Archive for August, 2016


Nick Palmer on What next if Corbyn sweeps the board?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

First, the YouGov poll is just one poll, which as we know could be quite wrong. But it fits with CLP nominations, widespread anecdotal evidence and the implications of the increase in membership. This article, for the sake of argument, will assume that the poll is correct. What happens next?

First, what doesn’t happen. Widespread deselections are unlikely for the reasons set out by Luke Akehurst (a prominent non-Corbyn supporter) here:

Note that deselection is difficult even where the sitting MP has suffered massive boundary changes – he or she is still in pole position in a new seat. There will be exceptions, where the MP has been particularly aggressively anti-Corbyn and even anti-Miliband (Simon Danczuk springs to mind) or where two MPs both have a claim on a seat and the more left-wing one wins. But by and large the talk of massive deselections is hot air, and not encouraged by Corbyn.

Similarly, a new party doesn’t work in FPTP conditions. SDP Mark II would take N% of the Labour vote (we can debate what the share would be but common sense and the limited polling on the subject suggests less than half), could reasonably hope not to have LibDem opposition, and might pick up some Tories. That is a formula for a murder/suicide – both Labour and SDP Mark II would get results comparable to UKIP – lots of votes, not many seats. And that’s even not allowing for the less favourable conditions than Mark I had – a strong Liberal Party and prominent, popular leaders.

The most likely scenario IMO is:

  1. Corbyn makes a unity appeal, makes it clear that support for the no confidence motion will be forgotten, and urges that after two leadership elections in 12 months we now get on with being a proper opposition. He doesn’t ask for enthusiasm, merely acquiescence to the views of the membership. Most members will agree, including many who are voting for Smith. A third leadership challenge next year would just be irritating, and a challenger would get slaughtered.
  2. The Shadow Cabinet refills: there are enough middle ground MPs who will feel the insurrection has failed for now and it’s time to get on with the job. Other MPs accept the result without any enthusiasm whatever but only a limited number continuing to shout about it; the others mostly tend their local roots, sort out reselection and await 2020. A handful defect to the Tories or go Independent, quite a few retire.
  3. In 2020, Labour wins or loses. If Labour wins, Corbyn is PM and we’ll see how it works out. If Corbyn loses, he resigns (his demurral that it’s a matter for the party is a polite formality – he won’t stay on in that case) and we have a serious leadership contest. Because of the change in membership, the next Labour leader will also be on the left, but quite possibly a fresh face.
  4. In 2025, who the hell knows?

Note that this sequence leaves most Labour MPs in place, because if under FPTP you have a safe seat and there is no split, you’re likely to win almost regardless of the national picture. In the end, MPs would rather carry on and hope for better days than charge over the cliff of a split. In politics, as in the rest of life, dramatic change comes a little less quickly and cleanly than one might expect.

Nick Palmer

Nick Palmer was the Labour MP for Broxtowe from 1997 to 2010


One more heave won’t do it. Labour MPs have to now either back Corbyn or split

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016


The Labour party has changed fundamentally in the last 16 months. Labour MPs have an important decision to make. Should they stay, or should they go?

If last night’s YouGov Labour leadership poll proves accurate, then Jeremy Corbyn will win with an even bigger mandate than last year. I’ve always had the hunch the Labour rebels had a one more heave approach with Corbyn, reduce his mandate this year, to soften him to be toppled in a future leadership contest. That strategy appears to be in tatters, because of the members who joined after May 2015.

So what do, if the party was made up of members who joined before May 2015, Smith would be winning, but the entryism/Corbyn’s big tent politics* sees Corbyn winning a landslide. Labour MPs have to realise their party as it was has changed. Right now the Labour cannot function as a political party or as an opposition if 172 MPs have no confidence in their leader. Something has to give, after the criticisms heaped upon Corbyn by his opponents in the PLP,

Corbyn will be emboldened by an even larger mandate, and there’s support 48% support for re-selection of all sitting MPs so the decision on whether to go might be easier for them if they are to face mandatory re-selection.

I do not envy the 172 Labour MPs who have no confidence in their leader. It appears that the Labour members have no confidence in the rebel MPs. The Corbyn supporters think Corbyn will win a general election.


*Delete as applicable


Corbyn set to win Labour leadership contest with even bigger mandate than last time YouGov poll finds.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016


Just imagine if this story happened during the general election campaign and not in the silly season 4 years before a general election

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016


Whatever the rights and wrongs of this story, perceptions can sometimes matter more than the facts. Either Jeremy Corbyn and his team didn’t know about Richard Barbook’s background or they didn’t care about it, either option is pretty damning about the political nous of Jeremy Corbyn and his advisers.



