Archive for January, 2018


Truss for leader & PM! A real grassroots move or a spoof?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A new arrival on Twitter – the first follower Ladbrokes Politics


Jeremy Corbyn – the new Maggie Thatcher

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A provoking suggestion from Cyclefree

I can hear the spluttering already. How could such a comparison be made? How dare someone even make it! After all, Corbyn represents pretty much everything Thatcher fought against. And for Corbyn Thatcher epitomised the hard-hearted neoliberal capitalist ideology he has consistently opposed his entire political life.

But consider the following: –

• Both were in the right place at the right time, whether through luck (in Corbyn’s case, it being his turn to represent the far Left in Labour’s leadership election and the willingness of MPs to lend him their nomination) or judgment (Thatcher picking up the baton from Keith Joseph and standing against her own party leader when others held back).

• Both courageous: Thatcher in challenging Heath and gaining the respect of those who wanted change but were too gentlemanly to strike; Corbyn in simply ignoring his MPs anguished concerns and attempts to remove him. Perhaps obstinacy might be a better description but, still, it takes nerve to ignore repeated snubs, criticisms and attacks.

• Both became leaders of their respective parties at a time when the long-established status quo was fracturing. In Thatcher’s case, the largely social democratic consensus was disintegrating under the strain of oil price rises, inflation, strikes and a feeling that something had to change if Britain’s position as the sick man of Europe was not to be permanent.

In Corbyn’s case, the long-standing consequences of boom leading to bust, the financial crisis and globalisation (declining or not rising living standards, debt, a malfunctioning housing market, an increasingly casualised work force, concentrations of wealth akin to those of the late 19th century and governments seemingly either in hock to the very wealthy or unable to control them) have led to a crisis of confidence amongst capitalism’s supporters which has made many voters willing to listen to Corbyn’s analysis.

• A close relationship with their Chancellor or Shadow Chancellor. Whatever the later strains, the Thatcher/Howe and later Thatcher/Lawson relationships were at the heart of Thatcher’s governments and economic achievements. (We do not need to look far to see how damaging the PM and Chancellor being on non-speaking terms can be.) The Corbyn/McDonnell relationship has not, of course, been tested in government.

But so far it has been focused on the economy in much the same way as Thatcher and Howe were. Corbyn/McDonnell may be more focused on how to make it fairer rather than how to make it work but, like Thatcher, they have not allowed themselves to be distracted (by Brexit in their case / by rising unemployment & riots in Thatcher’s) from what they see as key to the changes they want to make happen.

• A clear idea as to how they want to change the country. In completely opposite directions from the other, to be sure. But even if you do not favour the destination there is something attractive about someone who knows where they want to get to, especially when the alternative is busy agonising about whether and, if so, how to put one foot in front of the other.

• An ability to articulate ordinary people’s concerns in a way which makes voters listen. Both populists, to the great surprise of most who never thought that a rather stiff humourless rich Tory woman could reinvent herself as a housewife full of common-sense. Nor that a scruffy bearded rebellious old man with a history of adopting every lost, dubious or outrightly violent cause he could find could reinvent himself as an amiable and beloved wise grandfather determined to help the young.

• Like all effective leaders, both had/have their Praetorian guard and a small band of enthusiastic backers, becoming larger as success brings followers. Thatcher dominated her party while she was a winner, true believers being always fewer than the fair-weather supporters. Corbyn has never sought popularity in his party. Quite the opposite in fact. And this has helped him and his core team ignore his critics until such time as he was seen to be a winner.

There may not be that many new Labour MPs who owe their seats to him. But there are plenty who are now sitting on far bigger majorities than before. If Paris was worth a Mass, how much loyalty or turning of blind eyes to ill-thought out policies and dodgy associates will comfortable majorities and the prospect of victory get you?

• Both lucky in their party opponents: Blairites and Wets, disdainful of the leader, uncomprehending, hobbled by loyalty to the party (notably not shown by Corbyn to the party’s leaders when he was a backbencher), critical but unable or unwilling to articulate an effective alternative and ultimately smartly side-lined or ignored.

