Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category


Facts and fantasies about public ownership. Don Brind looks at the evidence from abroad

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Did you Know?

• “In Singapore 20% of GDP comes from state owned enterprises, 90% of land is state owned and 85% of housing is public.”

• “48 million Americans, in over 2000 cities and districts, get their electricity from the public sector, at a price on average 12% lower than the price charged by private energy companies.”

So, it seems, it’s not just Venezuela that inspires those “Marxists” Corbyn and McDonnell in their ambition to use public ownership as a key driver of economic policy.

Singapore and the United States are significant because they are the places to which right wing Tories direct you when they want to show all will be rosy in the post Brexit world. Thus Tory MEP Daniel Hannan launched his free-trade think tank by lauding Singapore: ”They have gone from being half as rich as us to twice as rich. What was the magic formula? Just do it. They dropped their barriers.”

Unhappily for Hannan, he came in for a bit of fact checking by Laurie Macfarlane who tweeted the facts in the first quote above.

The economist is a research fellow in University College London’s new Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose which was launched last week by its charismatic founder and director Mariana Mazzucato. Mazzucato’s book The Entrepreneurial State has been hugely influential within the Labour party and Liam Byrne, the shadow minister for Digital weighed in with a tweet supporting Macfarlane: “Singapore, lionised by free marketeers, long ago learned the value of an entrepreneurial state.”

(Lest this is taken as a recommendation for all things Singaporean, blogger provides a cautionary corrective.  “In this rich kids’ playground, there isn’t even a minimum wage. Although Singapore sells itself as a model for racial harmony, there are certainly hierarchies, and they tend to be along racial lines.”)

The key question is what is the right role for the government and the public realm in general in creating economic prosperity. And when it comes to the US, Professor’s Mazzucato’s thesis might be summed up as Do As They Do, Not As They Say. She shows how important federal research agencies have been in driving innovation in defence, electronic, health and energy.

The fact that 2,000 US cities and districts have publicly owned utilities fits in with her thesis.

The quote above comes from the campaigning and research website We Own it which, I understand, is followed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s team. It declares “We’ve been told myths about privatisation for 30 years. It’s time for public ownership.”

The website highlights a report by Professor David Hall, of Greenwich University which suggests moving to a publicly owned energy system in the UK would pay for itself in 10 years. It estimates the savings of £3.2 billion per year would be possible because of the lower cost of borrowing in the public sector, and “an end to extraction of dividends by shareholders.”

The report proposes a new model of public ownership based on “ national, regional and local public ownership” which would “encourage renewable energy generation by local authorities, co-operatives and community groups. They would supply consumers and compete with the Big Six suppliers.  “In Germany, such companies have captured up to 50 per cent of the market.” And, by the way, “the proposals are designed to be practical under existing EU law.”

The Singapore and US examples challenge to the right-wing assumption that public ownership is a bad thing, a view articulated last week by Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics on when he asked Labour front bencher Jenny Chapman.  “Can you give us an example of where nationalising something has raised productivity?”

I’m a fan of Neil and I’m not suggesting he was offering a personal opinion. His interviews are a tough gig and one of his little tricks, as his guest stumbles, is to answer his own question. Not this time. But if he’d done his research he would have found answer to his question in the OECD report Improving Infrastructure in the UK

It says “the British rail system has an efficiency gap of about 20-40% with respect to comparable European countries.” The costs of the rolling stock in the UK, which accounts for about 70% of total private investment are “40-60% higher than in other European countries.”

So, Andrew, just in case you were betraying a personal view you are wrong. The state owned rail systems in France and Germany are more efficient that than the UK’s privatised system. I knew you’d want to know.

Don Brind


It was a big CON to LAB Remain voter swing that cost the Tories their majority

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

It’s possible that LAB could’ve fared better with a unequivocal Remainer as head

More serious analysis of the extraordinary GE2017 result is now coming out and is reflected in the Tweets above from leading political scientist Rob Ford of Manchester University who works closely with Prof John Curtice.

The big expectation throughout the campaign was that the Tories would benefit from Leave supporters and the collapse of UKIP. As it turned out that proved to be insignificant. What is striking is that amongst Remain voters the CON vote went down by 5 points while the LAB vote went up by 13.

This, of course, all happened in spite of the GE17 policy of Corbyn’s Labour which was in many ways pro-Brexit. Yet that was not how it was perceived and did not seem to inhibit a big swing amongst Remain voters to the red team.

The main data that’s available on this at the moment is featured in the Ford tweets. But the big message should be very worrying for Theresa May and her party. Many of the 16.1m Remain voters were Tories and the party cannot assume that they will continue to back the party. In many ways it is quite extraordinary that they were ready to use their votes to back Labour.

We’ll never know this, of course, but I wonder how many Remain backing Tories were put off from switching by Mr. Corbyn.

Mike Smithson


The more a challenge to May’s leadership looks likely the less the chances of Corbyn becoming next PM

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

TMay needs to remain until next election if the LAB leader is to become next PM

For some time now the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been the favourite in the betting markets on who will succeed Theresa May as prime minister.

