Archive for the 'Labour' Category


I’m not sure a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party is equipped to endure the white heat of a six week general election campaign

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Under Jeremy Corbyn Labour are ceasing to be a serious political party and in danger of turning into a The Thick Of It tribute

Perhaps I’m being unduly harsh on Jeremy Corbyn, but the clip above of his press conference yesterday was a mixture of the downright embarrassing and painful to watch, all because of Traingate. All politicians make gaffes, or their spin gets unspun, but the whole traingate farrago isn’t an exception and his response to it does not inspire confidence in him or his team.

Take this mistake on Monday by Corbyn that was overshadowed by other things, it fits a pattern of a lack of competence by Corbyn and his staff.

US Senator Bernie Sanders has denied sending Jeremy Corbyn a message of support in his battle with Owen Smith for the Labour leadership.

Corbyn told supporters on Monday evening the former Democratic presidential candidate had been in touch to point out the parallels between the two men.

However a spokesman for Senator Sanders told The Huffington Post UK today: “The senator didn’t send a message and doesn’t intend to get involved in British politics.”

The spokesman added that Senator Sanders, who lost out to Hillary Clinton in the race to be the Democratic presidential nominee, “has a lot of respect for Mr. Corbyn and wishes him well”.

A spokesperson for the Corbyn campaign told HuffPost: “Jeremy was misinformed by an aide, who had wrongly been led to believe this was the case.”

A good leader could have dealt with it, the original sin of sitting down on the floor when there were seats available was a bit like David Cameron early in his leadership of the Tory Party cycling to Parliament with his car and chauffeur behind him but it didn’t do any lasting damage to Cameron because Cameron had strengths and public support elsewhere to deflect the criticism.

A decent Labour leader would have ruthlessly exploited the Tory fault lines on Brexit, especially when two out of the three Brexit ministers are Liam Fox and David Davis.

It isn’t hard to see why Jeremy Corbyn has such poor ratings on this week’s performances, he’s confirmed he doesn’t look like a Prime Minister in waiting. Gravitas is a lot like pornography, it is hard to describe or define, but you know when you see it, Corbyn lacks gravitas. 

What happens in the televised debates for the 2020 general election campaign? Will he turn on the voters who ask him awkward questions or questions on topics he’d rather not discuss? If he thinks he gets to choose the questions journalists or the public get to ask him he’s in the wrong profession.

And this is all before we contemplate how 172 Labour MPs who have no confidence in their leader comport themselves during a general election campaign.



Remember the last LAB leader to put his faith in rallies

Sunday, August 21st, 2016


The PLP indicate that they expect Corbyn to win and that they won’t split

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Labour MPs set to hoist Corbyn by his own petard?

There’s an interesting story in today’s Sunday Times (££) which Politicshome have covered for free here, it says

The Sunday Times reports the “party within a party” framework will be based on the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, which counts Mr Corbyn as a member.

According to the paper, the rebels will look to sign up more than 100 MPs to join the Co-operative party, Labour’s sister party, and sit on the green benches as “double hatted” MPs.

The group will appoint their own whips in parliament to co-ordinate rebellions where they disagree with Mr Corbyn’s policy and look to change the rules to appoint an elected Shadow Cabinet, as previously called for by the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson.

It will draw up policies on areas including Brexit and national security, the Sunday Times reports.

The rebels apparently prefer the creation of a new group on Labour benches to forming a breakaway party.

They argue Mr Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, both members of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, would struggle to criticise the move after they voted against the Labour leadership from the backbenches when in power.

“Corbyn voted against the leadership more than 500 times,” said one rebel leader.

“We’ve only done it a dozen times. We’re just getting started. There will be a new grouping within the PLP a lot like Corbyn and McDonnell had. We will stick together for mutual support. We will have our own approach on the economy and Brexit and national security.”

The Co-operative party has held an electoral agreement with Labour since 1927 that allows them to stand joint candidates in elections.

The plan is to also box in Corbyn, ‘if Corbyn wins, Tom Watson, the deputy leader, is planning to push for the reintroduction of elections to the shadow cabinet so moderates can return to the front bench after resigning en masse after the EU referendum.’

My succinct precis of this is that the PLP are expecting Owen Smith to lose, and that they will not split if Corbyn wins, bet accordingly.

If you’re less charitable, you could say that those Labour MPs who resigned from the shadow cabinet a couple of months ago are looking at a facing saving way of getting back into the shadow cabinet.