“It’s the switcher’s wot won it” – will that be the verdict on Owen Smith’s victory?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Owen Smith

I surprised a few friends in a previous posting when I declared I was a bit of a fan of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. I will surprise a few more when I say I am admirer of my former BBC boss John Birt. My enthusiasm stems in part from the fact that I was a Father of the Chapel for National Union of Journalists in Television News. Under the Birt regime there were lots of extra journalist jobs and progressive policies on equality and diversity

But what got me thinking about the former director general was his warnings about “bias against understanding” in news coverage. The argument is reviewed by one of my ablest former colleagues Richard Sambrook.

Does the Birt theory explain, I wondered, why so many people insist that a Jeremy Corbyn victory is all but inevitable.

The latest is Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer who says the “incumbent will win …Even the more optimistic of his internal opponents now think the best they can hope for is that his majority goes down, diminishing his mandate. And Joff Wild of this parish says Labour members will “almost certainly” re-elect Corbyn.

These confident predictions are made despite the fact that we have yet to have a single poll conducted among the 640,000 plus members and supporters entitled to vote. As I argued here  there is no solid evidence supporting Corbyn’s favouritism. My belief that the contest is “too close to call.”

My hunch is that the “bias against understanding” comes from the fact the central feature of the Corbyn campaign, the mass rallies, are highly visible and easily reportable.

Owen Smith’s path to victory runs through thousands of living rooms where potential switchers are agonising over their decision in private. One who went public gives a fascinating insight into the thought process. Loz or Laura a “self-diagnosed Twitter addict.”

“Yesterday I cast my vote for the Labour leadership election and the box I put my X in…was for a Mr. Owen Smith. There. I have said it.”

She had been building up courage to write the blog . “I genuinely feel frightened, ” says. Rejects the idea that all Corbyn supporters, are a “baying mob”  she has no doubt “that I am in for some abuse, it is unfortunately to be expected in this day and age.” She has made lots of new friend through her support for Corbyn and “I feel I owe them some kind of explanation for my U-Turn”

A key influence on Laura’s decision was her fiancé – “the kind of voter we need to win over.” He has heard all the pro Corbyn arguments from Laura. “So trust me if anyone was going to be influenced to Corbyn it would be him. Yet he told me in no uncertain times that he would NOT vote for Labour if Jeremy Corbyn is leader.”

How many Lauras are there? No one can know for sure but the Smith campaign believe there are enough to give him victory and they released a video last week specifically designed to turn doubters into switchers. Four former members of Corbyn’s front bench, Lilian Greenwood, Gloria del Piero, Nia Griffiths and Anna Turley their frustration at dealing with a leader lacking basic leadership skills.

Their collective view is that working with Corbyn was a nightmare. Not so, says his fellow Islington MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry. 

“I have not agreed with everything Jeremy has said and done since becoming the Labour leader last year, but where I have had disagreements with him, I have always found him and his team willing to get around a table, listen, reflect and discuss a way forward.”

The striking thing about Thornberry’s 1,000 word letter to her party members is that a no point does she address the question of how Labour can win over voter’s like Laura’s fiancé. And the words “Jeremy will be Prime Minister” never get past her keyboard.

Don Brind


In praise of Jeremy Corbyn

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Bling 2

There’s a danger that we’re underestimating the Labour leader

Outside of the Corbynites, the idée reçue amongst most of us is that Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour at a general election is going to lead Labour to experiencing an extinction level electoral defeat. On my most charitable days I’ll say Jeremy Corbyn has only two flaws, everything he says, and everything he does, but I’m going to challenge that perception and defend Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn – A very thick skinned politician

One of the reasons I’ve started to admire Jeremy Corbyn is his keep calm and carry on attitude in recent weeks. With the relentless negative media coverage he receives coupled with the mass resignations of the shadow cabinet and 172 of his fellow MPs declaring no confidence in him, most men would have visibly shrunk after that, but Corbyn seems oblivious to all of that. The inevitable media attacks against him during the next general election may well not faze him.

Jeremy Corbyn – A man who has re-enegrised the left wing movement, why not the country?

