Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category


John Rentoul: The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey was a “Blairite moment”

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Interesting angle from the Indy’s John Rentoul on the sacking of Shadow Education Secretary and former unsuccessful leadership challenger, Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Rentoul is a long-standing Blairite and has never apologised for that. The tone of this evening’s column is set out in its opening:

It would be wrong to gloat. Mustn’t do it. And generally I don’t. But just for a moment, let’s celebrate the end of the paranoid, reactionary, self-righteous politics of the people who ran the Labour Party for the past five years. It was all over the moment Jeremy Corbyn announced he was standing down, but this was the week they knew it. I don’t want to rub salt into the wound, because that would sterilise it and help it heal, but the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey was one of those rare moments of shocking leadership. For those of us who think a broad-based egalitarian government would be a good idea, it has been a long time since a Labour leader has surprised us with such moral clarity.

I just wonder whether associating Starmer with Blair, probably the most hated man in large parts of the Labour movement is doing the new leader any favours but there is no doubt that this is a major political event which could be looked back on in the same way Blair’s decision to axe Clause 4 was,

What those Labour figures who still revile Blair ignore is that in its entire history the party has only ever won five sustainable working majorities – three of them – GE1997, GE2001 and GE2005 – when the party was led by Blair. Somehow to many winning elections is not a good thing but a bad one.

The huge gap in the polling between the record breaking leadership ratings that Starmer has been enjoying and Labour’s failure to break through on voting intention shows the huge challenge the new man has – far greater than when Blair became leader in 1994.

I just wonder whether this was in fact all planned. Starmer kept Long-Bailey in his Shadow Cabinet for the purpose of a huge public sacking when she stepped over a line.

The harsh fact for Corbynistas is that their man was the reason why the party dropped to its worse General Election result since 1935. All the post election polling found Corbyn as a the main reason why former LAB voters had switched.

Mike Smithson


David Cowling examines Cobyn’s claim that LAB would have won GE2017 if it hadn’t been for PLP “coup” move the year before

Monday, April 20th, 2020
Monthly polling averages from GE2015 to start GE2017 campaign

The fact that Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour Leader despite the majority of the party’s MPs voting against him, was certainly a problem throughout his tenure. However, it seems we have a new twist to the saga: Mr Corbyn now appears to believe this was the principal reason why Labour failed to win the 2017 election – a victory that he was otherwise “absolutely confident” that Labour would have won “because it was all absolutely going our way. What does the evidence suggest?

The open challenge to Mr Corbyn took place on 24 June, 2016, when the majority of his Shadow Cabinet resigned, provoking events that led to another Labour leadership election that he won comfortably in September. There were a variety of reasons why this June challenge to his leadership was mounted: one of them was that in May that year, Labour had lost 13 seats in the Scottish Parliament election after a nine point fall in its vote share (compared with an eight point increase in the Conservative vote that gained them an extra 16 seats). The Labour Party was led by Richard Leonard who was the favoured candidate of Mr Corbyn and his supporters in the earlier contest for the Scottish Party leadership. Also, in Wales, Labour lost outright control of the Assembly, with a near eight point fall in its vote. And in the local elections in England on the same day, Labour made a net loss of one council and eighteen seats. Also, in the EU referendum campaign that climaxed on 23 June, 2016, there had been fierce criticism of Mr Corbyn’s “lacklustre” support for the Remain campaign, despite the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs and party members backing that cause.

What did the opinion polls suggest throughout this period? The table above sets out the monthly average of voting intention polls starting immediately after the 2015 general election, through to the beginning of the 2017 election campaign period. What is clear is that Labour’s poll ratings remained dire throughout this period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership: there was no summit of public approval from which the party was toppled by treachery in the run-up to the 2017 election. When he was first elected, in September 2015, Labour’s monthly voting intention average was 32%: prior to the 2017 election, this share was only bettered once – in March 2016 – when it rose to 33%. The major rebellion against Mr Corbyn among his MPs occurred towards the end of June 2016, yet, in the first four polls of July, before Mrs May became Prime Minister, Labour’s poll ratings remained broadly the same (32%). It was only in the July polls following Mrs May’s election that Labour’s share dropped (to 29%). By April 2017, Labour’s average was 26% (compared with 32% in his first month as Leader; and 30% in the month he was re-elected.