The polls might still be overstating Labour

Saturday, August 20th, 2016


Disillusionment and disengagement rather than defection is the danger

The Ipsos-Mori poll this week contained a paradox. On the one hand, Labour’s headline voting intention share was 34%, some way up on their General Election performance. On the other, Jeremy Corbyn’s approval ratings were awful. His overall score of -34 was bad enough but his net rating with Labour’s own voters, at -7%, was considerably lower than Theresa May’s approval rating of some +16% with those same voters. In fact his true overall rating may be even worse: 13% of Conservatives stated they were satisfied with how Corbyn was doing his job, which is not necessarily an endorsement of his effectiveness in leading Labour. What’s going on?

The simple answer to that is that Mori report Labour to be picking up support from the Lib Dems and UKIP faster than they’re shedding it. The increased Tory lead is the consequence of a better retention rate of 2015 voters (though both are high: Con leads with 94% to Labour’s 90% among the sample that generates the headline figure), and the Tories gaining former UKIP and Lib Dem voters even faster than Labour.

The Conservative figure I can understand. A new leader is in place and against the divisions or irrelevance of her opponents and the tarnished reputation of her predecessor, she is being bathed in a very favourable light. That won’t last but for now she can enjoy her honeymoon with the public.

The Labour score makes a lot less sense and we ought to interrogate it far more closely.

Mori do apply a turnout filter – only those who say they are 9/10 or 10/10 to vote are counted – but I’d question whether even that is tough enough. The public invariably overestimates their willingness to cast a vote. There are some technical reasons for why a 100% turnout is impossible such as double-registration of students studying away from home but these aren’t sufficient to account for the difference between the actual turnout and those the polls suggest would happen.

Mori report almost 70% as ‘certain’ to vote, 75% as 9+ out of 10 (the base they use for their headline figures), and 80% as 8+. By contrast, the last general election achieved only a 66% turnout and that was the best this century. It is true that the EURef generated a 72% turnout but it would be foolhardy to read that across to a general election, where different factors are in play and where the result that each vote contributes to is in many cases much less in doubt than the referendum was.

And Labour voters above all have a history of not turning out. The ten lowest turnouts in the 2015 election outside of N Ireland were all in seats won comfortably by Labour. If they were the only place that a discrepancy between anticipated and actual voting took place, it wouldn’t matter. They’re not.

For all the attempts to rework methodology over the years, polls seem to retain an enduringly stubborn bias to Labour when it matters. To answer why that is is to seek the holy grail of polling but one factor I suspect is at play is that those with a broad inclination to Labour are disproportionately more likely to say that they’ll vote and then not follow up on that claim than their Tory equivalents.

Were it only in safe seats that the phenomenon displayed itself then it wouldn’t matter for the outcome. A seat won on a 40% turnout is worth the same as one won on double that. However, that’s probably not the case. Seats are not homogenous throughout and the key marginals will contain strong Labour and strong Tory areas; areas which in local elections exhibit a similar trend of differential turnout are likely to carry their habits of voting or not voting into a General Election.

Similarly, we know that Labour’s support is skewed to the young and the Tories’ to the elderly, and we also know which group is far more likely to actually cast their ballot papers. The polls should be correcting for this but if the polls are wrong about intended turnout – and they invariably are – then they may not be correcting enough.

To some extent we shouldn’t make a general case out of the Mori poll. The 34% they reported was well above the level that other pollsters have found (generally, a couple of points either side of 30% for the last two months; ICM recorded a 28% Labour share this week), but the general question still applies: is it really credible that a party with a leader that is viewed so poorly across the board, and particularly by those who say they’d vote for it, would really poll at or above the level they achieved in the 2015 election?

The evidence from real elections is mixed. The results from both May and from local by-elections point to churn rather than any consistent movement to or from Labour – which might suggest that they should be at least at their 2015GE share. However, William Hague’s Conservatives also recorded good interim election results in 1998-2001 which flattered to deceive when it mattered (although Hague’s Tories were so far behind in the national polls that they weren’t so much out of sight as lapped).

Successful prediction is the art of sifting useful evidence away from that which misleads. Which of today’s evidence is misleading us? My guess is that it’s the Labour retention figures; that were they asked to, far fewer of those inclined to Labour but who aren’t satisfied with Corbyn would turn out than say they would at a time when the government of the country was at stake. And unless Labour can sort out its leadership problem or the pollsters can sort out their problems with their intention to vote figures, that structural error is likely to remain.

David Herdson


Labour’s paradox: The huge increase in members hasn’t led to greater electoral success, rather the reverse

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Party membership
Latest party membership totals: Parliament Research Briefing

One of the most extraordinary phenomenon of modern UK political times has been the massive increase in Labour’s membership since GE2015. The figures are just astounding and there is no parallel.

