Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category

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The dark cloud on Labour’s horizon: total wipeout

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Just where is Labour’s floor for 2020?

One of the best political tips of the 2015 general election was to back Labour for 0-5 seats in Scotland. When William Hill first put the market up – after the independence referendum – they marked that outcome at no less than 125/1. (I apologise for not being able to namecheck the PBer who tipped the bet; I forget who it was.)

That price was a testament to the inertia of thinking as much as the inertia of politics but those who snapped up the long odds were handsomely rewarded. Those who didn’t presumably believed that such voting revolutions could not occur so quickly, ignoring that in fact it already had done. After the Scotland experience and the Copeland result, the question has to be ‘could it happen in England and Wales too?’.

The simple answer is ‘yes, it could’, though of course that doesn’t mean it will. Indeed, the crucial supplementary is ‘and if so, what are the chances?’.

Even so, the rate at which Labour is testing the capability of political commentators to find historic precedents for polling or electoral phenomena is a good indicator of the state of the party. Who would have thought that the Worcester by-election of 1878 would achieve such a renewed prominence?

One factor that makes Copeland (and Stoke) particularly significant is that they validate the opinion polls. These have been returning figures out of line with local by-elections, where the Tories have been doing a good deal worse and the Lib Dems a good deal better. We can now say with a little more confidence that for Westminster, the polling seems the more reliable.

And that polling has been dire for Labour. Close to two years after the last election, the Conservatives have a lead in at least the mid-teens, possibly the high-teens. Only the Blair 1997-2001 parliament is remotely comparable (and of course, that ended in a second landslide). Worse, since April last year – when they averaged about 32% – Labour has lost a steady half-point a month.

Projection is not prediction and we can’t assume that trend will continue but if there’s one thing that the local by-elections do prove it’s that the Lib Dems are no longer toxic. With Farron’s party still only on about 10%, there’s plenty more potential for Labour defectors. As it is, Labour is within touching distance of a post-WWII low in opposition and, though there are no polls from before the war, it’s probable that the 1983 low was the party’s worst in opposition since at least 1915*.

But there has to be a natural floor, doesn’t there? All else being equal, yes, there does. Labour has several firewalls: in London, in parts of Greater Manchester / Merseyside and in former mining or other heavy industrial areas of Yorkshire, the North East and Wales.

However, two spectral presences should stalk Labour minds. The first is 1981-3. The prospect of a formal split has receded in recent months as Corbyn’s leadership falters, his activist supporters have proven paper tigers in anything other than leadership elections and worries of mass deselections have diminished as moderates wait for the chance to go on the attack. Even so, if the left could rejuvenate, perhaps under a new leader, the risk of a formal split would once again become real. Similarly, if the Lib Dems started polling at or near Labour levels, some MPs might wonder whether the bigger risk would be to stay or to jump.

And the second, returning to the beginning, is Scotland 2015. As yet, there’s no party which could do an SNP: make wholesale inroads into the Labour vote and win 20%+ swings across the country. But maybe there doesn’t need to be. Even though UKIP fluffed their chance in Stoke on Thursday, their average national share has edged up over the last three months. The Lib Dems too are on the up. The risk is that rather than being swamped in a one-party tsunami, Labour’s coalition might just dissolve slowly but continually at the edges in all directions. There is no reason to assume that the 2020s could not be unlike what the 1920s would have been had Lloyd George and Asquith not behaved like a pair of squabbling children: a large conservative party, a large liberal one and a smaller, marginalised left-wing socialist party.

You would expect the natural checks in the system to prevent such an outcome. There are good incentives for MPs and activists to use the tools at their disposal to deliver the changes necessary to prevent disaster. However, those tools were ineffective when tried last year. Perhaps it will be second time lucky. Or perhaps Corbyn will get his act together and finally strike a chord with the public, or perhaps he’ll stand down voluntarily. If so, the country will gain an opposition again. Or perhaps not.

Inertia is a powerful anti-force in politics (as in life). Labour has huge built-in advantages that should enable it to survive the odd crisis. That said, Rome once had even bigger built-in advantages and look what civil war and self-indulgence did there. Nothing is forever.

