Mayoral elections are so much more about the popularity of individual candidates than their parties

October 2nd, 2015


The big news today was that Zac Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate to contest the London Mayoral election next May.

This was a postal ballot of members of the Conservative Party in London plus others who had been prepared to stump up £1 for a vote. The turnout of 9.277 was a disappointment and compares unfavourably with the votes that Sadiq Khan chalked up in the LAB selection three weeks ago. In fact Zac’s CON mayoral vote of 6,524 votes (70.6%) was 1,700 fewer than 4th place David Lammy (8,255 votes) in LAB’s London contest.

The big thing to remember about mayoral elections is that the candidate is so much more important than the party they represent. Remember in the very first London Mayoral election in 2000 the official LAB candidate, Frank Dobson, came in third. Ken Livingstone had resigned from the party after failing to get the nomination and stood as an independent. He was invited back into the party in 2004 but lost, of course, to Boris in 2008.

In that election things were so good for the Conservatives nationally that it was hardly surprising that Boris Johnson manage to win. Four years later things were very different. The mayoral election took place a few weeks after George Osborne’s of famous “omnishambles” budget and LAB enjoyed very large leads in the national polls. Notwithstanding Boris went on to win a second term.

There’s no better illustration of the fact that candidates matter much more than their parties than what happened in Bedford, where I live, on General Election day. Alongside the standard parliamentary ballots there was the four yearly election for mayor.

Even though the Liberal Democrats were getting smashed absolutely everywhere else in the country and that in the parliamentary elections within the borough they struggled to get more than 6% the incumbent Lib Dem mayor had an overwhelming victory by 35000 votes to 26000 over the Conservative.

In this coming London fight so much depends on how Khan and Goldsmith resonate with Londoners. Their party labels are less relevant.

Mike Smithson


Two CON losses – one to LAB the other to the SNP – in latest Local By-Election Results

October 2nd, 2015

George Street and Harbour (SNP defence) and Midstocket and Rosemount (Con defence) on City of Aberdeen
George Street and Harbour
Result: Scottish National Party 961 (51% +17%), Labour 490 (26% -5%), Conservatives 195 (10% +3%), Green Party 136 (7% unchanged), Liberal Democrats 96 (5% -5%)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the first count with a majority of 471 (25%) on a swing of 11% from Lab to SNP

Midstocket and Rosemount
Result: Scottish National Party 1,168 (41% +2%), Conservatives 672 (24% +10%), Labour 605 (21% -12%), Liberal Democrats 238 (8% +2%), Green Party 170 (6% unchanged)
Scottish National Party GAIN from Conservative on the fourth count with a majority of 496 (17%) on a swing of 4% from SNP to Con

Irvine Valley on East Ayrshire (SNP defence)
Result: Scottish National Party 1,797 (50% +5%), Conservatives 865 (24% +6%), Labour 860 (24% -6%), Green Party 88 (2%, no candidate in 2012)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the second count with a majority of 932 (26%) on a swing of 0.5% from SNP to Con

Glenrothes West and Kinglassie on Fife (SNP defence)
Result: Scottish National Party 2,235 (59% +17%), Labour 1,207 (32% -9%), Conservatives 234 (6% +3%), Green Party 113 (3%, no candidate in 2012)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the first count with a majority of 1,028 (27%) on a swing of 13% from Lab to SNP

Heldon and Laich on Moray (Ind defence)
Result: Independent 1,323 (41% +2%), Scottish National Party 1,003 (31% -6%), Conservatives 703 (22% +5%), Green Party 192 (6% -1%)
Independent HOLD on the third count with a majority of 320 (10%) on a swing of 4% from SNP to Ind

Stirling East on Stirling (SNP defence)
Result: Scottish National Party 1,311 (45% +12%), Labour 1,094 (38% -7%), Conservatives 343 (12% +4%), Green Party 152 (5% +1%)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the third count with a majority of 217 (7%) on a swing of 9.5% from Lab to SNP