It is easy to mock the Corbyn and his fans but the stats don’t lie, he’s overseen an increase in Labour party membership to such an extent that Labour now has more members than all the other parties combined. Tony Blair constructed the big tent politics, reaching out to voters who previously didn’t vote Labour. Corbyn is being the heir to Blair in some respects by creating a similar big tent approach (albeit approaching centre-left voters rather than centre-right voters that Blair did.)

In my political lifetime I’ve seen the Anti-Federalist League, an organisation that could hold meetings in a phone box, transform into a movement that ultimately led to the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union.

From Brexit, and the possibility of Presidents Trump & Le Pen those opposed to smashing the political status quo are rocking all over the world, Jeremy Corbyn has the potential to join that club.

Jeremy Corbyn – A man underestimated in the polls

In the last seven polls conducted in the run up the May local elections, The Tories led in all the polls, bar one YouGov, some of the Tory leads were as high as 8%, but when the National Equivalent Share of the Vote was calculated by Professors Rallings & Thrasher, Labour were ahead of  the Tories. Given the negative media around him, if there’s one Labour leader that’s like to cause a shy Labour voter, it is Jeremy Corbyn. Remember the negative mood music in the run up the Oldham West by-election? The result, a stunning Labour victory.

Jeremy Corbyn – A man ahead of his time (and principle)

We might laugh at and criticise some of Corbyn’s policies today, but in the past people laughed at and criticised Corbyn’s ‘loony left’ policies. He met Gerry Adams before the UK Government did, Corbyn advocated LGBT equality whilst the Tory Government was introducing Section 28, now look at where we are today?

The UK establishment from Her Majesty downwards is meeting the likes of Martin McGuinness whilst same sex marriage is the law of the land. What we might consider ‘loony left’ today may well become the orthodoxy of tomorrow. (And I haven’t mentioned his opposition to the Iraq war before it was fashionable.)

His views have remained consistent, he’s not someone who will say things just to garner votes, which is in stark contrast to the professional politicians that seem to dominate politics these days.

Jeremy Corbyn – The master tactician

Whisper it very quietly, Jeremy Corbyn is very good at winning elections, at the outset of last year’s Labour leadership election Corbyn was priced 200/1 to win, and for the second time in a year, he’s on course to win the Labour leadership. To paraphrase a former Labour MP, ‘Corbyn’s managed to outmanoeuvre the young Labour princes and princesses who strode the parade ground with the confidence born of aristocratic schooling. Like latter day Pushkins drilled in the elite academy of Brownian blitzkrieg, they were bursting with their sense of destiny. It’s not Corbyn who is unconsciously nervous, but the Milibands, Balls, Burnhams.’

If you remember Labour use AV to elect their leaders, one of the joys of AV is that theoretically allows you to vote to stop X winning, with your other preferences. The system was geared to stop the likes of Corbyn, and he won spectacularly.

But his greatest achievement may well be his alleged sabotage of the Remain campaign during the EU referendum, which helped Leave to win, and end David Cameron’s Premiership, after all there is much evidence that he wasn’t a fan of the European Union and had spoken of leaving the EU before he became leader.

Those expecting Jeremy Corbyn to comport himself at the next general election with all the dignity, competence, and elan of a man who has just accidentally inserted his penis and scrotum into a hornets’ nest might be surprised at just how well Corbyn does at the next general election, in the past year nobody has become rich by underestimating Jeremy Corbyn.



Joff Wild on Jeremy Corbyn and an impending constitutional crisis

Monday, August 29th, 2016


As leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition Jeremy Corbyn receives a salary of close to £138,000 per annum. On top of this, of course, he gets expenses and a generous pension package. Last week, he told us that he does not consider himself wealthy. Some may wonder whether a politician so out of touch with reality can ever be taken seriously, but not, it seems, a majority of Labour members; for on 24th September it is almost certainly going to be announced that they have re-elected Jeremy Corbyn as leader of their party.

What we have learned over the last few weeks is that once the leadership contest which Corbyn is fighting with Owen Smith has been put to bed, the acrimony that exists across Labour is not going to go away. There will still be 150,000 (perhaps as many as 200,000) Labour members who believe that Corbyn is not up to the job, not to mention more than 1,000 Labour councillors, the mayor of London and the leader of Scottish Labour (Carwyn Jones has remained neutral, though it is pretty clear what he thinks too). Crucially, 80% or so of Labour MPs will continue to feel the same. That takes us back to the salary.