Membership, May 6th 2015: 201,293

Membership, January 10th 2016: 388,407

Membership, August 2016: 515,000

From a political organisational point of view this is amazing because the general view is that more members mean more people ready and able to carry out the grunt work of winning elections.

    More people to organise local fundraising, more people to address and stuff envelopes; more people to deliver leaflets to more homes on a regular basis; more people to knock on doors and more people to make phone calls to potential voters and on election days themselves more people to get the vote out.

The huge SNP membership increase that we saw after the September 2014 IndyRef was the precursor to the party going from 6 Westmnster MPs at GE2010 to taking all but 3 of Scotland 59 seats at GE2015.

On a much lesser scale but still the same trend the Lib Dem membership increase in GE2015 has been the platform on which its recent success in local government have been based. The biggest net increase of any party in the May 2015 locals and a gain a week in the regular local by-elections since the EU referendum.

So what’s happened to Labour? The fact is that the total number of elected positions it holds has actually declined over the past year. Scotland, which was going to be Corbyn’s first priority is a disaster, unprecedented seat losses for the main opposition party in a non-general election year in the May elections and a net increase of just two councillors in local by elections.

One of the reasons PB monitors local by-elections so closely every week is that they are a great barometer of party organisation and morale. Labour’s new members should be giving it an edge that we can see every week. That hasn’t happened yet.

Mike Smithson


Ex-LAB MP and PB regular, Nick Palmer, on why a party split won’t work

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016


It’s pretty clear that Corbyn has won the re-run, and talk of trying once more next year has faded amid eye-rolling on all sides at the thought of doing it all over again. Instead, the hard-core anti-Corbyn wing has started to talk about a split.

This could take two forms:

  • A Parliament-only split. The objective would be to win over more than half the MPs and persuade the Speaker that this meant that the rebels were the real official opposition
  • A full SDP Mark II, with or without an alliance with the LibDems.

Given the extent of MP support for the no-confidence letter, it might be thought that either or both of these would gain the support of most Labour MPs. But it won’t, and the sparsity of overt support for it among MPs is a harbinger of what would go wrong. Here’s why.

MPs are a mixture of pragmatists and idealists. They want to do good things, they want to be personally successful. Nothing wrong with that. They’d like the party to win power, since ultimately opposition achieves little. But at a gut level, they want to hold their own seats. Before sneering at that, it should be noted that most MPs really only have one potential job. If they lose it, it’s many years since their previous careers and often impossible to get back into them. A former senior IT manager, I speak from experience.

Under FPTP, MPs for all but the most marginal seats are pretty safe if their party reselects them. Even with the current turmoil, where every news item about Labour is bad and the PM is enjoying a honeymoon, the party is on 28%, enough to hold most seats. But if they split with their party, they can reasonably expect to lose at least half their party vote, putting the vast majority of MPs at risk. This is only remotely attractive if they can be confident that it will attract lots more voters from other quarters. Neither historical precedent (SDP Mark I) nor recent polling suggests that to be likely.

Moreover, the Parliament-only split is the worst of both worlds, since it guarantees deselections without actually providing an alternative electoral vehicle. A full SDP Mark II would require an organisational effort on a scale that is nowhere in sight, with only the scattered remnants of the LibDems to give it any initial national presence.

None of this would matter if MPs expected to be deselected: if you’re going to lose anyway, why not do it in style? But here the other side of the story kicks in: the mood of the membership. Members are irritated by the no-confidence motion and not disposed to tolerate much more of that sort of thing, but they can see why MPs supported it, and suggestions of organised deselection are few and far between.

An MP who merely stops supporting attempts to undermine Corbyn is likely to have a reasonably easy run to reselection, and a fair chance at selection in new seats where a large part comes from an existing seat. The left feels they’re winning, and are in general not in vengeful mood.

Bottom line: expect a few defections to LibDems or Independent, especially in the Lords, but expect the overt attempts to unseat Corbyn before 2020 to fade into resigned acceptance by most MPs. It’s not as though most MPs vehemently disagree with the Corbyn project, parts of which (notably anti-austerity policies) have won the argument – they just think it won’t win under current leadership. The default will be to soldier on quietly, avoiding blame for any defeat. If Labour beats expectations and wins – and nobody in politics ever treats anything as certain or impossible – that’s fine. If it goes badly, then I expect a much more serious leadership contest in 2020, with heavyweight candidates who are currently holding fire.

Nick Palmer was LAB MP for Broxtowe from 1997-2010 and is a long-standing PB contributor



Labour chooses an Everton fan to be its candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Andy Burnham  The  whingeing Scousers  were right   YouTube

He’s resigning as an MP creating a by-election in Leigh

One of the legacies of George Osborne’s chancellorship was the creation of an executive mayor to cover the greater Manchester region. This was the spearhead of the “Northern Powerhouse” which is no longer looked on favourably by the current occupant of Number 10.

