Archive for the 'Gordon Brown' Category

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Electing a leader from Scotland could give the LDs a huge boost north of the the border

Friday, June 16th, 2017

If Gordon Brown could do it at GE10 then what about the Yellows?

We all know that GE10 wasn’t a good one for Gordon Brown’s LAB. The party lost power after having a comfortable majority for 13 years and suffered huge seat losses.

The chart above shows the party’s vote share changes in different parts of the UK but there was one place which bucked the overall trend Scotland.

Whereas in England LAB was down more than 7.4% in Scotland the party in increased its vote share by 3.1% and came away with 41 of the 59 seats north of the border.

    So extraordinarily LAB’s average vote change in Scotland at GE2010 was a whopping 10.5% better in Scotland than in England.

The reason was simple – the LAB leader, Gordon Brown, was Scottish. As was remarked at the time by a prominent Scottish politics academic “Brown maybe a bastard but he’s OUR bastard.”

When the LDs were last led by Scottish leader, the late Charles Kennedy at GE2005, they won 13 seats north of the border making them the second party in terms of Scottish MPs at that election.

On June 8th this year the party made most of its gains in Scotland and with the possibility of the SNP declining even more next time then the chances are that this will be fertile territory once again. Certainly their main target, Fife NE they were just two votes behind.

The LDs are so far behind where they were that the potential of a leader to help gain just a few extra seats will be very appealing.

I’ve little doubt that all of this will be communicated to LD members very strongly by the campaign of Glasweigan Jo Swinson if, as seems likely, she puts her hat into the ring.

Mike Smithson




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Mrs. May’s new PM ratings honeymoon is bigger than Thatcher’s, Cameron’s or Brown’s, but smaller than Major or Blair

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Putting the current ratings numbers into a historical context

With a lot of the non-LAB leadership politics discussion being on May’s polling honeymoon I thought I’d look back at the old MORI ratings to see how other new PM’s were doing at this stage in their occupancy of Number 10.

To its great credit Ipsos MORI keeps excellent historical records and has a whole section devoted to old polling data. So compiling the above has been easy.

Interestingly Mrs. Thatcher was only scoring a net 2% positive satisfaction rating in August 1979 which is the first rating recorded after her success in the election three months earlier. Even in June 1982 when she was basking in her Falklands triumph she only had a net positive of 23%.

At the end of her era John Major recorded the second best new PM ratings on record – a net 46%. This dropped rapidly in the years ahead as he sought to keep the party together over Europe and fight off the accomplished Tony Blair. The new Labour leader’s opening ratings in June 1997 top just about everything a net 59%.

Brown was a net plus 20% two months in after taking over from Blair in June 2007. Cameron, as can be seen scored a net +23% a couple of months after becoming PM.

All saw declines as the years went by and no doubt May will experience the same.

Mike Smithson




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Almost all of LAB’s current problems stem from eight years ago today when Gordon Brown recorded this interview

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

The day an autumn 2007 vote was bottled

Eight years today an event took place from which, I’d argue, all Labour’s trouble stem – the decision by the then PM to call off what were very advanced plans to have an early general election.

Everything had been geared up for this to be called in the days after the Tory conference. Even a fleet of limousines to carry ministers about on had been booked and paid for.

Three months earlier Gordon had taken over as leader in an uncontested election and the polls turned from regular CON leads to regular LAB ones. By the end of September Ipsos-MORI recorded a 13% LAB margin and the talk was not whether Gordon would go to the country but of the red team securing a landslide.

Throughout September the new Brown government had been making a policy announcement a day, committing billions of pounds, in the build up to what was widely expected to be an early election. Even the manifesto was at an advanced stage.

    The big question was not whether there would be an early election but when it would be called.

As Labour’s poll ratings remained buoyant all the pressure was on Cameron who’d been almost totally blanked out of the news for months. Was this going to be the moment when his then short-lived leadership would come to an end? Everything rested on maximising the opportunity presented by the guaranteed coverage they’d get for their conference.

Cameron made what until today was his best conference speech and Osborne announced a big easing of IHT which went down very well with the media. Labour’s poll lead began to slip and by the Saturday Gordon had decided to end the speculation.

