Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


Are radical policies the answer to Labour’s slump?

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

On this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast Leo Barasi talked about the state of the parties and the race ahead with Conor Pope of Progress and political consultant Laurence Janta-Lipinksi. You can listen to the episode below or by clicking here.

Despite using Easter to announce several policies, Labour is making little effort to pretend it knows what it would do with power. The party’s website still invites visitors to “help shape our next manifesto” and Corbyn semi-loyalist Dawn Butler suggested on Newsnight there might have to be a “rolling manifesto” while policies are developed.

This isn’t just a lack of detailed policies. It’s also about what Labour stands for and who it is trying to appeal to.

Corbyn ran for the leadership with the promise of a “radical economic strategy” yet the recent announcements have largely been repeats of earlier Labour policies. Free meals in primary schools was floated for the 2010 election. A plan to pressure big companies to pay suppliers on time was in the 2015 manifesto. The triple lock on pensions was another Miliband pledge.

You could argue that Labour’s recent policies go further than previous ones. But no-one can seriously claim they would revolutionise the economy. As such, they seem designed for the same voters progressive but not radical – that the 2015 manifesto aimed to win over.

Yet Corbyn’s Labour has also made some radical pledges that wouldn’t have made it into recent manifestos. Among its current 10 pledges are rent controls and nationalisation of the railways.

This week’s Opinium poll for the PB/Polling Matters podcast tested public views of eight possible and actual Labour policies.

The policies that did best were a mix of the radical and the incremental. Two of the top-scoring were 2015-style measures: a £10 minimum wage in 2020 (more radical than Miliband, but hardly socialist) and requiring companies to pay suppliers on time.

Also among the top-scoring was “control rents so landlords cannot keep increasing the amount they charge”, which 47% of those considering Labour strongly supported. Surprisingly, that measure was most popular among the 55+ age group, and least popular among the ‘generation rent’ 18-34s.

Other radical policies were much less popular though. A citizens’ income of £6000 and railway nationalisation were strongly supported by only 29% and 32%, respectively, of people who would consider Labour.

So Labour might find support for a mix of tangible incremental policies, and radical policies aimed at tackling a well-known problem. With 49% saying they would at least consider Labour, these policies appear to win the strong support of around a quarter of the population – suggesting there is still a 25% strategy open to Labour.

But while this might suggest Labour could avoid slipping further, there are two problems with this approach.

First, such an incoherent mix of policies would leave voters struggling to know what Labour stands for. One set of policies suggests Labour would govern as social democrats. The second set suggests Labour wants to revolutionise major parts of the economy.

Without a unifying argument, Labour’s pledges would be easily forgotten. Ed Miliband didn’t lack popular policies but the failure to stake out a clear position, and stick to it, cost the party at the election.

Second, the poll also suggests even well-scoring policies may be less popular than they seem. Over Easter, Labour’s policy that got the most coverage was the pledge for free school meals. Yet this was the least popular of the policies tested.

It’s hard to be sure why it did so badly, but free food for children doesn’t seem an inherently unpopular measure. Its failure in the poll might be because it is now associated with Labour. If that’s the case, more policy announcements might do little to stop Labour’s vote sliding further, even if they were popular before they become linked with the party.

You can listen to the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast with Leo, Conor Pope and Laurence Janta-Lipinksi below:

Leo Barasi

Leo Barasi tweets about politics and public opinion at @leobarasi


Latest locals: CON gains from LAB in Middlesbrough but makes heavy weather against the Greens in Dorset

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Coulby Newham on Middlesbrough (Lab defence, resignation of sitting member)
Result: Conservatives 501 (38% +12%), Labour 468 (35% -3%), Independent 318 (24% +1%), Green Party 32 (2%, no candidate at last election)
Conservative GAIN from Labour with a majority of 33 (3%) on a swing of 7.5% from Lab to Con

Piddle Valley on West Dorset (Con defence, resignation of sitting member)
Result: Conservative 303 (61% -8%), Green Party 195 (39% +19%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 108 (22%) on a swing of 13.5% from Con to Green

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


It is organisation more than BREXIT that is driving the Lib Dem resurgence

Friday, April 7th, 2017

The latest local by elections with an LD gain from UKIP on a whopping 26% swing top off what has been a good week for the LDs. Firstly there have been the Rallings/Thrasher and Lord Robert Hayward May elections’ projection suggesting that the yellows are in for a substantial number of gains on May 4th.