The trend is featured in the chart above and I think that punters have got this totally wrong.

The most likely situation in which Mr Corbyn becomes the next occupant of number 10 Downing Street is if Labour wins a general election. It is hard to envisage the circumstances under which he becomes next Prime Minister prior to that.

The blunt fact is that that Labour is 66 seats short of the Tories in the House of Commons and the numbers simply aren’t there for him to get the call from the Palace.

    Having called an election once before and having got it disastrously wrong it is hard to see Theresa May doing the same again in this Parliament. If she’s allowed to remain leader she’ll stay put till 2022.

The essential requirement of Corbyn succeeding May at Number 10 is for her to remain.

One thing that the past few days have scotched, though surely, is the idea that Theresa May will be able to do this. She’s going the main question being when.

Given Labour’s polling position Corbyn still has a good chance of becoming PM but not the next one. There almost certainly needs to be another CON leader in between and the danger for the red team is that the political environment could change.

Mike Smithson


A move against TMay needs to happen in next few days if a successor is in place by Christmas

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Lots of talk going on in Tory circles tonight over whether TMay should continue in post or whether she should be replaced.

The first senior figure to go on the record was the former cabinet minister under Cameron, Ed Vaizey. He said:-

“..“I think there will be quite a few people who will now be pretty firmly of the view that she should resign,” the former culture minister, who was sacked when May took over in 2016 after six years in government, told the BBC.

“The Tory party conference was a great opportunity to reboot the party and therefore reboot the country to give a clear sense of direction and that did not happen, and so, yes, I am concerned.”

The big issue is the timescale. If there is to be a new leader by Christmas then the process of trying to oust TMay needs to start now.

    The overwhelming driver of this is not that the PM had a bit of cough yesterday or some letters fell off a sign but that the polling suggests that Labour under Corbyn appears to be getting some traction.

As I pointed out last night there are two possible processes which happen sequentially. First Mrs. May needs to quit or be ousted. Then a leadership contest can start. This is not like it was in the final days of the Thatcher era when the process of initiating a leadership challenge was the trigger.

If Mrs. May is aware that she might be facing a confidence motion then you could envisage her standing aside on health grounds. If she wants to fight a confidence motion then that is her right.

I am hearing that moves are afoot to get the necessary 47 CON MPs to send a letter to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee requesting such a vote. This could be tight.

One of the great arguments being used by the PM’s defenders is that forcing TMay out would result in BJohnson becoming leader and PM.

My own view for what it is worth is that there will be a TMay resignation or confidence move and that the Foreign Secretary will NOT succeed Mrs. May.

Mike Smithson


Labour joy and Tory gloom

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Don Brind reflects on the conference season

A few weeks ago I was helping a front bencher prepare for a TV appearance and we guessed that one of the questions might be “Do you agree with Laura Pidcock?” She is the newbie MP who declared she wouldn’t hang out with Tory women because she regards them as “enemy”.

The more emollient reply we came up with was: “There are some Tories I like. I just don’t want them running the country.”

For me a perfect example of this approach is former MP and whip, Michael Brown who I lunched with recently. He is great company but the Tory government he was part of – John Major’s – made a bit of a hash of ruling Britain.

With the help of some great talent spotting by veteran lobby correspondent Colin Brown, the ex-MP reinvented himself as the Independent’s parliamentary sketch writer. He still dines in Tory circles – with among others David Davis and Patrick McLoughlin– but he sounds like a journalist.

“I told the party chairman, the longer Theresa May hangs on in Downing Street the bigger Jeremy Corbyn’s majority will be.”

“Jeremy Corbyn will save the Tory party. Young people need to find out that Labour governments always make a mess of things.”

This familiar Tory belief that they are better than Labour at running the economy doesn’t square with the facts — as the public finance expert Professor Richard Murphy of City University, has shown.

Labour government’s are more prudent than Tory governments — Tories have been the biggest borrowers since the war  and that picture holds good if you run the numbers from 1979.

The Big Lie in British politics is the one peddled by George Osborne, with support from Nick Clegg, that the Labour government – rather than American banks — caused the crash of 2007/8. Equally mendacious is the Tory claim to have created a “strong and stable” economy. The claim rests solely only on the jobs numbers, which were subjected to a searching analysis  by Alastair Meeks of this parish a couple of weeks ago.

A genuinely strong economy would be producing rising livings standards and be capable of properly funding vital public services including health and education. That is manifestly not true after seven years under a Tory Chancellor.

The economy is shaky because there are fundamental weaknesses which the Conservatives have neglected including the productivity gap of around 30% with key competitors, a failure to invest enough in infrastructure and skills where the jobs of the future come from, a persistent deficit of around £100 billion a year in trade with the rest of the world and dangerously high household debt.