David Herdson

p.s. I ought to apologise for anyone misled by my piece on Monday, where I tipped Labour to hold on in Copeland after my visit there last weekend. As was noted in the comments, I didn’t have chance to visit the inland parts of the constituency, which in retrospect were more staunchly Tory than I’d anticipated. Also, the final Labour leaflets on the NHS were so hard-hitting that they may have proven counterproductive; voters have a sense of fair play.

* Despite their cataclysmic result in 1931, when the National government won a majority of almost 500 and Labour was reduced to just 52 MPs, they actually polled reasonably well, winning over 30% of the vote. As they gained by-elections fairly steadily through the 1930s, it’s unlikely they dipped below that level afterwards. Much the same can be said for the 1920s: Labour polled 30%+ from 1922 on, and made gains in opposition, indicating that they would have polled higher in the interim had polls been taken. As Labour supplied ministers during the coalitions from 1915-22, we probably have to go back to at least 1915 for when Labour last polled below 23% in opposition. The one possible exception would be after the formation to the national government in 1931, when MacDonald ratted on his party. In that confused period and with Labour divided and in disarray, it’s not unreasonable to think that some very low scores might have been recorded. Unfortunately, no contested by-election occurred between the formation of the National government and the 1931 election, so we’ll never know.



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Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central: What have we learned?

Friday, February 24th, 2017

It is in the nature of political junkies, like sharks, to be constantly moving forwards, and like goldfish, to be constantly forgetting what has just happened.  We should try to do better.  In the wake of two extraordinary by-elections we should reflect on their implications.  Because, as it happens this time, their implications are manifold.

The Conservatives did incredibly well

This is one of those rare occasions where the media have actually underplayed something.  The Conservatives’ victory in Copeland is off-the-scale impressive.

Others have written about how Copeland was the first government by-election gain since 1982 and how it represents a new landmark not achieved since 1960, 1929 or 1878 according to taste.  The swing to the Conservatives is bigger than that to any governing party in a by-election since at least 1950.  The last time the Conservatives achieved a gain in vote share at a by-election was 1982 in Beaconsfield (by 0.1% against a Labour candidate called Tony Blair).  In Copeland, the Conservatives put 8.5% on their vote share.

But the Conservatives also did extremely well in Stoke Central.  They started in third but far from being squeezed they put on vote share there also.  Remember, this was one of only seven occasions since 1970 where a government party has put on vote share in a by-election.  To do so from third is quite remarkable.

Bear in mind that sitting governments normally do much better at general elections than in by-elections and the Conservatives are potentially heading for a landslide that would far eclipse 1983 and perhaps 1997.

UKIP now lack meaning

Stoke Central was supposed to be UKIP’s big opportunity.  A seat where they were already in second place with a relatively small swing required for victory, where they had a substantial existing vote share and where Leave had won overwhelmingly, it was by my reckoning in their top ten most promising targets.  But they made no real progress towards winning it.

It would be easy to lay the blame on the candidate.  Certainly he did not help.  Paul Nuttall, through his strained relationship with the truth, seemed to put the nut into Nuttall and in doing so he ensured that UKIP got the all out of f-all.

That would be easy, but it would be far from the whole story.  The Conservatives gained vote share in Stoke Central – even though they started third.  In some ways this was even more astonishing than their victory in Copeland.  By taking ownership of Brexit, the Conservatives have deprived UKIP of meaning.  You might very well argue that represents a victory for UKIP’s ideas, but as an electoral force the purple team now look marooned.

The Lib Dems are barely off the canvass in Leave-voting seats

The Lib Dems have been doing very perkily in local council by-elections and had put in excellent performances in the Parliamentary by-elections in Witney and Richmond Park.  But while they have increased vote share in Sleaford & North Hykeham, Copeland and Stoke Central, they have only done so from deposit-losing levels to barely respectable levels.  They were not remotely in contention in any of these three seats, despite rushes of enthusiasm from their activists (particularly in Stoke Central).

The Lib Dems have sought to position themselves as the party of Remain.  In Leave-voting seats, they have yet to succeed.  Worse, in the 1980s, they were able to scoop all of the None Of The Above vote for themselves.  With the advent of UKIP and the Greens, the NOTA party is not a single party any more.

