Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category


Even though TMay slumped to her worst ever Ipsos-MORI PM ratings & Corbyn has the second worst Opposition leader rating

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Never have the views of both CON & LAB leaders been so poor

Just out today is the latest Ipsos-MORI political monitor whicht has the Tories taking a lead of 4% over labour. Last time the two main parties were level pegging.

Also, as ever, included are the firm’s  leader satisfaction number a polling series that is now into its forty-third year. For the Corbyn and TMay the ratings are dreadful. The former has the second worst Opposition leader numbers on record only slightly better than last month which were the worst.

TMay’s ratings were the worst she’s experienced since becoming PM although she has a “lead” over the LAB leader in the sense there his net negatives are 16  points worse than hers.

We’ve never had a time like this when the leaders of the two main parties are simultaneously recording record lows. TMay has had Brexit while Corbyn continues to be hit by the anti-semitism rows which simply won’t go away.

In one sense the Tories are in a better position in that TMay has said she won’t fight the next general election as leader. Corbyn’s still there.

Mike Smithson


What might the Tories learn from Labour

Friday, March 8th, 2019

The Tories might well look at Labour’s current travails over anti-Semitism and sigh with relief. “At least we’re not as bad as that.” They would be wise not to be so complacent.

Anti-Semitism is not  confined to Corbyn’s Labour or to the Left in general. The attacks on Soros by some Tory-leaning papers, even Mrs May’s “citizens of nowhere” speech, echoed some pretty standard tropes about rootless disloyal cosmopolitan people somehow undermining good old native British culture.  And there have been enough people within the Tories willing to use and spread offensive and hateful imagery and statements about Muslims, Jews and foreigners in general to show that they are not immune.

Baroness Warsi can be criticised for some of the views she has expressed (about Prevent, about Sara Khan and the Commission for Countering Extremism) but her complaints about how some in the Tory party view Muslims raise worrying questions, questions which need addressing seriously.

The most important lesson to learn from Labour’s problems is that the sooner you stamp down hard on problems, the easier it is to root them out. Early effective action makes it easier to create the right culture – a culture which is unwelcoming to those who wish to discriminate against “others” and who spread or use hateful words, imagery, insults, whether this is because they believe them or because they think them useful in some greater cause.

There are three more important lessons to be learned:-

  1. It is not enough to make speeches about clamping down on such abuse. This must be accompanied by actions, at all levels of the party from the top down, and not just when the press is looking but on a sustained basis. Those who care about such matters will notice if action is taken just for show.
  2. Establish the scale of the problem. Properly. Organisations hate doing this – it’s washing your dirty linen in public, it can be demoralising for those who don’t behave badly, it feels as if you’re giving ammunition to your opponents. But unless you know the extent of the problems you face, you cannot seriously put in place the measures needed. What’s more, it looks as if you’re trying to cover things up. So when you do try and deal with an issue, you run the risk of not being believed. Better to be open when the issues are small and resolvable than be forced into an inquiry under pressure when your credit is already low. And better this than be investigated by outside bodies, when you have lost control. The Tories would be wise to take advice – and be seen to be doing so – from the Equalities Commission on best practice.
  3. Have a robust, thorough, independent investigative and disciplinary process, staffed by people who know what they are doing and who understand how to spot and avoid an actual or potential conflict of interest. This is not that hard, if the will is there. Not doing so or just doing the bare minimum will cause endless grief; the damage to reputation will hugely outweigh the costs and be very long-lasting. It is the falsest of false economies.

This may not be something that matters to many voters, but it is emblematic of a party’s moral compass, of how it is perceived. Voters’ decisions are made as much for emotional reasons as following a cool rational assessment of parties’ policies. Labour has suffered in part because the allegations of anti-Semitism by its own MPs are at odds with its image of itself as an anti-racist party. It makes it seem – to some, anyway – nasty. It took the Tories a very long time indeed to shed their “nasty party” tag but it will not take long for them to reacquire it. (Some will argue that this has already happened.)

But why should the Tories be bothered by this? There have been no demonstrations outside Parliament or polls showing significant percentages of Muslims wanting to leave or complaints that the Tories are posing an existential threat to Muslim life in this country. Nor has Mrs May invited Tommy Robinson to tea, described him as a friend, gone on foreign trips with members of the Klu Klux Klan. Indeed not. But that is to set the bar very low indeed.

And what about the distinction between not insulting Muslims and criticising Islam? Questioning, criticising, challenging an idea, even a religious idea, is essential in a free society, no matter how uncomfortable that may make its adherents feel. All true – and there are certainly many aspects of Islam, of how a community with a fundamentally credal culture integrates into a secular one, of the realities of how some Muslim or Muslim heritage groups behave – which warrant vigorous criticism and debate.

