ORB/Indy poll finds that 76% think that LAB less electable now than it was on May 7th

July 28th, 2015

But does this poll really tell us anything?

An ORB poll for the Independent carried out over the weekend finds that 76% of those who had a view believe that LAB is less electable now than it was at the general election.

We’ve not yet seen the dataset or the precise question wording but the overall picture looks gloomy for the red team and sets out very clearly the challenge facing the new leader when he/she takes over the party on September 12th.

    Aren’t we just seeing what happens to most political parties less than three months after a devastating election defeat?

I can’t recall a similar post general election poll on a party that has lost power and is going through the process of finding a new leader.

How, for instance would the Tories have performed in a similar survey eleven weeks after their 1997 election defeat by Tony Blair’s new Labour or in the aftermath of GE2001 when IDS, Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo were slugging it out. In the latter the blue team ended up with the leader who was the most unelectable – something that was blindingly obvious to many inside and outside the party

Inevitably leadership contests highlight divisions because that’s their very nature and we know that voters are more reluctant to give their support to split parties.

The big question is how LAB will be seen when the new leader is in place.

Mike Smithson


Why getting a credible leader is so important to LAB: YouGov polling on why the party lost

July 27th, 2015


The data that underlines the importance of the current election

Whichever of the four ins he/she will have to be perceived a lot better than Ed was if the red team is to have any chance whatsoever.

This polling should be at the heart of the leadership campaign. A non-credible leader means a likely third consecutive general election defeat.

Mike Smithson


Why we won’t be hearing much from the Tories this summer

July 27th, 2015

Notice there’s been nothing from the blue side re-Mid Staffs

Probably the most successful Lynton Crosby message in the run-up to May 7th was the warning of “confusion and chaos” if Labour was returned.

It was this, I’d suggest that helped get the marginal CON supporters out to vote and UKIP switchers back into the fold in the constituencies where it mattered.

The Tories have learned that simple easy to understand messages that resonate and a strict communication discipline can pay dividends.

Now, if as seems likely the above Tweet is correct, the Tories are having a quiet summer so all the focus on Labour’s leadership race.

    What is very clear is that the Burnham campaign’s effort to get Corbyn the nominations to be on the ballot was a total misjudgement. It says a lot about their and his political abilities.

Meanwhile it will be the evening of September 12th, in the hours after the LAB victor is announced, that Mid Staffs will feature once again in the blue rhetoric if Burnham is the winner.

Mike Smithson


The prospect of fighting a disintegrating LAB could cause Dave to change his mind about stepping down

July 27th, 2015

Is he having second thoughts about his exit date?

Following Cameron’s comments in the BBC interview at the end of March there’s a widespread assumption that at some stage this parliament that he’ll step aside and a new CON leader will be elected presumably becoming PM before the May 2020 general election.

But is he? The conversation in Cameron’s kitchen came at a time when the election outcome looked very tight. Very few were making assumptions that an overall CON majority was going to be possible. The political context was very different from today.

There were many in the party ready to cast the blame on Dave for failing in 2010 to secure a majority against Gordon Brown. In May, against all expectations, Cameron became an unequivocal election winner.

Now the Tories are in power without the encumbrance of the LDs and look set to be there for all the five years. In the meantime we’ve seen the extraordinary developments within LAB which looks even further now from a GE20 victory than it did on May 8th. Could Cameron’s view of his own future have changed? This was John Rentoul in yesterday’s Indy on Sunday.

“Soon Cameron will have to manage speculation about exactly when before the next election he will stand down, as promised from his Oxfordshire kitchen to the BBC’s James Landale, who tried to hide his excitement at the scoop by fiddling with some vegetable or other.

Indeed, the Prime Minister might have to manage the speculation (from me) that he might change his mind about stepping down before the next election. On current trends, it doesn’t look as if the Labour Party is going to put up much of a fight, so you can imagine Cameron having second thoughts. As he entertained Westminster journalists in the garden of No 10 last week, he looked as fresh-faced as ever, invigorated by the youth-giving elixir of election victory.”

I agree with Rentoul’s observation. It is far from clear that Cameron will go according to the assumed time-table. Walloping LAB again in a general election might prove to be too tempting.

Mike Smithson


Murder on the dancefloor?

July 26th, 2015

The 60-something candidate, initially priced at 100/1 by Ladbrokes, suddenly looks like he might actually win. The public seem to have had enough of the over-coached younger generation and his price tumbles to single figures, but the establishment judges warn that he is making a mockery of the contest.