• Neither of them belonging to the traditional roots of their party. More obvious perhaps in Corbyn’s case. But Thatcher, for all her genuflections before Churchill, was in many ways very unTory and radical in ways which discomfited much of her party.

Well, there are plenty of differences too. Thatcher never lost an election as leader. Corbyn has already lost one. Thatcher changed the country and the political weather. Corbyn has yet to do so, though he has made more of a start than Thatcher did as LoTo.

Still, the most important way in which Corbyn resembles Thatcher is that he has consistently been underestimated by his opponents, whether within Labour or the Tories. The Left never understood why Thatcher was so popular, what need she answered and, blinded by their hatred and misunderstanding, never found a way to oppose her effectively or make voters listen to them instead.

Corbyn’s opponents are making exactly the same mistake now. So blinded by their conviction that he is – or should be – unelectable and is unfit for office are they, so certain are they that his policies will harm the country, they do not see how ineffective their attacks are nor how well he is letting the winds of change the Tories have unleashed with Brexit blow him to office.

Perhaps the last word might be left to Mrs T herself: “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.” Corbyn is what you are left with when you have no political arguments left.



As she leaves for China TMay says she’s not a quitter and will lead party into GE2022

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

At least this could bring things to a head

With all the talk about the number of letters going to Graham Brady demanding a confidence vote in Mrs Mays leadership she has responded by making it very clear that her intention is to see it out until the next general election.

This flies in the face of the broad understanding that existed when she was allowed to carry on after her failure in June last year to retain the Conservative majority. The whole point of calling an early election was to increase her majority in order to strengthen her mandate on Brexit.

The broad view within the parliamentary party has been in that Theresa May would stand down in 2019 following the implementation of Brexit. This has led to the widespread assumption that there would be a leadership contest in the summer of next year.

The way that Theresa May handled that GE2017 campaign making it’s very personal all about herself with very little about the party still rankles amongst Conservatives. We all remember the battle bus which had no mention of the word Conservative on it. There was what in hindsight was her disastrous decision not to participate in a TV debate with Jeremy Corbyn allowing Amber Rudd to stand in for her.

    What she is broadly saying now is that if you want me out then you will have to force me and maybe this will prove to be a gamble, like GE2017 that has got wrong.

The danger for her is that it could encourage more letters to be sent to Mr Brady. As we all know 15% of the parliamentary party, 48 MPs, have to have filed letters with the Chairman of the 1922 committee in order for a vote of confidence to take place. This could take it over the top.

One of the strengths of the TMay approach is it can be argued that the time is never right for a decisive vote of confidence and a leadership contest. There will always be a reason for postpone it.

If she gets through the next few weeks my betting will be that she’ll survive till 2022.

Mike Smithson


Ex-YouGov President, Peter Kellner, raises doubts about the “No GE17 Youthquake” claims

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

For those who have been following the BES report that concludes that there was no “youthquake” at GE17 the former President of YouGov, Peter Kellner, makes some controversial observations in Prospect casting doubt on the core conclusion that has made the headlines.

He writes:

“…their (BES) latest pronouncement goes way beyond what their data can support. They base their analysis on two post-election, face-to-face surveys after the 2015 and 2017 general elections. Their sample size in 2015 was 2,987; in 2017 it was 2,194. These are larger samples than in most individual polls conducted for the media—though some research reported by the media involved far more people (such as the 50,000 polled weekly by YouGov, which formed the basis of their prediction of a hung parliament, and their indication that the Conservatives were in trouble in Canterbury and Kensington).

Where the BES team skate on thin ice is when they seek to draw precise conclusions from small sub-groups. They derive their main conclusion from the 1,400 respondents that they have crossed-checked against the electoral register, to confirm whether those who say they voted actually did so. This is a valuable exercise which, by definition, campaign polls cannot do, because people have not yet voted (or abstained). Even doing so after the election is expensive and time-consuming. So, congratulations BES, for doing this.

