Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category

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LAB’s GE17 performance is misleading as a tactical voting guide because since then its reputation has been tainted by antisemitism

Friday, November 8th, 2019

There weren’t front pages like this before GE2017

So far the LAB GE19 campaign has been dominated by furious attacks like the one above from the Jewish Chronicle and nearly half a dozen candidates having to stand aside because they are on record as stated things that can be seen as anti semitic.

For the Labour party that is going into this election continues to be afflicted by impact of it and its leader’s actions on this form of racism. One thing’s for sure this isn’t going to go away before December 12th.

An area critical to the campaign where this looks set to impact is on tactical voting which Corbyn’s party is hoping to benefit from as it did last time as being the best option to impede Brexit. Then it ended with a GB vote share of 41%. The latest YouGov has that at 25% a whopping 16 points short of two and half years ago.

If you look over the polling in this parliament all was going well for Labour from June 2017 till February 2018. In that period it enjoyed leads in all or the majority of polls each month. Then came the Corbyn mural row which triggered off a raft of negative coverage on antisemitism which has continued.

This impacted on both the voting intention polls and the leader ratings for Corbyn which are now at a record low. Every single voting intention poll bar one since Johnson became PM has had CON leads

There’s a big fight currently going on between different sites on tactical voting – which party you should support in each constituency to give you best chance of defeating Johnson’s pro-Brexit Tories. One faction is keen to focus almost entirely on what happened at GE2017 when LAB was at its peak. The other factions focus on other more up to data which is less helpful to the red team.

The problem with the GE2017 baseline approach is that this wants to take you back two and a half years before the antisemitism issue emerged. The fact is that this has had a profound impact and it is harder to argue what happened in a particular seat on June 8th 2017 is relevant. Before the last general election the Jewish Chronicle wasn’t running front pages like the one above.

Mike Smithson




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Labour’s fan club is far too confident: 10 reasons why 2019 may not be 2017-part-2

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

A recovery for Corbyn is no foregone conclusion; it may get worse for Labour

This is not a prediction as such. There are plenty of counter-arguments to the points I’m about to make, some of which will almost certainly turn out to be true. It would be equally possible to write an article with 10 reasons why the Tory lead may well slide again. All the same, to keep things simple, let’s keep the focus on this side of the equation (not least because that provides a consistent baseline against which we can later argue).

That said, before the election began, there was a lot of chatter among Labour supporters that everything would be all right come election night, just as it turned out to be in 2017. Of course, Labour did lose that election, finishing well behind the Tories in seats and votes and – crucially – failing to form the government (which is the only true measure of who ‘won’). But they did gain seats, put on a very impressive number of votes on 2015, and eliminate the Tory majority.

Can Labour do it again? It is of course possible – so many things are – but here are ten reasons why they might well not:

1. Labour is polling really poorly: worse than 2017

It’s true that there’s a lot of variation among pollsters at the moment but one thing they all agree on is that Labour’s doing badly. They’ve not polled top-side of 30% with anyone since before the European elections, YouGov had them at 21% this week and five firms reported them at 24% or below during October. Six weeks out from the 2017 election, Labour’s worst score was 24% and in the month before, only two firms had them sub-25; by the end of the month, Labour was mainly in the high-20s. The relative position is about two points worse – and that 2017 performance was the worst for any main opposition party.

2. Corbyn is also record-breakingly unpopular

What is true of Labour’s vote share is mirrored in Corbyn’s personal rating. Corbyn set a new record for any Leader of the Opposition in Mori’s 40+ year series, recording a net satisfaction rating of -60 in September – and then repeated the feat in the October poll. At the same point prior to the 2017 poll, his equivalent rating was -35. Other pollsters asking similar questions tend to find only 15-21% positive support, though the negative (and hence, net) figure tends to depend on the question and the options offered. But even his best figure with any pollster since April is still worse than that -35 score from 2017. The tweet-thread, from @james_bowley gives an excellent overview of how Corbyn’s rating has declined over the last 30 months.