Linlithgow on West Lothian (SNP defence)
Result: Scottish National Party 2,049 (43% +1%), Labour 1,088 (23% +3%), Conservatives 973 (20% -13%), Green Party 282 (6%, no candidate in 2012), Non Party Independent 230 (5%, no candidate in 2012), Liberal Democrats 133 (3%, no candidate in 2012)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the sixth count with a majority of 961 (20%) on a swing of 1% from SNP to Lab

Scottish local by-election tally since general election: SNP 48%, Labour 25%, Conservatives 12%, Green Party 7%, Independent 3%, Liberal Democrats 2%, United Kingdom Independence Party 1%, Other Parties 2%. Seats won in by-elections since general election: SNP 19, Independent 1, Labour 1, Orkney Manifesto Group 1

Banbury, Grimsbury and Castle on Cherwell (Con defence)
Result: Labour 781 (45% +6%), Conservatives 661 (38% -7%), United Kingdom Independence Party 150 (9%, no candidate in 2012), Liberal Democrats 73 (4% -2%), Green Party 72 (4% -6%)
Labour GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 120 (7%) on a swing of 6.5% from Con to Lab

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


Next Labour Leader: Let’s do the Time Warp Again

October 2nd, 2015


Tissue Price on Mr. Corbyn’s successor

Amongst the favourites in the betting for next Labour leader are non-runner Dan Jarvis (8/1), non-finisher Chuka Umunna (9/1), and non-MP David Miliband (a stand out 20/1 with Stan James, otherwise 10/1). All are broadly on the right of the party, though admittedly Jarvis is something of a blank canvas.

And yet the next leader will either be arranged by the PLP, in the Michael Howard manner, or they’ll be elected by broadly the same membership that just gave Corbyn a landslide. So something doesn’t add up here.

I won’t re-hash the arguments for a coup again here. Keiran tipped Alan Johnson as a potential unifier and, in the comments on that piece, others suggested Harriet Harman or Hilary Benn. There’s also Tom Watson (8/1 2nd favourite) to consider in this role: the lobby took his conference speech as evidence that he might be interested in any vacancy…

Absent a coup, when and why will Corbyn step down? He might make it through to 2020 and lose, though it is odds-on (4/7) that he gets replaced before then. I think the most likely scenario for his departure would probably be based on mediocre election results, coupled with poor personal polling.

Obviously plenty of Labour MPs will be calling for his head in such circumstances but I think the role of the trade unions will be what is really critical here. If Unite withdrew their support then it would be hard to see how Corbyn could rely solely on the membership for his authority – especially when much of that membership was recruited by the trade unions as part of his campaign.

He might even decide to go himself: though he is very serious about changing the Labour Party he does not appear to be in this for personal self-aggrandisement. If he were persuaded that a younger, more presentable candidate of the left would have a better chance of winning in 2020 he might resign and endorse them in the subsequent contest.

And, given that it’s unlikely a Corbyn-controlled NEC will change the election process, the candidate of the left ought to be favourite in that contest. But such a candidate would still need to get 15% of the MPs to nominate them, which might rule out the likes of John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, at least if the contest is before the General Election.

So, who might the “candidate of the left” be? If you think they’ll be a genuine Corbynite then Clive Lewis (33/1) has attracted the most early buzz; if you think that the unions might execute the Time Warp manoeuvre* and go for someone slightly more centrist then Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Lisa Nandy (14/1) looks the best choice – though it remains to be seen whether the time will be ever be right for a woman to lead Labour.

Both look far better value than Umunna and Miliband, and both will still be live betting tickets if Corbyn makes it to 2020 or beyond.

* A jump to the left, then a step to the right

Tissue Price


Next year’s London Mayoral election next will be the big test for the Corbyn leadership.

October 2nd, 2015


Don Brind on the day the CON Mayoral candidate will be announced

“Sadiq. Wow” said the text message that came in as I was walking down an Italian hillside. It alerted me to the fact that Sadiq Khan had won the Labour London Mayoral selection by a decisive margin.