The difficulty in sustaining Mr Corbyn’s assertion that he could have won in 2017 (for me at least) is the fact that in that election, when he was, apparently, undermined by his MPs, the party gained 36 seats (and lost six); and in the 2019 election, when he was in total control of the party and the election campaign and the PLP was quiescent, the party lost 60 seats (and gained one).

Because the polling suggests that, from the outset, the public had a negative view of Jeremy Corbyn that he could never shake off. He is the only Opposition Leader in Ipsos MORI’s monthly series of party leader favourability (begun in 1977) never to have received a positive rating. There never was a honeymoon with the British electorate subsequently wrecked by disloyal and poisonous individuals within the party: the longer voters knew Mr Corbyn, the more dissatisfied they seemed to become.

David Cowling

David Cowling is a political opinion polling specialist. Former editor of BBC Political Research and visiting senior research fellow at Kings College London. A full version of this article incuding several other tables is available here.


The positive thing for Starmer about LAB’s polling position is that at least there’s scope for improvement

Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Table: David Cowling

Well tomorrow at this time LAB will have its new leader and the suggested negative influence of Corbyn will be no more. The big question is whether the former DPP is able to so present a different proposition to voters that first, the seats lost at GE2019, become prospects again.

In a sense the current voting intention polling likely flatters the Tories given how fighting the virus totally dominates everything. The Johnson team is in charge making extraordinary demands of citizens which is largely being followed. Polling in other countries has shown a similar move to the incumbent government.

My guess is that Starmer’s election will receive a general positive response from the public if only that he is not Corbyn. That should help first get the Tory shares below 50% and then provide a foundation for Labour progress.

Mike Smithson


Tuesday is the 54th anniversary the last time a Labour leader other than Tony Blair won a working majority

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

As we approach the end of the Corbyn era I thought it would be look at what winning the argument actually looks like. This is not meant as an attack on Corbyn or Labour per se because winning a working majority is bloody hard.

Prior to Boris Johnson’s victory last December in the last 49 years no Tory had won a working majority other than Margaret Thatcher. It shows the difficulty of Corbyn’s successor, whoever that may be, winning a working majority. Although I wouldn’t rule out Labour taking power at the next election if the result is a hung parliament.

But whilst we’re on lockdown it has been fun to rewatch election night coverage.



The exit door. The state of Labour as Jeremy Corbyn departs

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

What of Labour?  This is a question that almost no one is thinking about as, almost unnoticed, Jeremy Corbyn slips out of the limelight.  Like the Magnificent Ambersons, Labour have got their comeuppance. They’d got it three times filled and running over. But those who had longed for it were not there to see it. And they never knew it, those who were still living had forgotten all about it, and all about them.

That irrelevance bodes ill for Labour.  Just how bad is the electoral landscape and what does the new leader, expected to be Sir Keir Starmer, need to be thinking about?

The post-election analysis has concentrated on two main possible causes of Labour’s problems: Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn.  One simple way of testing the importance of either of these is to look at the before and after position. What were Labour’s challenges after the 2015 election (before Brexit, before Jeremy Corbyn) and what are they now?

In 2015, Labour won 232 seats.  In 2019 it won 203. So it has gone backwards by 29 seats over the course of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.  Obviously, that is not good.

I had a look at Labour’s performance then here.  I did not have a crystal ball.  Brexit was just a twinkle in some evil fairy godmother’s eye.  Jeremy Corbyn was still an obscure MP. What did I think had been happening then?

“Where do Labour retain strength?… London, the English Core Cities, Hull, Leicester, Coventry, Stoke, south Wales, the north east as a whole and the wider north west surrounding Liverpool, including north east Wales.  Or, to put it more briefly, by and large, big cities.  With worryingly few exceptions, Labour have become an almost exclusively metropolitan party.  They have lost Scotland and they have lost smaller town England.”

“Labour made ten gains from the Conservatives.  Only two of these seats fell clearly outside the Labour fiefdoms listed above: Hove and Lancaster & Fleetwood.  Meanwhile, the Conservatives took Plymouth Moor View, Telford, Southampton Itchen, Derby North, Vale of Clwyd and Gower.  Labour are getting close to maxing out in the metropolitan areas, but all the time are being edged out of smaller towns and cities – and Southampton, Derby and Plymouth are not really that small.