It’s important to keep perspective.  The Lib Dems have improved markedly in Remain areas.  18 months ago they seemed completely irrelevant everywhere. They have work to do in Leave areas if they are going to be anything more than almost completely irrelevant. But at least they have some areas of relevance now.

Labour are in very very serious trouble

It is hard to overstate just how bad the Copeland result was for Labour.  They didn’t just lose, they were soundly beaten by the Conservatives.  They lost vote share in both Copeland and Stoke Central (and if the combined Conservative/UKIP vote had been as unevenly divided in Stoke Central as it was in Copeland, they would have lost both seats).  It’s unfair to compare Jeremy Corbyn’s performance with the 1997 results -– no one is expecting him to win a landslide – but it’s reasonable to compare his performance with 2005, a fairly run-of-the-mill overall majority.  In under 12 years Labour have lost over a quarter of their vote share in both constituencies.

Since the referendum vote, Labour have lost vote share at every seriously contested by-election.  Opposition parties should be gaining vote share at by-elections in all bar the most extreme circumstances.  The circumstances are extreme.

If any Labour supporters are comforting themselves that at least UKIP were seen off in Stoke Central, they are deluding themselves.  In almost every constituency, the Conservatives are their real opponents.  Both these results showed the Conservatives are doing unbelievably well.

If Labour are to avoid a defeat that exceeds that of the Conservatives in 1997 for severity, they need to act fast.  Time is not on their side.

Alastair Meeks




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Fifty shades of grey voters. Corbyn’s punishing polling with older voters.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Corbyn is doing worse with older voters, and history shows older voters turn out to vote and are a growing demographic.

A few weeks ago whilst looking at the polling entrails I was struck by how much of a lead with older voters Mrs May was developing over Jeremy Corbyn in the best Prime Minister polling. As we can see with the chart above, there’s a clear correlation with the older you get, the more you prefer Mrs May as Prime Minister.

With the recent YouGov poll, just 7% of the overs 65s think Corbyn would make the best Prime Minister, whilst 75% thought Mrs May would be.

Whilst some of this is an incumbency bonus because Mrs May is Prime Minister, these figures are explained because of the poor esteem Corbyn is held in by the electorate as evidenced in most polls.

When looking at how the over 65s plan to vote at the next general election from the most recent polls in the chart below, there’s some occasionally eye watering figures that appear, as Ipsos MORI looking like an outlier, with four of the regular pollsters showing the Tories leading Labour by at least 41% with the over 65s. This is something I shall be tracking over the next few months on PB.

With the recent Opinium and YouGov polls, Labour are now in third place with the over 65s, behind UKIP. With YouGov Labour are only 3% ahead of the fourth placed Lib Dems.

Adam Ludlow of ComRes pointed out that by 2020 “people aged 65+ will make up a quarter of the adult population” and coupled with the greater propensity of older voters to vote, these figures tend to presage an absolute shellacking for a Corbyn led Labour party at a general election, to use a popular culture reference, at the next general election a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party is set to play the role of Anastasia Steele to the electorate’s Christian Grey.

TSE

A couple of technical points about the second  chart. 

i) The ICM figure is from the VI before the spiral of silence adjustment, as the post spiral of silence figures are presented as headline figures and not broken down by demographics. The Tory lead with all voters over Labour before the spiral of silence was 20%, afterwards it became a 18% Tory lead.

ii) Ipsos MORI split their figures into two groups, 65 to 74 year olds, and 75 year olds and over, to ensure consistency for comparative purposes, I’ve averaged these two out to get an overall aged 65 and over figure.



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With so much free polling data available LAB is wasting members’ money on the “should JC quit” 10k sample survey

Monday, February 20th, 2017

The Mirror is reporting that Corbyn has commissioned a 10k sample poll to get views on his own future. It notes:-

“Mr Corbyn is keeping the results of the extraordinary 10,000-person study secret from the rest of the shadow cabinet, and from senior staffers in Labour HQ.