In addition to that we have had news of the private Crosby Textor constituency polling for the Tories suggesting that the party is set to win back a the bulk of the seats lost in the South West and Greater London that were lost to the Tories at GE2015.

That information is, of course, private, but PB sources have it that all but three or four of the seats could be back in LD hands at the next election and we know that it is Tory MPs who made gains last time who are most opposed to an early general election.

But to assume that this is all down to BREXIT is being simplistic. There are other factors at play as James Kirkup in the Spectator describes:

“…But while Brexit may motivate many Lib Dems, my hunch is that what matters at least as much is something generally overlooked by us chattering Westminster types: organisation.

Part of the reason some Tories are quietly concerned about the Lib Dems is that the Lib Dems are quite good at not just recruiting people to their cause but deploying them on the ground. Pavement-pounding and leaflet-dropping have always been a central part of the Lib Dem experience, along with Glee Club and misleading bar-charts. That makes them tough local opponents.It’s no exaggeration to say that the Lib Dems’ ground-level resurgence is a bigger check on Tory thoughts of an early election than all those Corbynistas liking each other’s posts on Facebook..”

A big test of that organisation will come in the Manchester Gorton by-election which is also being held on May 4th. This is a seat where pre-Coalition they were a good second on 30%+ of the vote. With Labour supporters apparently demoralised by their leader and the threat posed by George Galloway then a good LD result could on the cards. The 6/1 currently available on Betfair looks like a value bet.

Mike Smithson


Reports two people shot outside Parliament

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017


Let’s hope this doesn’t escalate




If the opposition leader wasn’t so feeble May/Hammond would find it harder to ignore specific manifesto commitments

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The 2017 version of the pasty tax?

At GE2015, less than two years ago, the Conservative made a very specific pledge – if elected there would be no increase in VAT, National Insurance Contributions or income tax.

Well today’s big budget announcement from the Chancellor that the self-employed are going to see the NI contributions going up is going to be a hard one to explain and we’ve already seen the start of a storm brewing. One section of the working population who’ll be affected are freelance journalists and they are going to remember.

The Spectator’s main story on the budget is headed “Biggest loser from this Budget? The credibility of Tory tax promises”.

Already UKIP have seen an opportunity and their most capable figure Suzanne Evans has already started the attacks.

Fortunately for the blue team they face an official opposition led by the hapless Corbyn who barely mentioned the NI increases in his tedious response.

Very specific manifesto pledges have to be treated with great caution. At the very least Hammond needed to have made a convincing case as to the reason which he failed to do.

A mistake which won’t easily go away.

Mike Smithson


The Russians give Nigel Farage a “knighthood” on their TV channel, RT

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

But he’s not got a PhD or played for Tranmere


Don Brind explores the intriguing silence of Len McCluskey in the post Copeland debate

Monday, February 27th, 2017


Has he started to worry about the Corbyn effect on working class voters?

Some time ago I went up to introduce myself to Angela Rayner. I wanted to congratulate her on her debut speech to the Labour conference as Shadow Education Secretary.

“You don’t need to introduce yourself, she said. “ I know who you are. You helped get me here” She went on to remind me that she had taken part in a training scheme for potential parliamentary candidates organised by Unite. The aim was to make sure that working class candidates who hadn’t been to university and didn’t have working for an MP or a front benchers on their CV had the skills to shine at selection conferences.

It was the brainchild of Unite general gecretary Len McCluskey and senior Unite MP Jon Trickett. I was an enthusiastic (pro bono) trainer because I shared their belief that the Labour party needed more working class MPs.  Angela Rayner is a celebrated product of the scheme and it was because of McCluskey’s role in setting it up that gave him her backing for re-election as general secretary of the country’s biggest union. Nominations have now closed in the contest, which I argued here few weeks ago is a potential game changer for Labour.