I speak, of course, of the 2008 series of Strictly Come Dancing. John Sergeant saw off the likes of Gary Rhodes and Cherie Lunghi but then bowed out, saying:

“As time went on, it became increasingly obvious I might have won this competition. That is a frightening thought for me and for millions of people around the country. It would have been a very bitter sweet victory.”

Might Jeremy Corbyn do likewise? Only a week ago sources were adamant that he didn’t want to be leader: “He was very open about just wanting to influence the debate. It would ruin his summer, it would ruin his life.”

The Islington North MP himself initially acknowledged that he was only in the contest to broaden the debate and because it was “his turn” amongst the Campaign Group of leftwingers, following John McDonnell and Diane Abbott’s candidacies in the last two contests.

However Wednesday’s FT (£) had one MP claiming that Corbyn was now taking his own chances much more seriously.

“Given the amount of publicity and momentum he now has, I think he is beginning to seriously believe it is possible.”

Yet Corbyn must know that his winning the leadership would prove hugely difficult for the party. It could spark an instant PLP coup, or a slew of defections, and it would do the party no good at all in the 2016 round of elections – notably for London Mayor.  Sadiq Khan, David Lammy and Gareth Thomas all lent JC their nominations (along with Diane Abbott’s sincere nomination) and – as a honourable man – he might well be uncomfortable with repaying them in such a manner.

From the same FT article, another MP – who nominated him – suggests that Corbyn will “quietly tell his supporters to vote for Andy Burnham.” Well, sorry, but this format means that it’s a bit late for that. Each MP is but one vote in this contest and every suggestion that the contest is being stitched up against him will only attract more registered supporters to join up. Absurdly, the electorate is still open for new entry until 12th August.

So perhaps – if he still genuinely doesn’t want to be leader, and/or he can see that it’s simply not feasible for him to do the job – he could try the John Sergeant move. A policy deal with Burnham, or perhaps some sort of understanding with all of the other candidates, would enable him to bow out with honour and thoroughly vindicate his candidacy. Whether that would be saleable to his supporters is an open question, but Labour will have the problem of a divided activist base whatever happens now.

Maybe there is one crucial difference: Peter Mandelson backed Sergeant:

“He has become the people’s John Travolta and he should be a fighter, not a quitter.”

Somehow I can’t see the former Prince Of Darkness offering such effusive support this time.

Tissue Price


The LAB leadership betting moves back to the boys

July 26th, 2015

40 years after the Tories chose a women LAB looks set to stick with men

It seems the Sunday Times story reported on by TSE in the last thread has prompted a move to Corbyn and Burnham on Betfair who now occupy the two top favourite slots.

The prices on the two women, meanwhile, move out.

When I get my ballot in three weeks time I’ll put the women top and the men bottom who in my judgement are far superior and would serve LAB better than the men on offer.

Mike Smithson


Just when you thought the Lab leadership contest couldn’t get any more exciting

July 26th, 2015

The next Labour leader might have to keep the Blairites and Communists happy, that might not be possible.

The major news overnight was the Sunday Times story on calls to Harriet Harman to suspend the Labour leadership election because of hard left infiltration, see the tweet above. I suspect the election isn’t going to be suspended because the Sunday Times conclude their article with this

A Labour source said several thousand new members had been rejected for administrative reasons, such as not being on the electoral roll, but just a handful were turned away because of their political affiliations.

A Labour spokesman said all applications were verified against the electoral register and those not sharing the aims or values of the Labour party were denied a vote

Whoever wins the Labour leadership election is going to have a challenge keeping all the disparate elements of the Labour party together, one of the consequences of the great polling disaster of 2015 is that the next Labour leader will not be able to rely on the polling to protect their leadership in the way Ed Miliband did from people wanting to see him replaced.

All of this whilst having to deal with the King over the water, David Miliband, as the latest YouGov poll for today’s Sunday Times shows, all four leadership contenders put off more voters than they attract, but only two Labour figures gain more voters than they lose, one of them is David Miliband the other is Alan Johnson.