Only his closest ally, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell , and his most senior political aides will be allowed to see the results of what is thought to be the biggest-ever opinion poll commissioned by Labour.

“The whole thing is absolutely top secret – no-one is supposed to know about it,” a Labour insider said.

“Even the people who signed off the contract aren’t allowed to see the questions, let alone the results. They are terrified of leaks.”

Given how much polling there is out there this seems like a waste of members’ money. In the chart I feature the main leader ratings that have come out this month. The questions are slightly different – favourability, satisfaction and approval, but the overall picture is the same. Voters have a overwhelmingly negative view of the LAB leader.

It is perhaps worth noting that every single set of leader ratings that have come out on Corbyn since September 2015 have had him in negative territory. Even Michael Foot opened with net positive numbers.

Mike Smithson




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Copeland and Stoke Central – the final push

Monday, February 20th, 2017

A round up of some of the literature

Just 3 days left with so much hanging in the balance

Although it’s not unusual for more than one Westminster by-election to be held on the same day I cannot recall an occasion similar to that which we will see on Thursday when the main opposition party is struggling to hang on to two seats.

Whatever the outcomes Copeland and Stoke Central will have a huge impact on domestic politics.

If LAB loses one or even both that will put renewed pressure on Corbyn. The polls have been awful and the by-elections will reinforce that in a huge way.

For UKIP Stoke Central is massive test for both the party and its new leader. The whole point of Paul Nuttall, we were told, was that he would be in a position to take UKIP’s fight into Labour heartlands particularly those where LEAVE did very well on June 23rd last year. Stoke appears to fit the bill entirely. For a large period of the campaign the betting has had Nuttall as odds-on favourite and to come away from the fight with nothing would be a major blow. If he fails could that create leadership issues once again.

For the Tories Copeland offers an extraordinary opportunity to take a seat from Labour while they are in government. The party is obviously feeling confident or else Theresa May would have kept well away. Throughout the betting has had CON as a tight odds-on favourite.

Finally the rejuvenated traditional by-election kings, the LDs, have got to come out of Thursday with something to maintain the fightback narrative. Winning either looks a massive challenge but a big increase in vote should suffice.

Mike Smithson




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Ipsos MORI has LAB, the traditional party of the working classes, 16% behind amongst C2DEs

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

How long can the red team keep Corbyn at the controls?

The latest Ipsos MORI poll is out and has more polling numbers to fuel the Corbyn must go narrative.

Perhaps the most striking figures are in the socio economic split featured above with Corbyn’s party trailing by 16% amongst the C2DEs – the working classes. Essentially under the current leadership LAB has lost its core vote.

Other data in the poll is hardly encouraging. These are the leader satisfaction ratings amongst declared LAB voters.

A lot is is hanging on the two by-elections a week today. If LAB loses one of them then Corbyn will be in even more trouble.

Mike Smithson




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How Labour fights back; or dies

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

 

Labour probably has one last chance to return to relevancy, writes Joff Wild. Who members choose as the party’s next leader will make or break it.

The death of social democracy in Europe, it turns out, has been greatly exaggerated. A look at opinion polls in three of the continent’s four G8 economies shows that the centre-left is competitive and could be governing by the end of the year.

That the Democrat party in Italy, the SPD in Germany and Emmanuel Macron in France have a genuine shot at power is especially notable because they are not the only option – all three face credible challenges from other parties and candidates further to the left. The same applies to PSOE in Spain, where opinion polls show that it and Podemos combined get the support of around 40% of the electorate (Podemos, currently and marginally the more popular, is now engaged in the kind of blood-letting the far left does better than anyone else, so it will be interesting to see how its polling does over the coming months).

In fact, the one big western European country where the left seems to be performing catastrophically badly is England. Here, the Labour party – unlike elsewhere in Europe, the only game in town – is polling at historically low levels and is stuck with a leader whose levels of unpopularity are unprecedented. The question now being asked by those who want a viable centre left alternative to the Tories is can that situation be reversed; or are we watching the slow death of Labour as a potential party of government?