Jeremy Corbyn gets an enhanced pay package because the post he holds is an official, constitutional one. He is not just the leader of the second largest party in the Commons, but is also meant to head a shadow front bench able to provide close scrutiny of the government and to offer an alternative to it. In other words, the British Constitution mandates Jeremy Corbyn to ensure that Theresa May and her ministers account in full detail for the decisions that they take and to ensure in-depth critiques of those decisions. Because of his lack of support among members of the parliamentary Labour party, it is clear that Jeremy Corbyn cannot do this now and will not be able to do it after 24th September.

As this is the case, we are in completely uncharted waters. Our country’s constitution is not codified; instead, it is a mixture of statute, court decision and convention. It has not ever had to deal with a situation in which the leader of the opposition does not command the support of his party’s MPs but continues to insist on leading them. In the past, parliamentary leaders who have lost the confidence of their colleagues have always resigned – and our constitutional settlement is based on the assumption that this will always be so.

As we know, though, Corbyn does things differently. Because he does not believe in the primacy of parliament, his view is that as long as he enjoys the backing of a majority of Labour members he should keep his job. But while that may be fine for him and for his supporters, there is a wider picture to consider. Our constitution demands a properly functioning opposition – one in which a full shadow cabinet is backed up by a full team of junior shadow ministers and parliamentary private secretaries. For as long as Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour, this will not happen.

Because Corbyn will not resign, despite not being able to do the job he is paid to do, it seems to me that at some stage the Speaker of the House is going to have to get involved. He will be very reluctant to do so and, no doubt, he will be rebuffed by the Corbyn team, but John Bercow surely has a responsibility to ensure that the House of Commons performs the role it is constitutionally obliged to perform. And that means having an effective opposition. Bercow has the power to insist on or even to impose a solution; sadly, it may turn out he will have to use it.  

Whatever he does decide to do, Bercow is likely to be hung out to dry. The current situation brings the Commons into disrepute, while perceived interference in the internal affairs of the Labour party will undoubtedly lead to accusations of bias or worse. But a leader with minority support among his party’s MPs, presiding over a dysfunctional shadow cabinet in which individuals undertake multiple roles with little or no support, is not sustainable. Something has to give.

It all means Corbyn’s implacable refusal to accept that he needs a parliamentary mandate is going to cause ructions that go way beyond the Labour party.  That would be quite a feather in the cap of a hard left MP who has always wanted to shake up the British political establishment.

Joff Wild

Joff Wild posts on Political Betting as SouthamObserver and tweets at SpaJw


This is why Mrs May will be unlikely to hold an early election

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Con Majority

Boundary changes resulting from cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 could exacerbate Labour divisions as well as boosting the Tories.

The Guardian are reporting that leading psephologist and former Tory MP Lord Hayward has looked at the forthcoming boundary review/reduction in the number of MPs,

Two hundred Labour seats – more than 85% of the party’s total – could be affected by the review of parliamentary boundaries due next month, according to a detailed analysis of the review’s likely impact.

Up to 30 Labour seats could disappear altogether, says Lord Hayward, an analyst widely regarded as an expert on the boundary review, while the rest will see their composition altered in some form.

Although the changes will also affect the Conservatives, Hayward, a Tory peer, said his analysis of demographics in the UK concluded that Labour is over-represented.

“The party that will suffer most is the Labour party because such a high proportion of their current seats are well below the required quota, particularly in Wales, the north-east and parts of the M62 corridor,” he said.

The changes, initiated by David Cameron, which will cut the number of MPs by 50 to 600, aims to ensure that each person’s vote is of similar value by equalising the number of registered voters in each constituency to within 5% of 74,769. A higher proportion of Tory seats are currently within the range, so only between 10 and 15 of the party’s seats are expected to disappear.

MPs of all parties face the prospect of battling it out with colleagues to retain a seat, but anxieties will be particularly acute within Labour, where anti-Corbyn MPs fear that the necessary reselection contests could be an opportunity to reshape the parliamentary party in Corbyn’s favour, if he retains the leadership. “This will have implications for large numbers of Labour MPs who may well have to compete against each other for reselection,” Hayward added.

I suspect this will be main reason Mrs May decides against an early election, notwithstanding the intricacies of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, an early election will deny her and the Tories a boost from the boundary review.

Although some might argue the cherry on the parfait will be the potential of many Labour MPs facing re-selection because of the boundary changes, it will be like the mandatory re-selections that many close to Jeremy Corbyn have been arguing for.

My own view if that does happen, it might force Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn to do something more radical if they are likely to be replaced to someone more politically in tune with Jeremy Corbyn, and that will split the Labour party further and wider than we’ve already seen.