Many of the exceptions to the general picture – Norwich South, Cambridge, Oxford East, Exeter, Lancaster & Fleetwood – are constituencies with a large university presence. They may be smaller places, but they have much in common with the metropolitan areas. They are places where the words “urban professional” would not produce a curl of the lip.”

“If the Conservatives can broaden their appeal, they will be circling around seats like Barrow & Furness, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Derbyshire North East and Wrexham.  In all of these seats the Conservatives closed the gap on Labour from 2010.  There are others on the Labour defence list that are becoming increasingly marginal.  However the boundaries are drawn for 2020, there will be constituencies like these that are trending away from Labour.  Unless Labour changes course significantly.

More generally, if Labour does not start to broaden its appeal, it may even find that other apparent heartlands that are outside its current metropolitan focus are vulnerable to attack if other parties get their acts together. South Wales and the north east, for example, don’t fit particularly well with the rest of Labour’s current heartlands.  Fortunately for Labour, its opponents in those areas are UKIP and Plaid Cymru, and neither has so far demonstrated much seat-winning prowess.  But things can change.  Labour needs to recognise the danger fast.”

I was not blessed with second sight but 2019 is highly consistent with all of that.  I listed four seats that the Conservatives might be circling around. All four are now Conservative-held.  I noted that the north east did not fit particularly well with the rest of Labour’s then heartlands. The north east swung massively to the Conservatives.

It’s always nice to be right, of course, but that’s not my main point (it is a subsidiary point, I admit).  My main point is that neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Brexit seem particularly to have altered the axis between Labour and the Conservatives.  If anything, it is striking how little that has happened. The pendulum seems simply to have swung more in the Conservatives’ favour.

So the first thing that the new Labour leader needs to realise is that Labour’s problems are very deep-rooted indeed.  Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit may well not have helped. A successful Labour leader, however, is not just going to remedy the damage they might have caused but also tackle the pre-existing difficulty that Labour had in talking to those who live outside Britain’s biggest cities.

Having looked back to how things have changed (or not changed) since 2015, what new electoral trends should the next Labour leader be thinking about?  That will be for my next post.

Alastair Meeks


Labour must get over its myth of 2017 if it is to win again

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

A well-timed aberration is still an aberration

Keir Starmer looks well set to win Labour’s leadership election in April. After securing comfortable leads among MPs, CLPs and affiliate organisations in the previous rounds, YouGov reported this week that he holds a 22% lead over Rebecca Long-Bailey, and is more likely than not to win on the first round.

If he does, it will be in no small part down to the last set of rule changes which at the time were thought to favour the left. YouGov puts him on 53%; under the old rules, Jess Philips and Emily Thornberry would probably have taken enough to deny him a symbolic outright win.

Quite where he will lead Labour is a different matter. Starmer has been remarkably adept at remaining a blankish sheet of paper; appearing at once to be both a continuity and change candidate. While that duality is possible to pull off – you can maintain many of the policies while clothing the party in a quite different style – in reality there will come a point where the Corbyn legacy must be appeased or confronted.

Some of that is about dropping Corbyn’s more ridiculous policies: the free broadband or what might as well be a Kremlin-approved foreign policy. Some of it is also about renewing and refreshing both the personnel and the culture of Labour’s HQ. But before winning the future, first Starmer must win the past.

Even now, many Labour activists will cite 2017 as something akin to a great victory. If it’s not the great recovery in the campaign (leave aside who dug the hole Corbyn climbed out of, and who supplied the opportunity for him to do so), then it’s that Labour won a tremendous number of votes – over 2m more than Labour won in any other election this century.

Such arguments have the tremendous advantage of being true. They might well ignore the important point that Labour still lost but for many Corbyn-supporters, that doesn’t matter: they show that his policies were popular or at least, that they can’t have been all that unpopular if they outpolled Blair, Brown and Miliband.

The trap here is that it’s easy to try to critique that analysis – to point out the other reasons Labour did relatively well and recovered during the campaign which didn’t happen because of Corbyn and sometimes despite him – but that to do so would be a mistake.

The right argument is that even if 2017 was a glorious defeat, it was also the one ray of false dawn in what was otherwise a four-year long record of failure, and that the consistency of the rest of the record represents the public’s genuine verdict on the out-going leader.