The friend who sent it knew I was heavily invested in Khan stocks. Not only is he my local MP – and a brilliant one too – but no less than six years ago I had called for him to be Labour’s mayoral candidate in place of Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone had been a very effective Mayor but his defence of the job in the 2008 election was woeful. As a member of the party’s media team I looked on as he failed to nail Boris Johnson’s weaknesses. My article suggested that for the 2012 election Labour should pick an ethnic minority candidate to reflect the capital’s diversity. My journalism ensured that I wasn’t invited to rejoin the media team. Ken duly lost.

This time round the former Mayor gave his blessing to Khan in preference to Diane Abbott. Khan had nominated Corbyn to get him into the race but – unlike Abbott — he didn’t vote for him. Abbott came in third and it was the transfer of votes from her to Khan that took him past Tessa Jowell.

Thus Khan was the main beneficiary of the Corbyn surge in London.

In his role as elder statesman of the Corbynistas Livingstone has, in my view, made a shrewd judgement in backing Khan. Labour victory in London next year is vital for Corbyn. Defeat in the party’s strongest region would cement the widely held view — at Westminster and amongst longstanding members — that their leader is unelectable and that with him defeat in 2020 is inevitable.

A Khan victory would hush the doubters. And on the face of it he ought to win. He was the party’s campaign chief in the capital in 2014 when Labour gained ground in both the European and borough elections and in the General election in May.

    But the Mayoral election involves a different challenge. Under the Supplementary Vote voters can indicate a first and second preference. In May there were 1.5 million Labour voters. The Tories trailed by 300,00 with 1.2 million. That gave Labour 45 of the capitals 73 seats. But there 285,000 Ukip voters, 270,000 Lib Dems and 170,000 Greens. Next year the hunt for second preferences amongst supporters of the also-rans will be fascinating.

Khan has made it clear he knows it won’t a “shoo in”. He plans to make the election a referendum on London’s housing crisis. He promises to be a green Mayor and a business friendly Mayor. The environmentalist Euro sceptic Zac Goldsmith is not an indentikit Tory.

But as well as policies election are about the candidates’ characters and life stories. I think this will give Khan the edge.

Am I biased? Just a bit. I was the chair of governors at Ernest Bevin school Tooting in the 80s when we appointed the first Muslim head of a London school. That head, Naz Bokhari, became a role model and mentor for the young Sadiq, the son of a bus driver who had migrated from Pakistan. Goldsmith, of course, is an old Etonian, who inherited millions from his financial wheeler-dealing father.

Khan will highlight that contrast but he will be careful to make it a story about aspiration and opportunity rather than about class. He hopes his personal narrative — of working hard, getting to university on his merits, running a law firm employing 50 people and then becoming MP for his home patch — will resonate with the ambitions of Londoners for themselves and their families. And crucially, he will take every opportunity to underline that he is his own man, independent of the new Labour leader.

He is likely to be ruthlessly hard-headed in involving the Jeremy Corbyn in his campaign only where his impact will be positive.

The negatives that stem from having a a leader who celebrates his own authenticity whatever problems it causes for his colleagues was demonstrated by the wholly unnecessary row over Trident. It overshadowed Khan’s speech, as well as excellent final morning speeches by the Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer, the Health team Luciana Berger and Heidi Alexander, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell and deputy leader Tom Watson. Taken together they were a demonstration that Corbyn has established a “big tent” with a team that is more united and ready to take on the Tories than many had feared.

During his own speech Corbyn got the loudest appluase for his attack on cyber bullying: “I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less. So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks. The cyberbullying. And especially the misogynistic abuse online. And let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.”

To his supporters who are looking for a fight, the leader’s message was: Not In My Name. It needed saying.

