

Thomson suggests that the “Tory high command” wouldn’t be too bothered about defeat for Goldsmith — “ though they would never admit it” The reason? – “they wouldn’t mind boosting Jeremy Corbyn. If he can win last year’s Oldham by-election and this year’s mayoral election, then he might yet cling on until the general election which is exactly what Mr. Cameron’s potential successors — George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson — want.”

For Labour victory for Khan is important not just because he will be a good Mayor but because his campaign is outward looking — dealing with issues that voters care about. He is providing a model of inclusive leadership that the party desperately needs.

Donald Brind