It’s the leader, stupid

The lesson to be learned from France, Germany and Italy is that a lot of a party’s success depends on its leader. Of course, we know that applies in England – and the UK, more generally – too, but it is a truth that Labour has chosen to ignore since 2010. Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, even more so, could have been perfectly designed to put off the kind of floating voters in marginal English constituencies whose support a party needs in order to win elections.

If Labour is ever to come back, the next time members are given the chance to vote for a leader – and that looks likely to be next year, if not this – there are some character traits that they should be looking for.

First and foremost, Labour needs a leader who is not uncomfortable with the kind of harmless patriotism that most English people of all political persuasions are happy to indulge in – wincing in the presence of the Union Jack or the Cross of St George is a disastrous look.

Second, let’s have someone who is not from and based in London – Labour should have a Midlands or a Northern accent.

Third, and crucially, a new leader must be able to call on the most talented MPs in the party to fill the shadow front bench. The current Conservative cabinet is not exactly replete with superstars and a Labour team that includes the likes of Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Chris Leslie, Caroline Flint, Dan Jarvis, Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Liz Kendall, Jon Ashworth, Stella Creasey, Stephen Kinnock, Angela Eagle and even Ed Miliband would give it a run for its money. As important, of course, is that the voter-repellent likes of John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott and Corbyn himself would be hidden from view, just as they used to be.

The adage that it is governments which lose elections, rather than oppositions which win them, is an old one; but it has been around for so long because it is largely true. Looking ahead to the next three years, Theresa May and the Tories face a series of very difficult challenges. Up to now, she and they have had a clear run because they have faced no serious scrutiny. A new Labour leader, backed by a credible shadow cabinet, would change that – and probably very quickly.

With a Brexit deal to be done, the prospect of broken referendum promises to come, an unreliable and unpredictable US president installed in the White House, rising prices and further spending cuts on the way, there would be plenty for Labour to get its teeth into. It would be realistic to expect that a competently-led opposition would, at a minimum, be able to deny the Tories an overall majority in 2020. From where Labour is now that would be a significant advance and something on which to build.

Longer term, like all the major parties, Labour faces serious, complex issues around developing a post-Brexit world view which reflects the realities of a globalised economy that will be increasingly automated. Identity, immigration, tax, spending, housing, the NHS and social care, constitutional reform, and our relationship with the rest of the world will all have to come under the spotlight. Difficult questions will have to be asked, the public will have to be listened to, not lectured.

I believe that collectivism, redistribution and solidarity at home and abroad remain principles around which coherent, relevant policy can be built. We are all stronger when we work together to achieve common aims; when the weakest and most vulnerable are fully protected; when there is equality of opportunity for all; when the state stands as the guarantor of best-in-class services and basic living standards. But Labour has to accept that the solutions of the 20th century are not going to work in the 21st. The party will never be relevant while ensconced in its comfort zone.

With the right leader, I am confident that all the huge challenges Labour faces can be met. Whether members choose such a person when given the chance, though, is another question entirely. If they do, a positive future awaits. If they don’t, then the party is probably over.

Joff Wild

Joff Wild posts on Political Betting as SouthamObserver. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpaJW





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Latest YouGov sees LAB in third place, 3% behind UKIP, amongst the C2DEs

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Labour’s polling misery continues

One very striking feature of the latest YouGov poll out this morning is LAB position amongst the lower socio-economic groups. The numbers are in the chart. As can be seen in this segment LAB is on just 20% which is 3% behind UKIP.

Will have to see a week on Thursday whether these movements are refelected in the latest batch of Westminster by elections. Stoke Central clearly, has a large proportion of C2DEs and if this YouGov polling is correct then it should theoretically reinforce UKIP’s position.

The problem with both the coming by-elections is that the turnout is expected to be very low indeed and this could make a mockery of efforts to applying national polling to a local situation. Stoke central, as has been widely reported, had absolutely the lowest turnout level of all 650 constituencies at the 2015 general election. If it gets much beyond 30% in the by-election that will be something of a surprise and the fewer the numbers of people actually voting the greater potential for upsets.

It is quite remarkable that LAB, the party that for generations has been seen as the mouthpiece of the working classes, now finds itself in third place amongst that group.

Mike Smithson