The above is the famous interview he recorded with Andrew Marr on October 7th 2007. His claims that there had been no change of mind because of the polls seemed totally implausible. Labour, and Brown personally, never recovered.

Mike Smithson





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Donald Brind says: “Thanks Neil – now we need to hear from Gordon”

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

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Brown is well-placed to deal with the Corbyn surge

Shortly after Tony Blair was elected Labour leader in 1994 I bumped into my political hero Jack Jones at a book launch. What inspired me about Jones was that he understood that making gains for the working people he cared passionately about could only be done through a combination of industrial organisation and winning political power.

So, what I asked did he make of the new leader? He havered. He hadn’t made his mind up. Then a smile and a declaration: “Gordon Brown is a socialist.”This reminiscence was prompted by a reference to Brown on Newsnight by former Blair speech writer and Times columnist Phil Collins.

I had turned on Newsnight with low expectations. A smart young London MP had been booked to go on with Collins. A producer told her what she planned to say was “too reasonable.” Instead they had booked an old warhorse Diane Abbott.

The programme set out to examine the state of Blairism following the claim by CWU leader Dave Ward that Jeremy Corbyn would be an antidote to the Blairite “virus”. He was contradicted in a surefooted interview by Liz Kendall. What Labour really needs, she said, now is an “antidote to the Tories” .Then during the discussion with Abbott Collins said:“Winning power is crucial. Remember that great Gordon Brown speech in which he listed all the things that the Labour government had done… it was a long list. I don’t think any of that is conceivable under a Corbyn-led Labour party.”

It came as a bit of surprise a to hear a positive reference to Brown from someone seen (perhaps unfairly) as an arch Blairite. Collins,  We have become used to seeing Blair and Brown as rivals, even enemies. My hero Jack Jones’ doubts about Blair and his preference for the “socialist” Brown looks prescient.

In fact, I think he was wrong. The Blair Brown partnership was enormously fruitful for Labour and for the country. The 1997 landslide was a victory for team Labour – brilliantly led,  of course, by Blair – but with Brown chairing the key election strategy committee. They campaigned on a programme that drew on contributions from people who were to become the big beast of the Labour government.

    Now is the time, perhaps, for Brown, who made such a decisive intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign to remind Labour party members of the importance of winning power.

Kieran Pedley is surely right to warn that having an unelectable leader in 2020 makes the prospects of victory in 2025 even more distant.

Brown has the example of his old friend Neil Kinnock who last week was urged by Peter Kellner appeal to intervene to save the party from Jeremy Corbyn. . Now Kinnock has come out in support of Andy Burnham. Labour would become a powerless “discussion group” under Corbyn. The party must not settle for angry opposition. We must focus on victory and choose a leader who can win.”

If all else fails it may be the lure of the allotment that saves Labour from getting an unelectable leader. . Corbyn told the People’s veteran political editor Nigel Nelson that if his leadership bid fails he would be happy to go back to growing his vegetables.

Don Brind is one of PB’s regular contributors



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Remember the Saturday when the Telegraph and Sky News both declared that Alan Johnson had won the deputy leader election

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

With AV LAB elections don’t always go to plan

Remember June 2007? So many Labour MPs had chickened out of doing other than nominate Brown for leader that there weren’t enough left for another candidate to go on the ballot. The result – the party got what the polling indicated was a leader who was an electoral liability – not someone who could lead them into a fourth successive general election victory.

Instead there was a hard-fought deputy race which on the day, even before the offical announcement SkyNews and the Telegraph had published that Alan Johnson had won.

As it turned out the victor, by a whisker with a margin of less than 1%, was Harriet Harman who has remained in the post since. She got it because of the way the lower preferences of the third place, John Cruddas split.

It’s reckoned in the current election is that Yvette will pick up the lion’s share of Liz Kendall’s second pref assuming she comes last. The question will then be whether this is enough to beat Burnham in the second round.