Don Brind


Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Preview : October 1st 2015

October 1st, 2015

George Street and Harbour (SNP defence) and Midstocket and Rosemount (Con defence) on City of Aberdeen
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 17, Scottish National Party 15, Liberal Democrats 5, Conservatives 3, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 5)
Result of wards at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected

George Street and Harbour
Scottish National Party 672, 224 (34%)
Labour 456, 381 (31%)
Liberal Democrats 262 (10%)
Independents 26, 222 (9%)
Conservatives 178 (7%)
Greens 194 (7%)
National Front 29 (1%)
Non Party Independent 14 (1%)
Candidates duly nominated: Brian Davidson (Con), Euan Davidson (Lib Dem), Michael Hutchinson (SNP), Alex Jarvis (Green), Mike Scott (Lab)

Midstocket and Rosemount
Scottish National Party 1,223, 264 (39%)
Labour 1,247 (33%)
Conservatives 531 (14%)
Liberal Democrats 245 (6%)
Greens 245 (6%)
Independent 82 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Howard Gemmell (Lab), Tom Mason (Con), Ken McLeod (Lib Dem), Alex Nicholl (SNP), Jennifer Phillips (Green)

Irvine Valley on East Ayrshire (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Scottish National Party 15, Labour 14, Conservatives 2, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Scottish National Party short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 1,252, 847 (45%)
Labour 1,423 (30%)
Conservatives 857 (18%)
Independent 339 (7%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jen Broadhurst (Green), Susan McFadzean (Con), Alex Walsh (Lab), Elena Whitham (SNP)

Glenrothes West and Kinglassie on Fife (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 35, Scottish National Party 26, Liberal Democrats 10, Conservatives 3, Independents 3, Non Party Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 5)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 910, 349, 941 (42%)
Labour 708, 1,424 (41%)
Independent 147, 192 (7%)
Scottish Pensioners 271 (5%)
Conservatives 155 (3%)
Liberal Democrats 83 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Julie Ford (SNP), Jonathan Gray (Con), Lorna Ross (Green), Alan Seath (Lab)

Heldon and Laich on Moray (Ind defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Scottish National Party 10, Independents 10, Conservatives 3, Labour 3 (No Overall Control, Scottish National Party and Independents short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 584, 735, 241 (39%)
Scottish National Party 797, 678 (37%)
Conservatives 688 (17%)
Greens 262 (7%)
Candidates duly nominated: Pete Bloomfield (Con), James Mackessack-Leitch (Green), Joyce O’Hara (SNP), Dennis Slater (Ind)

Stirling East on Stirling (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Scottish National Party 9, Labour 8, Conservatives 4, Green 1 (No Overall Control, Scottish National Party short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 862, 858 (45%)
Scottish National Party 1,278 (33%)
Liberal Democrats 403 (10%)
Conservatives 302 (8%)
Green Party 163 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Luke Davidson (Con), Chris Kane (Lab), Gerry McLaughlan (SNP), Alasdair Tollemache (Green)

Linlithgow on West Lothian (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 16, Scottish National Party 15, Conservative 1, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 829, 1,827 (42%)
Conservatives 2,112 (33%)
Labour 1,292 (20%)
St. John’s Hospital 280 (5%)
National Front 25 (0%)
Candidates duly nominated: Ian Burgess (Con), Brenda Galloway (NPI), Caron Lindsay (Lib Dem), David Manion (Lab), Maire McCormack (Green), David Tait (SNP)

There have been thirteen by-elections in Scotland since the general election (with all bar two of them being SNP defences) caused by the majority of them being SNP councillors who were duly nominated to contest the general election hoping to get a very credible second place and eneded up getting elected to Westminster. And that surge that sent them to Westminster shows no sign of ending. In those thirteen by-elections the SNP have polled 47% of the vote compared to Labour’s 43% with the other parties lagging way behind (Con 5%, Others 4%, Greens 2%, UKIP 1%) with swings that if it wasn’t for the general election would be staggering. Examples include the 26.5% swing from Lab to SNP in Hilton on Aberdeen in July, 28% swing from Lab to SNP in Craigton on Glasgow in August and then a rather minor but still impressive 10.5% swing from Lab to SNP in Ayr East on South Ayrshire in September. So what’s going to happen in all of these wards? In a nutshell seven SNP wins I think (five holds, one gain from Con and one gain from Ind) which if that is what does happen will make the result of the Scottish Parliament such a foregone conclusion that anything less than 86 SNP MSP’s will seem like a disappointment.