To remind ourselves of just how badly Corbyn did, here are a few of the low-lights:

  • A net loss in Westminster by-elections during 2015-20, including the first loss by an opposition party to the government in over 30 years
  • Finished third, losing to the Lib Dems, in the 2019 European Parliament elections
  • Lost a third of Labour’s MSPs in the 2016 Holyrood election, to finish behind the Tories
  • Lost around 400 councillors and 13 councils in net terms across the 2016-19 May rounds of local government elections
  • Worst ever net satisfaction rating by a Leader of the opposition
  • Failed to prevent Brexit, either at the referendum or afterwards
  • The smallest Labour PLP since 1935 (2019GE)

No opposition has ever endured such a lengthy and wide-ranging record of failure. Even the likes of Hague and Duncan Smith racked up decent local government gains and an EP election win. Put simply, the 2017 general election was not representative of some underlying truth; it was the aberration outside a truth that was all too obvious everywhere else.

And that is the point Labour needs to accept if it is going to move on and up. Certainly, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater – but there is a need to throw out the bathwater.

Can Starmer do that? Can he change the culture and tone of the party, and perhaps the policy direction, while also staying true to his desire to unify Labour and not pick internal fights? I don’t think so; it’s one or the other – or if he plays it right, it’s one after the other, with a necessary fight and then unity around a new consensus. But to get there, first the Myth of 2017 must be debunked.

David Herdson

p.s. Last week I tipped Bernie Sanders at 10/11 for the Democrat nomination and 7/2 for the White House. Those odds have barely shifted (he’s now 100/30 for the presidency but still 10/11 for the nomination). These odds are nuts and huge value.

Sanders has built up a big national lead, and an even bigger one in California with its huge number of delegates. Even if he loses badly in South Carolina (which is possible), I don’t see that doing anything other than trimming his Super Tuesday lead, not least because of so much early voting in the bag. I think he’s now about an 80% shot for the nomination and, given Trump’s typically self-centred and quite possibly grossly inadequate reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, should now be favourite in a head-to-head with Trump, the president’s skill at negative campaigning notwithstanding. The polls already give Sanders a healthy lead and while they gave Hillary a healthy lead much later in 2016, I think it’s different this time. It will be a lot harder to campaign negatively effectively if Trump’s own ratings tank, which is now entirely possible if the economy takes a downturn, never mind if he’s perceived to have seriously mismanaged the health crisis – both of which are now big risks.


Starmer gets the best ratings from both all voters and LAB members in new large sample Ashcroft poll

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

He’s the only leader or deputy contender in positive territory

There’s a new large sample Lord Ashcroft poll that’s been published overnight that looks back at the general election particularly the reasons for the LAB defeat and looks forward to the coming LAB leadership ballot which starts later this month. The full report is well worth downloading.

The report also includes the findings of a series of focus groups which are worthy of a separate header in themself.

The part of the report that I’ve chosen to highlight here relates to the current Labour leadership contest which won’t be finalised until April 4th. As can be seen from the chart the ex-DPP, Keir Starmer comes out of this best and is the only one in positive territory amongst both all sampled and LAB members

The research also looked at the reasons for Labour’s fourth successive general election defeat. This is from Ashcroft’s summary:

It was reported that Labour’s official inquiry “exonerated” Jeremy Corbyn from any blame for the election result. I can only assume this was a compassionate gesture for an already-outgoing septuagenarian leader, because no serious reading of the evidence could reach such a verdict. “I did not want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister” topped the list for Labour defectors when we asked their reasons for switching, whether they went to the Tories or the Lib Dems, to another party, or stayed at home. Though a few saw good intentions, former Labour voters in our groups lamented what they saw as his weakness, indecision, lack of patriotism, apparent terrorist sympathies, failure to deal with antisemitism, outdated and excessively left-wing worldview, and obvious unsuitability to lead the country.

No doubt Corbyn loyalists will seek to discredit this because Ashcroft is a Tory but it should be noted that he carried out a similar process in 2005 after the party’s third successive general election defeat.

Mike Smithson


The Blair Supremacy. Rating Corbyn as a politician

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Memo to Mr Corbyn and his supporters: This is what the winning the argument looks like. So no Miss Long-Bailey, Corbyn’s doesn’t deserve 10 out of 10 as a politician unless you’re a Tory.

I suspect once Labour come to terms that Blair is the only Labour politician to have won a majority in the 45 years then they will begin their road to recovery.