It is the figures for the under 25s that have caused such a stir. The figures for all the other age groups are broadly in line with what pollsters reported months ago.

Here’s the problem. BES interviewers questioned, and confirmed the turnout answers, of only 157 under 25s in 2015 and 109 in 2017.

Data obtained from such small subsamples are subject to large margins of error. The normal formula indicates that the reported turnout for this group could have been eight points adrift of reality in 2015 and almost ten points adrift in 2017. Applying those figures to the BES data, we may deduce that the correct figure for the turnout of the under 25s was 41-57 per cent in 2015 and 34-53 per cent in 2017. (Technically, we would expect the true figure in each election to be within those wide ranges 19 times of out 20; but one time in twenty, a perfectly well conducted survey would be beyond even these limits.)

On those figures, we can say nothing sure about the change in turnout among under 25s in these two elections. (By the by, I am amazed that the BES report data with a near-10 point margin of error to a decimal place. This purported precision is utterly spurious.)

In fact, the true margins of error are greater than that—though how much greater is impossible to calculate. The formula used above assumes a perfectly designed sample with a 100 per cent response rate. BES’s sample design was fine; but its response rate was below 50 per cent. Nobody can be sure whether the voters they did not reach behaved like the voters they did manage to interview…”

The full Kellner article is well worth reading. I think he is right to raise these questions before the “no GE17 youthquake” narrative takes hold.

Mike Smithson


Poll boost for TMay as she struggles to hang on at Number 10

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

YouGov finds more thinking she should stay than leave

With much of the talk at Westminster being over whether there will be a confidence vote on TMay’s leadership there’s some encouragement for her in a YouGov poll.

When asked if she should stand down or not 41% said she should remain and 34% leave. Amongst GE17 CON voters the split was 69% remain to 18% who wanted her to leave.

Brexit Remain voters went 38% to 37% that she should step aside.

The Betfair betting on whether she’ll survive the year is at a 53% chance.

Mike Smithson


Part 2 of why the Tories should not fear Corbyn becoming PM in the foreseeable future

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

CON MPs are not passing away at anything like the rate they used to

Given the tightness of Mrs. May’s parliamentary position one way that could get Corbyn close to number ten is if LAB could pick up seats off CON in by-elections.

There’s a good precedent. At GE1992 John Major surprised just about everyone by holding onto power with a majority of 20. Unfortunately for him that was not going to be enough and during the period of that Parliament 8 Conservative MPs died resulting in by elections all of which the party lost. Eight seats lost to opposition parties reduced Major’s majority by 16 to a theoretical four but that wasn’t enough to cope wit the EU splits within his own party and he eventually lost his majority.

The following parliament, 1997-2001 saw four by-elections caused by CON MPs dying. Since then, however CON MPs have been a remarkably healthy lot with just one by-election caused by a Tory MP’s death. In the same period well over 20 LAB MPs have died or had to step down because of illness.

Assuming this trend continues then Corbyn’s LAB cannot hope to make inroads at Westminster through gaining CON seats in by-elections. To win by-elections the first requirement is that there are vacancies and, no doubt, the party will do everything in its power to stop other MPs deciding to go for other reasons.

An area where Corbyn’s LAB might be concerned is evidence of eroding support is from the younger age groups. They are still very solidly for LAB but not quite in the same proportions as before. The oldies, meanwhile, remain solidly in Tory hands.

Labour under Corbyn is seen weak on the economy and almost always trails the Tories by several points when these question are asked.

A positive is that Corbyn continues to enjoy better personal ratings than May.

Mike Smithson


Graham Brady – 1922 committee chairman and the only one who knows how safe TMay is

Monday, January 29th, 2018

But should he have let his own views known?

Pictured above is Graham Brady, Chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee and MP for Altrincham & Sale – which is just down the road from Old Trafford where Manchester’s second football team plays.

Under Tory party rules 48 MPs have to write letters to Brady to trigger a confidence vote in the leader. This process was last used in 2003 when IDS got the chop and Michael Howard took over.