Banbury, Grimsbury and Castle on Cherwell (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 41, Labour 7, Liberal Democrats 1, Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 32)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 821 (45%), Labour 713 (39%), Green Party 186 (10%), Liberal Democrat 104 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kenneth Ashworth (Lib Dem), Shaida Hussain (Lab), Christopher Manley (Green), Tony Mepham (Con), Linda Wren (UKIP)

So what a good thing we have the uniform reassurance of Cherwell in Oxfordshire to calm us down. A council where the Conservatives have never fallen below 34 seats and where the opposition have never managed to break double figures since 2007. I mean don’t get me wrong, with UKIP contesting there is the chance of a Labour gain and the Lib Dem fightback could also tip the balance towards Labour, but I am expecting a nice reassuring Conservative hold proving that whilst Scotland seems determined to have a second referendum on independence, in the more rural parts of England it’s a simply a case of “Jeeves, close the curtains will you, it’s getting a might parky in the evenings now!”


Ipsos-MORI boost for Boris in the Cameron successor stakes

October 1st, 2015

But George doing better with CON voters

We’re going to have to get used to a lot of this – polling on the next Tory leader who could be the next Prime Minister. What’s striking is the huge difference between the all polled split and the numbers restricted to just Tory voters. George is in third place on 15% in the general rating but on 32% in top slot with the latter group.

The could represent a serious problem for the blue team. Just 7% of the non-CON voter split in the poll go for Osbo compared with 24% for Boris.

    This is a bit like the Corbyn dilemma within LAB. Do you choose a leader with the potential to win converts from other parties or stick with your comfort zone? The red tribe opted for the latter.

On a general matter I’ve long been highly suspicious of Boris polling. Remember how in the last London Mayoral race every single final poll over-stated him with Ken coming far closer than anyone had anticipated.

Mike Smithson


Marco Rubio is getting very close to Jeb Bush in the Republican nominee betting

October 1st, 2015

While all the focus in the fight for the Republican nomination has been on the three non politician contenders – Trump, Fiorina and Carson – the big recent betting moves have been at the top of the card

The former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush has yet to sparkle in the campaign and had seen his betting price gradually move out while a lot of the recent money has been going on Marco Rubio. He’s the junior senator from Florida and has come to even greater prominence following the turbulence amongst his party leadership in Congress.

Rubio is 44, a Cuban American who is increasingly being seen by the party establishment as the one best able to take on Hillary next year. He’s been helped by Bush’s lacklustre campaign so far and very poor poll ratings.

It is also being said that he’s starting to eat into Bush’s fundraising attracting key players from the Bush team.

Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls but is nothing like as dominant as he previously appeared to be.

Coming up later this month is the next major TV debate of potential nominees. It is expected that this will further sort out some of the less likely contenders – a list that had already started to whittle down.

I’m on Rubio.

Mike Smithson


The flaw in Corbyn’s plan to win the next election by signing up non-voters and the young

September 30th, 2015

Labour risk piling up votes where they don’t need it

Mr Corbyn’s plan has the major flaw that in the 100 seats with the lowest turnout in England Labour hold 94 of them, and 95 out of the 100 seats with the lowest turnout in England and Wales. When you extend the analysis to include Scotland, a similar pattern emerges, in the 100 seats with the lowest turnout in Great Britain Labour holds 92 of them, the SNP holds 3 and the Conservatives hold 5 of them.

Boosting turnout in these seats might replicate the mistake of May where Labour piled up votes in safe seats they already hold whilst the Conservatives boosted their votes in the marginals they hold, which will ultimately improve the advantage the Conservatives hold in vote efficiency. The following tweet sums it up.

To win in 2020 Labour needs to win the votes of people who voted Conservative and UKIP in 2015, until Mr Corbyn addresses that Labour won’t be taking power in 2020.

Thanks again to PBer Disraeli for producing the data behind this article.