3. Johnson isn’t very popular either but he still has a sizeable lead

This is perhaps a case of having your cake and eating it but there’s method in there. At the time Theresa May called the 2017 election, her personal rating (again, using the Mori series) was +19. Johnson’s is currently +2, which is itself a major bounce from his September score of -18 and presumably a significant part of the recent increased Tory lead. What this means is that Johnson will find it harder to fall as far during the campaign in the way that May did – especially as much of his support is based on Brexit, from Leave voters and little is likely to change on that front. He may have a lower ceiling but his support is probably stronger – which means Johnson is likely to retain a sizeable lead on the leadership rating question unless Corbyn can very substantially improve his score.

4. The campaign is far more likely to be dominated by Brexit than 2017

Two and a half years ago, Brexit was a distant prospect; now, it’s clearly not. The lines are much clearer between the parties and the deadline much closer. Voters are likely to weigh the issue more heavily (and indeed, going by ‘issues’ polling, are doing so). While other issues will get an airing – and Labour is doing its best on that score – the Tories, Lib Dems and Brexit Party all have an interest on keeping as much focus as possible on the EU withdrawal question, and that’s a question which Labour’s answer to is badly defined and easy to mock.

5. The Tory campaign is likely to be far better than in 2017

The Tories’ effort in 2017 is widely regarded as the worst election campaign ever. I don’t remember Labour’s 1983 effort but whatever the absolute ranking, it was a shocker. The PM and party leader hid in a cupboard, the manifesto couldn’t have been better designed to upset many key Tory voters, there was no properly defined campaign hierarchy leading to confusion, contradiction and a campaign strategy that became hopelessly misaligned with reality. We can reasonably expect that Johnson and co will not repeat these mistakes.

6. Corbyn is not as good a campaigner as he’s given credit for

Jeremy Corbyn’s reputation as a campaigner is based on three elections: the 2015 and 2016 Labour leadership contests, and the 2017 general elections. In the first of these, he won heavily against the odds; in the second, he won at a canter; in the third, he led Labour back from the brink to near-victory. Except a lot of that didn’t have much to do with him.

The Labour leadership contests were fought with an extremely favourable electorate to the far left. That few people noticed this before the election started doesn’t change the fact. Corbyn also benefitted from particularly lacklustre opponents. Then, in 2016, he didn’t actually do all that well. Against a lightweight opponent (unlike 2015), he only put on 2%. Had the votes from the third- and fourth-placed candidates in 2015 been redistributed to enable a like-for-like comparison, chances are his share would have declined despite an even more favourable electorate. And then there was 2017 which, as noted, the Tories helpfully provided Corbyn with a ladder to climb out of the hole that he himself had dug. The best that can be said for him is that he has an assured confidence that his strategy is right and he tends not to panic – which is a good thing unless the strategy isn’t right.

7. The Lib Dems won’t be talking about gay sex for four weeks

You might not remember the Lib Dems’ 2017 election and chances are they won’t want you to. They went into the election with 8 MPs and a poll rating barely out of single figures, and were struggling for any media attention. What little they did achieve was wasted when the leader, Tim Farron, a committed Christian, failed to give a clear answer on the sinfulness of gay sex – which resulted both in the issue dogging him for the rest of the campaign and also crowding out what little other coverage his party might have gained.

2019 is unlikely to see any sort of repeat. The Lib Dems have been on a roll since the European elections, having gained a host of MPs through defections and having more than doubled their poll share. With a distinctive line on Brexit and a willingness to attack Labour as well as the Tories, Labour cannot assume a clear field on the left-of-centre.

8. Scottish and Welsh Labour are doing even worse than in 2017

Scottish Labour had a catastrophic 2015 election and recovered only slightly in 2017, gaining six seats for a total of 7. That was with 27% of the vote. The last five proper Scottish polls for Westminster (i.e. not counting sub-sections of GB-wide polls), all have Labour below 20% – worse even than in 2017. On those figures, Labour is set for losses again in Scotland.

Likewise Wales. For so long a Labour fiefdom, that dominance now seems broken. The last two Welsh polls have placed the Tories first; the last three have had Labour at 25% or below (compared with the 49% they polled in 2017). The saving grace in Wales is that unlike Scotland, the opposition is fragmented: there’ll be no wipeout on these figures. All the same, the polling is very ugly.