But that criticism can all too easily be dismissed if it comes from a party which permits vulgar hateful abuse against individual Muslims and seeks, implausibly, to justify this by claiming it as merely criticism of a religion. That too is a lesson to be learned from Labour (which has sought to justify abuse of Jews by claiming that this was just criticism of a foreign country or its government). Such Jesuitical distinctions just compound the offence and the insincerity of the explanation.

So why are the Tories vulnerable to a charge of hatred of or contempt for Muslims (and other minorities)?  Three possibilities:-

  1. The legacy of the Leave campaign, the way May’s government seemed to divide the nation into patriots and outsiders, the Go Home vans, the Windrush debacle make it far too easy for some to think it acceptable to indulge in “othering”of those who look or are different. Even Johnson (in favour of permitting the burqa to be worn) could not resist using childish and bullying language when making his arguments, arguments which might have been listened to with more care had he reined back his insatiable desire for a headline. Depending on how Brexit is – or is not – implemented, it is easy to see how a “stab in the back” complaint against “saboteurs” allegedly owing their loyalty to others could morph into something much more sinister aimed at minorities.
  2. UKIP  may now be a busted flush headed by a leader determined to outdo one of his leadership rivals in anti-Muslim bigotry. But for a party once described by Cameron as full of “fruitcakes, racists and loonies”, it has been remarkably successful at changing Tory policy. Tory membership is low; the Tories are divided, exhausted, effectively leaderless and no longer really know what they are for. These are the conditions which make it vulnerable to determined entryists. It would not take many of them mouthing off about loyalty tests and the rest to create the impression that Tories hate Muslims. Even a Muslim Home Secretary born into a poor family is not sufficient inoculation against the harm that entryists can do.
  3. It is a fair assumption that many Leave voters cared more about non-EU immigration than EU migration. (Why would the Turkey and “Breaking Point” posters have been used had this not been the case?). The irony of the Brexit vote is that it is precisely this sort of immigration which has now increased to its highest level for years. Easy to see how this can create the perfect environment for a backlash against such migrants, many of whom will likely be Muslim.

Dislike of minorities does not need to be a given.  Indeed, it should be something which no decent country or party should indulge in.  But its absence cannot be taken for granted. It is not always parties’ better angels which rule.  The Tories should take no comfort from the beams in Labour’s eyes.  They should concentrate on removing the motes from their own.



Fringe concerns. Why all the focus on anti-Semitism in the Labour party?

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Imagine, if you will, that Labour sweep to power under Jeremy Corbyn. There is much that an avowedly socialist government would wish to do. No doubt it would look at nationalising key industries. It would open up the spigots of the Treasury, letting its funds gush into any number of spending channels. It would look to make irreversible redistributions of wealth.  

What it would not do, however, is seek to redraw the boundaries of the Middle East – it would neither have the time nor the wherewithal. Aside from making a few essentially token moves, Israel and Palestine would be left to fend for themselves. That question is peripheral to the priorities of a UK Labour government.

This leads me onto the subject of this piece. Much has been written about the current debate about anti-Semitism which is convulsing the Labour party at present. Relatively little has been written about what is superficially the most baffling question, which is why this has arisen in the first place.

Jeremy Corbyn has certainly had a longstanding interest in the troubles of the Palestinians (his interest in the difficulties that Israel might face is less well-attested). Backbenchers can luxuriate in problems where they can make only marginal differences and for more than 30 years Jeremy Corbyn found causes around the world to champion.

On becoming Labour leader, however, he needed to focus on the things that matter most to voters. In fairness, a lot of Labour’s efforts have been to do exactly that. The 2017 manifesto was a melange of different vote-grabbing policies, lacking coherence but having pizazz. Despite strenuous attempts by the Conservatives, Labour have striven mightily to consign Jeremy Corbyn’s past eyebrow-raising connections firmly to the past, with some success at least as far as younger voters are concerned.

Despite all this, Labour have spent the time since the last election bogged down in increasingly raw arguments about anti-Semitism. Why has this proved the hill that Jeremy Corbyn might die on?

Many of the Corbynites vigorously argue that this is all something got up by the enemies of socialism to discredit the congregation. They regard the instances being found as being wilfully exaggerated, have decided that wreath-laying was not at the grave of a dead Palestinian terrorist (whatever the facts might show), point to many Jews who agree with the criticisms they have made of Israel and note that the critics of perceived anti-Semitism are voluble critics of the Labour leader on many other fronts too.