Mike Smithson





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The big problem with free TV licences for those 75+ is that a staggering one in six of all UK households qualify

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

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Gordon Brown’s 2001 exemption rule has a huge loophole which should never have been agreed

From 1980-84 a big part my then job at the BBC was to deal with the PR and political issues relating to the corporation’s prime income source, the TV licence. None of the challenges that was as sensitive or as problematic as what should be done about the oldies who were required to pay the same fee as everybody else.

There had been a long-standing campaign for oldies to get free licences which at one point in the early 80s saw some pensioners deliberately trying to get themselves sent to prison for non-payment of fines over their refusal to get a licence. The idea was that their incarcerations would be the focus of marches and other demonstrations.

This was dealt with by secretly paying the outstanding fines and licence fees of the would be TV licence martyrs who were then released from jail much to their annoyance.

On its return to power in 1997 LAB took up the cause of free TV licences for pensioners and in the 2001 general election year the current scheme was introduced by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown in a move to offer something to help win the pensioners vote.

His plan was simple – all those aged 75 or more would get free licences irrespective of their financial circumstances. The massive problem was that the rules were drawn up far too widely so that any household with someone of that age living there qualified for the benefit even if everybody else there was younger.

    The result is that we now have the nonsensical situation in which one in six of all TV licences are now paid for out of central taxation irrespective of the incomes of everybody at the address.

Clearly that has to change and the only households which would qualify are those where everybody is 75+.

My reckoning is that Osborne has made his move to make the BBC fund this knowing that there’ll be less political damage to the Tories if the BBC is seen to be be trying to close down the Gordon Brown loophole and not the government.

This is pure politics. Let the Beeb and not the Tories take the flak.

Mike Smithson





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Let’s kill this myth once again. Cameron never had the chance of a minority government in May 2010

Friday, February 28th, 2014


May 11 2010

The Tories hadn’t won & there was need for Brown to step aside

I’ve made this point before but Gord had all the cards in his hand on May 7th 2010. The Tories had failed to win a majority and there was no obligation on him to go to the palace and recommend to the Queen that Cameron should be invited to form a government.

It is this central constitional fact that the “Dave should have gone for a minority government” faction ignores.

The main pressure on Brown was to get some sort of arrangement in place before the Queen’s speech due a week and a half later.

    If Cameron had not made his offer to the LDs and had tried to hang on for a minority government the blues would have been pushed out of the picture.

Instead there would have been intensive discussions between LAB and the LDs in which it became clear that there would be no support for Labour to continue in power while Brown was still at the helm.

This would have led, however reluctantly, to Gordon agreeing to step aside maybe after a leadership contest to find a successor had been completed. The LDs would have won some concessions perhaps to allow a supply and confidence arrangement to be agreed. The Queen’s Speech would have been approved by the new Commons.

That government would have struggled on for a few months because the numbers were extraordinarily tight. Brown’s successor, probably David Miliband, would have gone to the country in October 2010.

The point, of course, is that in May 2010 the chances are Cameron would never have had the option of pursuing a Conservative minority government.

It was only because of the coalition deal on Tuesday May 11th 2010 that Brown had to go to the palace to advise Her Majesty that Mr. Cameron be asked to form a government.

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble 2004-2014




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3 days before he lost GE2010 voters in the marginals rated Gordon Brown as best person to lead Britain through economic crisis

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Another contradictory “It’s the Economy” finding?

I came across the above from the final Ipsos-MORI marginals poll of the GE2010 campaign while researching the broader question of how such surveys compare with normal national polls when its comes to predicting elections.

This is one finding that I missed at the time which, of course, came in the final heady week of the last election.

Seeing it now has come as a bit of a shock because my recall was that at the last election Cameron had the edge on leader ratings and the Tories were “winning” on the economy.

    Maybe the lesson for today is the fact that Brown went on to lose in Labour’s second worst ever defeat suggests that the impact of these findings can be overstated

On voting intention this poll had CON and LAB level-pegging on 36% – which represented a 7% LAB>CON swing since GE2005 and would have meant an overall CON majority which, of course, didn’t happen.

The sample was restricted to those living in a group of marginal seats.

Mike Smithson

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