9. Labour is more internally divided than at any point under Corbyn

One feature of the Corbyn leadership has been how tight-knit the leadership group around him has been since 2015. Despite the hostility of the PLP, defections, and poor poll ratings and elections (the 2017GE is the only real success: the locals, by-elections and Euros have been consistently bad), the group closest to him – both elected and appointed – have covered his back. But recently, divisions have begun to open up with rumours of a rift with McDonnell, the sidelining of Karie Murphy, and the departure of Andrew Fisher. Parties struggling in elections tend to turn on themselves and while Labour avoided that in 2017, the scope for it this year seems higher should things not begin to pick up.

10. Labour’s front bench is weak

The election cannot be fronted by Corbyn alone. He needs to be supported by his colleagues and with two exceptions – McDonnell and Starmer – they are not very effective media performers. The likes of Burgon, Long-Bailey or Abbott already have reputations for being gaffe-prone or robotic in interviews and several others are similarly weak. The extent to which Tory divisions and failures during the last parliament weren’t capitalised on is as good a measure as any. But in an election the media – social and mainstream – will happily make a story of a cock-up, which lightens the tone from the grind of the predictable.

As I say, there are counter-arguments as to why the Tories might do badly or why Labour can overcome these weaknesses. All the same, as PB’s Kieran Pedley put it the other day, Labour seems like a team which having been 3-0 down in last year’s cup final and ended up losing only on penalties, is far too complacent about being 3-0 down again in this year’s match. Their strategy is now clear on how to recover: repeat 2017 but bigger and better; ignore Brexit, promise huge spending commitments and wage class war. It’s a very bold gamble to talk about what you want to talk about rather than the electorate’s priorities when the people already don’t much trust you. Maybe it will work but there are many reasons to think it won’t.

David Herdson



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All three main party leaders are in negative ratings territory with Corbyn’s numbers the worst

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Latest YouGov favourability trackers (FW Oct 23/24)

If you had followed the 2017 General Election only through the prism of leader ratings then the actual outcome with the Labour recovery would have been less of a surprise. For these were showing that Theresa May’s numbers getting steadily worse and that Corbyn’s were improving very rapidly in the run up to election. Indeed by election day Corbyn had jumped out of negative territory.

The ratings format I like the most and the one that tends to be be universal in the US is over favorability because there can be no ambiguity. Thus many non-LAB voters could honestly say they approve or are satisfied with Corbyn’s performance as leader but would view him unfavourably.

About 4 years ago YouGov started doing regular favorability ratings as a result of suggestions from me and have continued doing them to this day.

The latest numbers based on fieldwork that took place last week are in the panel above and as can be seen that in net terms Johnson and Swinson are about level. The latter suffers from being much less known and fewer people have an opinion of her.

Corbyn’s unfavourables continue to be very high and should be a serious worry for the party as it prepares to go into the campaign. His party’s hope, of course, is that we’ll see a repetition of the recovery at GE2017

In the next seven weeks there’ll be many voting intention polls coming out but relatively few leader ratings. My emphasis will be on the latter.

Mike Smithson




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Another female Jewish MP is hounded out of Labour

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Why is it that the haters go for the women?

Incidents like this and the failure of the party under Corbyn to deal with it are a big reason, I’d suggest, behind the poor voting intention numbers and his disastrous record negative leader ratings.

If you plot Labour’s decline since GE2017 there was a turning point in March 2008 when the story of Corbyn and the antisemitic mural emerged. The party dropped sharply and from a period when it was in the low 40s or late 30s it is now down to barely half the share it chalked up two and a half years ago.

For some reason it is female Jewish LAB MPs who appear to be the target. Maybe the social media warriors hiding behind their anonymity feel emboldened to pursue the course they do.

A serious party leader would have taken firm action and shown real leadership. Corbyn didn’t.

Quite where it goes from here it is hard to say while the incumbent clings onto his job.

Louise Ellman’s letter above is totally damning but, no doubt, Jezza swill stay.

Mike Smithson




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Corbyn would be taking a massive gamble calling an election when he’s so far behind in the leader ratings

Monday, October 7th, 2019

As has been remarked upon many times recently we are in a totally unprecedented situation when it comes to calling the next general election. Following Corbyn’s repeated reluctance to take the bait in September he, effectively, is the one who will decide when the country’s next general election will be held

Johnson simply does not have the votes to reach the required two-thirds of all MPs as laid down by the Fixed-Term Parliament Act. If he wants to go to the country early, and there might be good reasons for him doing so, then he has to rely on the opposition leader, Corbyn, moving a vote of no confidence in the prescribed form or him backing the PM’s motion.