The question of how a Labour government will deal with the dismal inheritance from the Tories lurked behind the rapture of fans of Jeremy Corbyn in Brighton. They understandably took the chance to celebrate after standing by their man against sceptics like me.

The mood was extraordinary. I’ve seen nothing quite like it before and I’ve been conference-going since 1972.

Despite the buzz my judgement is that Corbyn’s “government in waiting” is not ready yet. I am, however, more sanguine than some other Corbyn sceptics inside and outside the party. I offer three bits of evidence for believing the party is moving in the right direction.
Firstly, I believe that Labour is developing an industrial strategy that will deal with both the opportunities and threats created by the digital revolution. An interesting meeting organised by Labour Business and Fujitsu was addressed by two of the smartest people on Corbyn’s front bench, Chi Onwurah and Liam Byrne. They are people to watch.

Digital is already pervasive across most industries and services and the impact on the future employment market will be huge. I was, therefore, encouraged that Corbyn and his Shadow Health Education Secretary cast their “cradle to the grave” national education service as a part of economic policy – vital to reskilling workers as new jobs are developed.

My third reason for optimism was a line in John McDonnell’s speech.

“And, yes, in 1997, after 18 years of Thatcherism, when whole industries and communities across our country had been destroyed by the Tories and our public services were on their knees, it was the Blair/Brown Government that recognised and delivered the scale of public investment that a 21st century society needed.

“We should never forget that we are part of that great Labour tradition and we should be so proud of it.”

Wow. Praise for New Labour from a Corbynista.

What I take from this is that McDonnell is rightly desperate to become Chancellor and to realise that ambition he’s willing to take lessons from wherever they come.

Don Brind


ICM finds Corbyn making ground against TMay across a range of key policy areas

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017


Team CON should be most worried about the economy numbers and pensioners

During the election campaign in May ICM asked voters to rate May and Corbyn on a range of nine key policy areas as shown in the table above.

At the time, of course, all appeared to be going well for the incumbent PM who looked set for a huge victory. In its latest Guardian poll ICM has revisited the questioning and finds that the position is nothing like as good for the Tory leader as it was.

    The biggest change has been on “making Britain a fairer country” where in May the PM enjoyed a 19% lead. That’s now moved to a 15% deficit a turnaround of 34 points. So much for the aspirations she made in Downing Street after becoming PM in July last year.

For me the change in the managing the economy rating is the most significant and here TMay has moved from enjoying a 28% lead over JC to a 14% one. That’s starting to look worrying and isn’t helped by the apparent division between the PM and her Chancellor seen again following Hammond’s TV interviews on Sunday.

The May polling took place after the CON manifesto launch and I suppose it was surprising then that TMay still had a lead, albeit a small one, on protecting the interest of pensioners. That’s now gone into negative territory and exposes a vulnerability. The lower turnout level amongst the 65+ group was one of the reasons why TMay failed to retain her majority. It appears that pensioners are still solidly for the Tories but can they be relied on to turnout in the same way that helped give Cameron his majority at GE2015?

At the moment TMay continues to be ahead of Corbyn on Brexit but that is declining.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Brighton exuberance over Corbyn isn’t supported by his leader ratings

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Things have barely moved since June 8th

Opinium – Leader Approval ratings

Ipsos-MORI – Leader Satisfaction Ratings

The former BBC Political Research chief, David Cowling, has produced the above tables so we can track how leader ratings have moved over the past six months. These are important because historically they have a good record on pointing to electoral outcomes. The GE2015 outcome would have been less of a shock if we’d tracked EdM’s personal numbers rather than the voting intention polls.

The mainstays of leader ratings, the pollsters that do it at least once a month are Opinium and Ipsos-MORI. The two ask a different question but the broad picture is the same on Corbyn. He’s slipped back from his post-general election high.

Meanwhile Mrs. May is making something of a recovery though her position is miles away from the 20% plus net positives that she enjoyed in the weeks after declaring her intention of holding an election.

It used to be that parties got polling boosts in the surveys immediately after their conferences. Whether that will hold good this tie we’ll have to see.

Mike Smithson


Nearly of third of current LAB voters not sure that Corbyn would make the best PM

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The soft under-belly of LAB support

Labour’s leader might seem to have conquered all before him following the party’s unexpected performance at GE17 but quite a number current LAB supporters appears to have doubts about the man is now into his third year as party leader.

In the GE17 campaign the Tories believed that some of the decisions and associations from Corbyn’s past would have had a negative effect on the performance of the main opposition party but the blue attacks didn’t appear to resonate with the target audience.

The issue with last time, of course, is that the main narrative was that TMay’s Tories were going to win big and red team backers with qualms about the leader could vote with the apparent assurance that JC was not going to do it. Now that has changed and Corbyn is the betting favourite to be next PM.

This latest polling should flag up a worry for Labour though I doubt whether it will. JC is totally in command and can shape the party as he wants.

It should be noted that the alternative in the YouGov question is Theresa May who in some polls has leader ratings which are inferior to Corbyn.

Mike Smithson