So the next Labour leader may well have to deal concurrently with the likes of the leader of the Communist Party of Great Britain and David Miliband, the Blairite standard bearer, that may well prove to be an insurmountable challenge for the new leader, no wonder people are wondering if an SDP type split is going to happen in the next few months and years. Given all the potential problems the new leader faces, this might be a good leadership election to lose



David Herdson on “Miliband’s leadership landmine”

July 25th, 2015


Whoever wins is likely to be there for the duration

There’s something in Ed Miliband of the apocryphal academic who when presented with a result he disapproved of, stated “it might well work in practice but it doesn’t work in theory”. More than once, proposals that Ed Miliband advanced had the look and feel of dealing with the world in abstract rather than the messy and contradictory one we live in. The reforms he initiated to Labour’s leadership process are a case in point and his final legacy to his party.

You can understand the thinking. Indeed, the introduction to the Collins Report says all that’s needed: “Ed’s central objective is to transform Labour so that it becomes a genuinely mass membership party reaching out to all parts of the nation”.

The Liberals adopted one-member-one-vote for leadership elections in the 1970s, with the Tories following suit more-or-less in the late ‘90s. By contrast, Miliband was elected in 2010 under a system which gave ordinary party members only a third of the vote. It didn’t look particularly democratic. You can understand the desire to not just match the other parties but to trump them, to engage beyond the membership and reach out directly to supporters too.

The problem with this sort of initiative is that it tends to overestimate the willingness of supporters to engage with the process. Even under the old system where affiliates got votes for free as part of their membership of another organisation, fewer than 9% of them voted – and one in seven of those votes was invalid. Relying on supporters’ self-nomination produces an outcome as representative as a voodoo poll, where the minority who shout loudest dominate.

Some would argue that the Tories’ system isn’t particularly democratic either in that the membership only gets a say once MPs have whittled the field down to two. There’s some merit in that point but the mechanism remains a feature rather than a bug, deliberately designed to avoid the membership foisting a leader on the parliamentary party which it doesn’t want (and, in the event that it happens anyway, there’s an ejection system controlled solely by the MPs).

Labour’s equivalent check in their leadership process is the very high bar required for nominations. While Conservative leadership candidates only require a proposer and a seconder to get onto the ballot, Labour contenders need at least 15% of the parliamentary party at nomination stage – a provision Collins recommended precisely in order “to ensure that all candidates who are put to the ballot command a substantial body of support in the PLP”. Which is all very well until MPs start ‘lending’ their nominations in order to enable a candidate with little following in parliament but from a wing otherwise unrepresented the chance to put their case. That certainly wouldn’t happen in the Tory Party.

There’s no need to go into much detail about the risk inherent in that kind of thinking; the polls so far are eloquent enough on the matter. What is worth thinking about is what happens after the new leader is elected, whether or not it’s Corbyn.

    We’ve already heard speculation that were he to be elected, Corbyn would be out by Christmas. Don’t believe it. Firstly, Labour has no mechanism for doing it; secondly, Labour has no history of doing it; and thirdly, Corbyn might just be a bit more popular as Leader of the Opposition than his critics expect.

To take those in order, mechanisms aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. A leader who couldn’t find enough MPs to form a Shadow Cabinet would be in an untenable position. But would Labour’s senior MPs all refuse to serve in that manner, in what could only be interpreted as a massive slap in the face to their members? And once one Shadow Cabinet is in place, momentum will keep it there. But as Brown showed, and Blair before him, it is extremely hard to remove a Labour leader who doesn’t want to go, without causing a great deal of counter-productive damage in the process. Furthermore, unless Labour could show the same discipline as the Tories did in 2003, there’d be no guarantee that the outcome would be worth the pain of another election under this system.

That’s if they could do it. Labour has an abysmally poor record of ditching under-performing leaders. There are several reasons for that. The rules themselves are one. A more collectivist mindset than the Tories is another. But a third is that oppositions tend to do reasonably well and optimists – and politicians tend to be optimists by nature – can always make a case that things might well turn out all right, while their party’s winning by-elections and council seats.

And Corbyn might do reasonably well as Leader of the Opposition. ‘Leader’ would be a new experience to him but ‘Opposition’ wouldn’t. In an era of manufactured and manicured politicians, the public often take a like to one who isn’t – unless and until they’re anywhere near power. But in the first instance, whole-hearted opposition to the government’s economic policies would go down very well with some voters, extremely well with many Labour activists, and may well win back a fair chunk of support from the Greens and SNP, while keeping on board the ex-Lib Dem from 2010/11.

Of course, it might not be Corbyn. Indeed, it probably won’t be Corbyn. Chances are he’s peaked too early and that he’ll either gaffe or at least one of the others will find some mojo. But whoever it is, once they’re in place they stand a very good chance of serving out the parliament.

David Herdson