So the decision is in Corbyn’s personal hands and the complete opposite situation that we normally expect. The question is will will Labour and its leader decide to go this year or will they reckon that holding on a bit will help its position period.

A factor that might help LAB leadership make its mind up are the latest leader ratings which show Corbyn continuing to struggle against others behind, on these measures, that might be unsurmountable.

But Corbyn might be buoyed up by the experience of last time when he was behind on voting intention but came through and did not suffer as big a defeat as many had been predicting. But, and sometimes his loyal backers forget this, he still lost.

The Glastonbury rhetoric in 2016 of “being in Downing Street by Christmas 2016” is all a long time ago.

Mike Smithson




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New YouGov polling on party Brexit awareness highlights the challenges facing LAB

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

With the coming general election looking set to be a battle between parties that back Leave and and those that back Remain this YouGov polling on perceptions of the Brexit stance of each party looks be a good pointer.

As can be seen Johnson/Cummings have made progress with Leave voters that the Tories are pro-Brexit a finding that could be important given the Farage pitch of “we are more pure on Brexit than Johnson”

My guess, however,  is that on a seat by seat basis in the general election the Tories will take the lion’s share of the anti-Brexit vote in places where they’ve a good chance of winning.

Corbyn’s numbers for  LAB are seriously problematic with almost zero movement over the past six months – the product of having no clear view on what is the big issue of the moment.

The LDs with first their controversial “Bollocks to Brexit” rhetoric and then with their commitment to revoke Article 50 if they won a majority appears to have got through to their key constituency – remain voters.   Swinson’s team will also be pleased that they head the list of remain-backing parties.

Does it all matter? My guess is yes given that Brexit is likely to be a key trigger for election. During the full five weeks of the campaign other issues could emerge and that might help Team Corbyn or it might not.

One thing we don’t know about the next election is who will be the incumbent PM and who the leader of the opposition.

Mike Smithson




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A confidence vote to get rid of PM Johnson could happen next week

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

The Betfair 69% on it taking place this year looks a decent bet

A leading SNP MP, Stewart Hosie, has told the BBC that there could be a confidence vote in Johnson as early as next week.

If this happens, given the current Commons numbers, Johnson would almost certainly lose and then, under the FTPA, there would a fortnight under which an alternative government could be formed and if not a general election would be triggered.

From what I can see the thinking is that getting the PM out now is seen critical to avoid a no deal Brexit on October 31st. A new government made up of all the opposition parties groupings including the Tories MPs axed by Johnson would then take over the reins of government to take the country past the October 31st Article 50 deadline.

The main problem is then who would become PM. While other parties might be happy with Corbyn Jo Swinson has been very clear that the LAB leader would not be acceptable and the LDs need to be on board. Alternatives such as Ken Clarke and Margaret Beckett have been suggested.

An interesting name that has been raised is the outgoing Speaker, John Bercow, who was originally elected as an MP for the Tory party.

My guess is that Corbyn might be prepared for another figure which is why my money is on Beckett.

A big issue overall is that although the referendum was for Leave the margin was so tight that a 1.9% Leave to Remain swing would have produced a different outcome. The Brexiteers got 51.9% of the vote but want 100% of the spoils. That could be their undoing.

You can get 69% on Betfair that there will be a second VONC in 2019 which looks like a good bet.

Meanwhile it is Tory conference time in Manchester.

Mike Smithson


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Another conference boost for Jo Swinson – this time from LAB

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Corbyn the opposition leader with the worst leader ratings ever gets his way

The big political news has been the Labour conference decision to reject a move that would have seen the party take out-and-out Remain position in the run-up to the likely early general election.

Delegates rejected a composite motion that would have seen the party pledge to campaign for remain.

Whether this was electorally wise only time will tell but my guess is that the biggest cheers for the vote would have come from the LDs who are currently taking about a quarter of the LAB GE2017 vote.

It does mean that in a general election LAB will not be on one side or the other giving Swinson party a clear run for the Remain vote and Johnson the unambiguous supporter of Brexit.

The nature of the vote was somewhat chaotic and given the importance of this to the party’s electoral future it was perhaps unwise not to have gone to a card vote.

Mike Smithson