Archive for the 'Labour' Category


Who will be Sir Keir Starmer’s successor?

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

My 25/1 tip as next Labour leader.

It might seem odd, even before a pandemic, to start looking at Sir Keir Starmer’s successor a fortnight after he was elected, in normal circumstances the earliest there might be a vacancy in 2024 and if Starmer takes power at the next general election there might not be a vacancy for a decade or longer so it is possible the next leader of the Labour party isn’t on this list.

Things can rapidly change in markets like this, earlier on this month Richard Burgon was a deputy leader contender and spoken about as as a future leader, now he’s not even listed by Paddy Power in this market when a non MP is. What a fall for that extraordinary political talent that is Richard Burgon, but that’s the subject of a future thread.

For me the bet I’m advising is to take is the 25/1 on the Shadow Mental Health Minister, Rosena Allin-Khan, at Ladbrokes and Paddy Power (she was 33/1 a few days ago) and I hope my reasoning makes sense to you all.

She’s a Doctor and is currently on the front lines dealing with Covid-19, and even before the Covid-19 crisis Doctors have a stellar reputation with the public, as the regular Thursday 8 PM clap has shown. That she’s there on the front line dealing with this crisis will give her a credibility that only a handful of MPs will have and in built popularity that she can use when holding the government to account that someone who is a career politician cannot.

She also has a couple of advantages in her favour in the next Labour leadership, I get the feeling the wider Labour party really wants to elect their first female leader whilst it is possible the Conservative party might be on their third female Prime Minister later on this decade, like David Herdson, I cannot envisage a long premiership for Boris Johnson. That Dr Allin-Khan has BAME heritage might also be an advantage in any future Labour leadership contest.

What she showed in the Deputy Leadership race is that she’s transfer friendly as she increased her vote share by 10% and moved from third place to second place in the final round, by contrast Richard Burgon only increased by 4% which is why he slipped from second place in the first round to third place in the final round. So long as Labour use the flawless alternative vote system to elect their leaders Dr Allin-Khan should do well in Labour leadership contests.

So at 25/1 I think she’s value, I expect in the next reshuffle she’ll be promoted to the full shadow cabinet, but it is possible you might not get a payout for sometime, but with interest rates so low, it might be worth it.



The Grand Entrance. Sir Keir Starmer’s electoral challenges

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

So passes Jeremy Corbyn.  He hands over to his successor a party in the doldrums, with just 202 MPs, most representing seats in the largest metropolitan areas.  If Labour are to win an overall majority of one at the next election, they will need 124 extra MPs. That would require a uniform national swing of over 10%.  Such swings are exceptionally rare. The last time it happened was in 1997. So Labour better hope that Sir Keir is a new Tony Blair.

In practice, Labour could lead a government in a hung Parliament with fewer seats.  The Conservatives have no obvious Parliamentary allies at present, having burned their bridges with the DUP over Brexit, so Labour can probably form a government so long as Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems tally a combined 320 seats or so.  If the SNP and the Lib Dems stand still, that means Labour “only” need a further 55 to 60 seats to take power. That will still require a swing of 5%, which is still chunky by historical standards. 

Let’s survey the scene as it stands now.  First, the good news. Even as Labour have gone backwards, some seats have swung to them.  The following 12 Labour-held seats have been won by Labour since 2015: Bedford, Weaver Vale, Sheffield Hallam, Warwick & Leamington, Canterbury, Gower, Battersea, Putney, Bristol North West, Portsmouth South, Brighton Kemptown and Leeds North West.  This is a disproportionately metropolitan set of seats, but even so, Bedford and Weaver Vale suggest that there is more going on than just that.

Labour have comprehensively won the battle with the Lib Dems for urban progressives.  There is not a single Lib Dem-held seat in Labour’s first 250 targets. And if the Lib Dems were not going to make advances against Labour led by a leader tainted by accusations of anti-Semitism and half-heartedness on Brexit, they probably never will.  

That means that Labour are fighting on two fronts (the Conservatives and the SNP) rather than three.  The new Labour leader will need to consider carefully how ambitious he wishes to be. If he wants to aim for an overall majority, he will need to take on the SNP – there are 17 SNP-held seats in the first 124 Labour target seats, and if he is to aim for an overall majority without taking seats from the SNP, he will need to take seats such as Somerset North East on a swing of 13%.  This would be a colossal endeavour.

So he needs to weigh whether to aim for incremental gains this time, working with rather than against the SNP, or whether to dream big.  That is not an easy decision to make.

Labour could spend far too much time lamenting the loss of seats that now look like distant prospects.  They had never lost Bolsover before last year. It is now their 67th target, behind Northampton South and Altrincham & Sale West. Newcastle-under-Lyme, held by the Labour party for 100 years but now held by pb regular Aaron Bell, is safer for the Conservatives than Uxbridge & South Ruislip, the Prime Minister’s constituency.  Labour held Mansfield from 1923 to 2017. It is now their 200th target – if they take it, they will win a landslide.

I absolutely get that Labour members will feel that they ought to represent traditional working class constituencies.  They should ask themselves why the constituents of so many of those constituencies feel differently. In the meantime, if they want to put their moral crusade into practice, they need to have a strategy to build support in those areas which are presently most receptive to their message.  This may well not be those traditional working class constituencies.

So, for example, Labour can probably form a minority government without taking Rother Valley (target number 76).  They might not even need Sedgefield (target number 61). They are right to mourn the loss of seats like those. They should not see their only or even most plausible path to power as lying through such seats.