There is the germ of a point here. The pearl-clutching by many on the right about anti-Semitism is hypocritical in the extreme, given how relaxed they were about campaigning for Leave under a poster that whipped up untrue fears of millions of Turks being poised to descend on Britain. It seems that bigotry is acceptable to them when it furthers their own ends. Such are the debased politics we now endure, a politics of motes and beams.

There is no doubt that many of the critics of perceived anti-Semitism within the Labour party are no friends of Jeremy Corbyn. And there is no doubt that one of the consequences of social media is that every whackjob with a twitter account and a Labour membership card can be held up as an example of an institutional problem.

Yet it is not just made up by the leadership’s opponents. Jeremy Corbyn himself has accepted that there is a real problem. Jon Lansman, the head of Momentum, acknowledges a major problem. Many of the instances of abuse are appalling, no matter how insignificant the instigator. Some of the instigators are senior and repeat offenders. Labour has already supposedly accepted that it needs to act here.

On every other front the Labour leadership has focused on voters’ central concerns. For example, it has been rigidly disciplined about not stirring up controversy about NATO membership or Trident, about both of which Jeremy Corbyn has Firm Views and about both of which he could actually do something were he to become Prime Minister. When did you last hear about either of those subjects? You can be sure that if Labour were elected you’d hear a lot about both.

Why would he throw away that hard work for no reason?  It’s not as if he really needed to do very much. The party’s usual channels for dealing with disciplinary offences were there and needed only to be used.  A few stern words about respect for all communities and dissociating himself from the extremes on social media would have brought self-appointed outriders to heel. Meeting MPs who had suffered intense abuse would have healed rifts. The rest is silence.

Jeremy Corbyn did not do that. It appears to have been an active choice to let this controversy continue to rage. Indeed, the leadership appears to have meddled with the disciplinary process to the advantage of some of those potentially to be sanctioned.  

So is this something which is so dear to Jeremy Corbyn’s heart, despite his outward recognition of the problem, that he refuses to take the steps necessary to close it down? The unsentimental shutting down of the rest of his minority opinions strongly suggests otherwise.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that this being actively used by the Labour leadership in some way. The only conceivable use that I can identify is that it is being used to stamp the leadership’s mark on the rest of the Parliamentary Labour party.

By driving out MPs or forcing them to hunker down unhappily behind the leadership, the leadership get definitively to remake the party in their own image. It might be massively unpopular with voters but that really doesn’t matter. One way or another, they get the Labour party – an asset of great value in the long term and worth a lot of short term pain.  

Some MPs have already broken away and others are clearly considering their options.  The leadership presumably wants those MPs to be seen to be making the final decision, so that they can then condemn the betrayal. So it plays grandmother’s footsteps on the subject, alternately stirring the subject up then backing down. Each retreat is signalled as a concession, to be undermined shortly thereafter by another affront to which MPs need to decide whether to respond.

If this is right, we should expect more defections and perhaps a lot more. The MPs on the right of the Labour party have sent their scouts. At some point one of these calculated provocations will have the calculated effect. Both the leadership and the defectors will then get what they want.

Alastair Meeks


Tom Watson plans a new LAB MPs grouping and there’s little Milne/McCluskey/Corbyn can do about it

Monday, February 25th, 2019

He’s LAB’s deputy with his own separate mandate

It is very hard to think of any other organisation where a deputy can operate in the manner that Tom Watson is doing at the moment. His response to the defection of nine MPs has been very much to sympathize recognising the culture within the party that led to their decisions. He’s also forwarded to the leadership 50 cases of anti-semitism which he wants investigating.

You wonder what Seamus Milne, Len McCluskey, and Jeremy Corbyn think about this which looks like a direct challenge to the man who was elected leader in 2015 and was reelected a year later each time with a second substantial majority.

Tom Watson was elected deputy at the same time as Corbyn in 2015 and is effectively unsackable by the leader. My reading is that the only way of getting rid of him is to put forward a challenge to his position and there would be another deputy leadership election. That would then be voted on by the membership.

Watson wants his new group to give a platform to those MPs whose views are not currently represented within Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and effectively to give them a voice and help them shape policy.

As TSE pointed out yesterday it was Tom Watson in 2006 who initiated what looked like being a series of minsterial resignations which led to Tony Blair announcing that he would step down the following year. He’s somebody who understands the party and it’s machinations and clearly has a lot of support.

He’s not someone you don’t want as your enemy and he sees his role as protecting Labour.