You can understand Andy Burnham, after what must have been a bruising failure in last year’s LAB leadership contest, looked round for something else that he could do with his career. These super-city elected mayoralties offer an opportunity which clearly he’s found very tempting.

In the run-off election for the nomination Burnham chalked up more than 50% of the vote and afterwards announced that he would be quitting as an MP and, of course, a member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. He said this morning that he would not be backing either contender in Labour’s leadership battle.

Burnham has always been a passionate Everton fan and indeed once declared that the club meant more to him than the NHS. I find it amusing that Greater Manchester will soon be headed by someone who doesn’t support on of its football teams.

Mike Smithson


The Lib Dems are coming off life-support: something else for Labour to worry about

Saturday, August 6th, 2016


How closely are we going to re-run the 1980s?

We’ve not heard much from the Lib Dems lately. The party which until last year supplied the Deputy Prime Minister, the Business Secretary and three other cabinet ministers, which before the election had more than fifty MPs and which had been treated by the media almost on an equal footing with the Conservatives and Labour simply disappeared from view. A year on and there are signs that a tentative recovery might be underway.

The Lib Dems made another net gain in this week’s local by-elections to add to the seven net gains in July. It’s not exactly an electoral earthquake but it seems consistent enough to ask the questions as to whether the long Coalition-inspired decline is not only over but is being reversed, and if so, how far it will go.

The first thing to note is that to the extent that there is a recovery, it’s extremely patchy. The Lib Dems did indeed make a gain this week (in a ward so small as to be virtually town-council sized: only 553 votes were cast in total), but they also only contested two of the other six, and received just 4.1% and 4.5% in the two that they did.

That’s mirrored in the polls. The Lib Dems remain stuck well behind UKIP in fourth place and if there has been an uptick since the referendum or even before, it’s as yet difficult to distinguish from Margin of Error noise given the fewer polls commissioned these days.

But then as the local by-elections show, national shares don’t really count for all that much if you can get the ground game right in localised hotspots. After all, despite the cataclysmic result in 2015, the Lib Dems still returned seven more MPs than UKIP and will have battered but serviceable local organisations in most of the seats they lost.

What of the boundary review though? Will not that completely undermine a strategy based on local redoubts if each redoubt is likely to be rent asunder by the Boundary Review and mingled with other seats where the Lib Dems have been reduced to deposit-losing irrelevance? (And remember – the Lib Dems lost deposits in more than half the seats in 2015). All else being equal, yes, it would.

However, all else is not at all equal. Labour is marching off left while engaged in civil war, UKIP has achieved its primary function and is also beset by internal difficulties and the Greens seem disinclined to make a bid for the mainstream. Politics abhors a vacuum and a vacuum is exactly what has opened up on the left-of-centre. The obvious question is who will fill it?

The answer in Scotland is obvious: the SNP are likely to continue to reign supreme for as long as they can avoid serious blame at Holyrood and present themselves as the best alternative to the Conservatives. In England and Wales, it’s a different matter and there, a huge amount turns on the Labour leadership election.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins again – and the signs point in that direction – Labour will be left in an awful position. The No Confidence vote cannot credibly be undone and even if more MPs do take the cover of a second mandate to follow Sarah Champion’s lead, the reasons why they all left in the first place have not gone away. Something will have to give and if it’s not the leader, secure after re-election, it must inevitably be the MPs: they must either submit or depart.

If all this sounds very reminiscent of the 1980s, it is, or nearly. Perhaps tempered by that experience, the split that might otherwise have taken place by now hasn’t yet occurred. Even so, all the reasons that prompted the Labour right to leave then are in place now, with the addition that they’ve lost key union backing too. But if the 1981 deputy leader contest showed the party’s mainstream that their cause was recoverable, the equivalent this time – the current leadership election – is likely to go the other way.

Does this inevitably mean SDP2 and Alliance 2.0? No, but it would make tremendous sense for a party without support or MPs to link up with a load of MPs and voters without a party and which occupies a similar spot in the spectrum. In fact, if the Lib Dems are recovering ground, it should strengthen their hand and increase confidence about co-operation, a pact or even outright mass defections.

This is to get some way ahead of ourselves. Corbyn hasn’t yet won. All the same, we’re now in a period of more turbulence than at any time since before 1945, and from near-extinction at national level last year, the one-time ‘third force’ in British politics might soon find itself thinking more about second than fourth.

David Herdson