If Labour are to make progress, they will need to do so in their top 100 targets.  What do those constituencies look like?

The answer is surprisingly suburban. If Labour is to form even a minority government, on a uniform national swing that will include MPs for Chipping Barnet, Chingford & Woodford Green, and Wycombe.  Labour have only ever held one of these seats, Wycombe, and that only in the 1945 Parliament. Still, they took Canterbury and Kensington in 2017: precedents are made to be set.

A slew of traditional marginals remain marginal, despite Labour’s poor performance.  High Peak, Watford, Broxtowe, Warrington South, Wolverhampton South West, Peterborough, Stroud and Aberconwy are all essential wins for Labour next time around.  They are all still eminently achievable on reasonably normal swings.

What do these seats, and seats like Milton Keynes (North and South), Ipswich, Derby North and Lincoln, also all on the must-win list, all have in common?  First of all, they’re not particularly metropolitan. So the present incarnation of Labour must exert some pull on some groups other than urban professionals.

Nor are they especially deprived or especially insular.  Some (Warrington South, both Milton Keyneses, Peterborough) are the product of post-war planners, some have seen a regular influx of newcomers.  

In fact, if you were to sum up many of Labour’s targets, the word you would use is “middling”.  You could imagine The Office being set in them. You could not imagine them being the location for W1A.  

It was Aneurin Bevan who said that:

“The language of priorities is the religion of Socialism … The argument is about power … because only by the possession of power can you get the priorities correct.”

If so, Labour need to bring their priorities in line with those of middling Britain.  I suggest that means talking more about transport and less about trans rights, more about housing and hospitals and less about Hamas.  Labour talked about fitfully such bread and butter subjects under Jeremy Corbyn but without great focus.

So Labour need to find a voice for parts of Britain that are not particularly affluent but don’t necessarily look like backdrops for Billy Elliot or Hovis adverts.  But who knows, if they find that voice, perhaps they will be heard by voters in their former heartlands too?  

Alastair Meeks


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


The current big UK betting market: Who’ll be next Shadow Chancellor?

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

This market from Ladbrokes about who will succeed John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor is an intriguing market.

I’m working on the assumption that Sir Keir Starmer wins the Labour leadership quite comfortably which gives him plenty of latitude in who to choose. I’m ruling out anyone who is in the Deputy Leader race as I think they’ll end up focussing on that role exclusively.

I’m ruling out Rebecca Long Bailey because I have a hunch that Starmer wants to move on from the Corbyn era, even though Boris Johnson’s government is enacting the most socialist agenda the UK has experienced if not in history but certainly living memory.

I think the 10/1 on Lisa Nandy looks good, she’s had a very good campaign, and would go in some way into closing down the line that Labour has never had a female leader. She’s been a decent performer in the media and she’s not tainted by association with the Corbyn sect.


PS – It seems downright surreal to be writing a thread about betting on domestic politics whilst Covid-19 rages all over the country, like the band playing on whilst the Titanic was sinking. Apart from the US Presidential election I suspect betting on politics, particularly the outcome of the next UK general election will be pointless until the Covid-19 crisis is over.


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.


Ladbrokes make it 2/1 that RLB will finish third behind Starmer and Nandy in its leadership finishing order betting

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Ladbrokes have this market on the correct finishing order in the Labour leadership market after the final round.

The tweets by Matt Singh indicate that Rebecca Long Bailey is going to finish last but I’m always dubious when people talk about private polls and do not publish the polling tables.

At 2/1, Starmer first, Nandy second, and Long Bailey third, it’s not exactly stellar odds when you remember the last public poll had Long Bailey in second place 25% ahead of Lisa Nandy.

I’m not confident in playing this 3-2-1 market, any prediction I make will likely end up in the dusty bin of bad tips. With Labour leadership elections conducted under the alternative vote system makes it harder to predict this market than a straight forward, but hugely flawed, first past the post election.

So I will not be playing this market, perhaps PBers can spot some value in this market, if you can, let me know.



A reminder of the last July’s YouGov LAB members’ polling on the leadership

Saturday, December 28th, 2019

We have not had a poll of LAB members since last July so the YouGov chart above is based on the latest data available. Since then, of course, three of those senior party figures tested by the firm are no longer possible runners. Tom Watson has quit being an MP, Laura Pidcock lost her seat at on December 12th while John McDonnell has made his intentions clear.

Note that in the polling each potential leader was tested separately but it does give a feel for the left-right split that is likely to exist.  If it comes down to Starmer versus Long-Bailey then you would assume that the former would get the backing of Watson and Thornberry with Pidcock and McDonnell supporters going to Long-Bailey.

We also don’t know what impact the campaign will have with the big unions most likely putting their weight behind Long-Bailey.

Another finding from the July poll that might be a pointer is that when the sample was asked “Do you think that Jeremy Corbyn is doing well or badly as leader of the Labour Party?”  56% said Well and 43% said badly.

To another question “How likely or unlikely do you think it is that Labour would win the next General Election if the party leaders were Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson?”  56% responded likely and 32% unlikely.

That was six months ago and since then the party has experienced its worst general election outcome since 1935. Maybe the experience of that terrible defeat will make perceived electability the key quality members will be looking for?

I’m hoping that we will see some new YouGov LAB members’ polling in the near future.

I am refraining from betting on this election until after January 6th when the party’s NEC will decide on the rules for the election. This could rule out Starmer.

  • Note. PB’s server has been updated overnight thanks again to my son Robert who keeps PB going.

Mike Smithson