Following last week’s two by elections one of Jeremy Corbyn’s union backers, Unison leader, Dave Prentis was quick to come out and declare that Copeland was “disastrous” adding “The blame for these results does not lie solely with Jeremy Corbyn, but he must take responsibility for what happens next.”

By contrast, there was an intriguing silence from Corbyn’s other big union backer Len McCluskey. Was it a sign that he fears the connection could be damaging him? Certainly his challenger Gerard Coyne is making McCluskey’s “obsession with Westminster politics” a key point of attack. He accused him of putting “thousands of pounds of Unite’s money into helping Jeremy Corbyn gain and retain the Labour leadership, knowing that he is a lifelong opponent of nuclear power. What sort of message does that convey to the nearly 3,000 Unite members employed at the Sellafield plant, in Copeland?”

McCluskey is probably still favourite but does his silence suggest he is having doubts about the Corbyn leadership?

I think he should be having a rethink because of the evidence that he is driving away working class voters from Labour

An analysis of polling over the 18 months since Corbyn was elected shows that the drop in Labour’s working class support has been “catastrophic”, according to Theo Bertram, who worked for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He says: “Labour’s core vote is in crisis. It is collapsing on a scale that is worse than any point in history.”

He says “Jeremy Corbyn may claim to represent the working class but they do not agree. Under his leadership, working class support for Labour is down to 23 points the lowest it has ever been. Since September 2015, Labour has gone from 5 points ahead to 15 points behind the Tories among C2DEs.

Bertram’s killer fact is that “the big change came in the first two months of Corbyn’s leadership.” That collapse was masked by the fact that “David Cameron put off working class voters, Theresa May does not.”

In April 2016, he shows, Cameron had a net satisfaction rating among working class voters of minus 35%. 62% of them thought he was doing a bad job (nearly as many as Corbyn). In July 2016, in her first month as Prime Minister, Theresa May’s net satisfaction rating among working class voters was +16%.

“So while Labour flat-lined under Corbyn, the Tories changed their leader and their working class approval leaped by 51 points.”

Bertram argues: “Changing leader won’t in itself solve Labour’s core vote problem. But sticking with Corbyn is making things worse. Never has the Tory party had such a big lead among the working class. The longer Corbyn chooses to stay, the more damage he is doing to Labour’s claim to be the party of the working class.”

Frankly, that terrifies me. I hope it’s worrying Len McCluskey.


During February the Tories have defended NINE local by-elections – they only managed to retain TWO

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Summary : February 2017

February local by election aggregate % vote shares with changes on last time
CON 24%-5
LAB 24%-5
LD 28%+18
UKIP 9%-6
OTH 9%+3

Liberal Democrats 7,162 votes (28% +18% on last time) winning 7 seats (+4 seats on last time)
Labour 6,305 votes (24% -5% on last time) winning 5 seats (+1 seat on last time)
Conservatives 6,255 votes (24% -5% on last time) winning 2 seats (-7 seats on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 2,468 votes (9% -6% on last time) winning 1 seat (-1 seat on last time)
Other Parties 2,337 votes (9% +3% on last time) winning 2 seats (+3 seats on last time)
Green Party 959 votes (4% -2% on last time) winning 1 seat (+1 seat on last time)
Independents 493 votes (2% -4% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 seat on last time)
Liberal Democrat lead of 857 (4%) on a swing from Lab to Lib Dem of 11.5% (No swing from Con to Lab)

Liberal Democrats GAIN Brinsworth and Catcliffe on Rotherham from Lab
Labour GAIN Dinnington on Rotherham from UKIP
Liberal Democrats GAIN Fairford North on Cotswold from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Waterside on North Norfolk from Con
United Kingdom Independence Party GAIN Great and Little Oakley on Tendring from Ind
Bollington First GAIN Bollington on Cheshire East from Con
Green Party GAIN Lydbrook and Ruardean on Forest of Dean from UKIP
Residents for Uttlesford GAIN two seats in Elsenham and Henham on Uttlesford from Lib Dem
Liberal Democrats GAIN Emmbrook on Wokingham from Con
Labour GAIN Winklebury on Basingstoke and Deane from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Barton on Kettering from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Charterlands on South Hams from Con