What we don’t know is how close to 48 letters the total is. There were stories last week by Harry Cole in the Sun that the total was getting very close and Brady was saying that now was not the time for a leadership contest.

Given the high level of dissatisfaction with TMay that is reported to exist within the parliamentary party there must be a strong chance that the confidence vote would go against her.

The very fact that a confidence vote was being held would be highly damaging for the Prime Minister.

One group of people who we can expect to be amongst those sending letters will be a group of MPs who have become disenchanted following the reshuffle. The sacked and the overlooked are not likely to feel kindly to the woman who made a huge gamble last April going for an early election which resulted in the party losing its majority.

Is it going to happen? That is hard to say but certainly the mood appears to have changed in the last couple of weeks.

It was always going to be difficult for Theresa May, having lost the party its majority, to continue in a post following the June election. Clearly it has been a massive dent to her confidence.

What has kept there until now has been that there is no obvious successor and the party itself is quite split or the sort of Brexit it wants.

Mike Smithson


Why Tony Blair should be Diane Abbott’s role model

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Don Brind on the shadow HomeSec

There was something churlish about Diane Abbott’s attempt to put down Tony Blair recently — “no one can now remember that they supported Tony Blair.”

She surely can’t have forgotten how the then Labour leader came to her defence in one of the most uncomfortable phases of her career when she sent son to a fee paying school.

She is now Shadow Home Secretary the job in which Blair made his name. If she could shed her ideological antipathy she would acknowledge that Blair did an outstanding job for Labour in that role. In a 1993 New Statesman article he first offered to pledge to be “tough on crime and tough on the underlying causes of crime”.

Law and order had been an issue that played well for the Tories but with flair and persistence Blair invaded their territory. It was a vital strand in Labour’s campaigning through to 1997 and played a part in getting Blair the leadership in 1994.

Criticising Abbott doesn’t come easy for anyone in the Labour Party because of the fear of finding yourself in some unsavoury company. She has, without doubt, been the target of some deeply unpleasant racist and misogynist abuse. She explained to the Guardian how she tries to avoid allowing it to interfere with her work.

It’s also true that she was not the only campaigner to be involved in a “car crash” interview during the General Election  Boris Johnston and Jeremy Corbyn also got maulings from interviewers.

But when all the alibis are in, the judgement must be that as a Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott is not a patch on Tony Blair.

Other Labour MPs are making the running in this key area, notably backbenchers Sarah Jones and Vicky Foxcroft on the issue of knife crime 
and junior frontbenchers Gloria De Piero and Louise Haigh, the shadow justice and policing ministers. They argue it’s time for Labour to reclaim its position as the party of law and order.

De Piero and Haigh are unafraid to celebrate the record of the Blair-Brown governments. “Under the last Labour government we invested more in our police and criminal justice system than any other country in the OECD and slashed crime rates by over a third. It took a Labour government to pass the Race Relations Act and tough laws on LGBT and disability hate crime. It was Labour who first introduced legal aid to ensure everyone had the right to obtain justice whether rich or poor.”

They declare “The Tories have vacated the ground on law and order, it’s time for Labour to occupy it as our natural territory once again.

As I found last June Labour’s key policy of recruiting 10,000 police officers played well on the doorstep but as Mike Smithson argues Labour must be ready for the long haul.

Policing and crime needs to be in the forefront of Labour campaigning. As De Piero and Haigh point out “deprived communities suffer most” when police are cuts lead to rising crime. Half of the communities with the highest crime rates are found in the top 20 per cent of areas with the highest levels of chronic health problems.

Suggesting that the Labour leader should get himself a new Shadow Home Secretary would be a waste of breathe. Jeremy and Diane go back a long way –during a romantic period in early 80s he took her on a first date to Highgate cemetery. The mutual affection and loyalty persists.

So perhaps the best we can hope for is that the Labour leader says to his old friend “If you want me to be Prime Minister you have got to raise your game.”

Don Brind