The biggest issue that will be focused on in the coming days and weeks, no doubt, will be the way that Corbyn and his team have been deflecting the growing calls within the party to back a second referendum on Brexit. The danger for Corbyn is that if a No Deal brexit does take place then he will be seen as jointly responsible with the Tories. This will be Corbyn’s Nick Clegg tuition fees moment writ large – not to be forgotten.

Mike Smithson


The past three months have been tough for both main leaders but the polling suggests that Corbyn has been hit the most

Monday, February 25th, 2019

For all the different polling questions being asked at the moment I prefer tracker questions which use the same format in the same way in poll after poll to get an historical picture of how things are developing. The best, as I repeatedly argue, are leader ratings which rarely get the attention they deserve often being ignored completely by the media outlets that commission them.

Unlike voting intention surveys which seek to establish what respondents might or might not do at an event more than three years hence leader ratings seek opinions which, of course, are what opinion polls are best at.

Deltapoll, the new name on the block founded a year ago by Joe Twyman, ex-YouGov, and Martin Boon, ex-ICM, has joined Ipsos-MORI and Opinium being part of a very select group of pollsters that carry out regular ratings of this form. Other firms may occasionally include a question but not on a regular basis so we can track the data. Each of them might ask a different leader rating question but they always ask one set of standardised question.

The Delta format is to ask the “well/badly” question and the past three laest surveys for TMay and Corbyn are featured in the chart above. Both have seen their net negatives get bigger since December but with Corbyn being it the hardest. The trend in with the other leader ratings pollsters is the same.

The question for Labour is whether and when this can be reversed.

Wikipedia has an excellent page where most, but not all, leader ratings are

Mike Smithson


It appears Blair slayer Tom Watson has his sights on Jeremy Corbyn

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Tom Watson’s appearance on the Andrew Marr show was very interesting as per the tweets above.

That Labour’s deputy leader has publicly brought the antisemitism issue to Corbyn with the fifty cases makes life very difficult for Corbyn. With a third of voters thinking Corbyn is an antisemite this presents an opportunity for Corbyn to turn around that perception but given past form Corbyn will only make it worse.

Corbynites should be concerned about Watson is doing this, and so publicly, anyone with an understanding of history knows Watson played a crucial role in the early departure of the great Satan Tony Blair. If Watson can help topple the three times general election winning leader he’ll be able to take down the general election loser that is Corbyn.

If the Corbynite fan club is castrated on social media then it will be harder for Corbyn to survive a putsch which makes me think this is part of a very clever plan by Tom Watson.


PS – Meanwhile Mrs May is determined to ensure more Tory defections to the TIGgers as even loyalists who backed the deal are getting exasperated 


Corbyn’s no longer the “Next PM” betting favourite as punters evaluate the week’s big developments

Thursday, February 21st, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Gove now in the number one slot

With LAB so far losing more of its MPs to TIG than CON then the ability of Corbyn to force an election though mounting a confidence vote has declined a notch. More exits mean fewer MPs who take the Labour whip puts the LAB leader in Commons arithmetic terms in a worse position.

I’ve never really seen why Corbyn should be favourite here because if things follow their predicted course then the next PM will be a Tory.

Gove, whose recent big Commons speech, had fellow MPs talking about him once again in leadership terms, has edged up a bit more.

Sajid Javid now at 9% has got a small boost from him stripping Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship. I’m not so sure on this. It made him look like a crowd pleaser – he appeared just too willing to follow the headlines.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn harking back to LAB’s GE2017 vote share is no solution to the party’s current challenges

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

For many he is seen as the problem

Little noticed in this week’s political turmoil was some new polling from YouGov that had Corbyn dropping to a new low in its well/badly ratings. The trend was in line with all the other leader ratings that we’ve seen the last few weeks that whatever the pollster and whatever the question format Corbyn’s position is on the decline.

The historical record shows that for an opposition party to re-take power the leader has to have a clear ratings margin over the incumbent PM.

The 54% negative number from YouGov was not as bad as the 72% who told Ipsos MORI that they were dissatisfied but it is still the worst it has been with this particular question in this polling series

This coincided with the 8 MPs announcing their departure with their reasons all pointing to the leadership of Corbyn particularly on Brexit and his failure to address the ongoing anti-semitism within the party.

Looking back since the 2017 General Election the factors that seemed to have triggered a decline in Corbyn’s personal position have related to anti-semitism and his ambivalence on Brexit. It was the events in March last year that lead to MPs demonstrating against him outside Parliament that ended his comparative ratings honeymoon.

That Corbyn’s position is secure because of the membership base should give lots of hope to those opposed to LAB.

Labour’s fundamental problem is that it has a leader who is not popular even amongst many of those who voted for the party in 2017 but is almost totally secure in his position.

Mike Smithson