Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category


We could find out how good Corbyn is at herding chickens

Monday, June 19th, 2017

What if Labour tried to form minority government?

“That would be like herding chickens,” was how a member of the Shadow Cabinet responded when I suggested Labour’s leading campaigners should all be using the “weak and wobbly” counter to the Tory “strong and stable” slogan.

I was delighted when, eventually, the phrase popped up in utterances from both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

So, maybe there is someone in Team Corbyn with the chicken herding skills which will undoubtedly be needed in keeping together the quasi coalition of Labour, Lib Dems, nationalists and Green that would be needed to allow a minority Corbyn government to function.

Forming such a government is Corbyn’s declared aim and he got some perhaps surprise support for his ambition from the Tory grassroots in David Herdson’s PB blog

Some of the Left are not on sure it’s a good idea. The Guardian’s Larry Elliot has argued that the Tories should be left to fix their own mess

The overwhelming political logic for taking power was set out by Shadow Health secretary Jonathan Ashworth when I queried, all those weeks ago, whether it was wise for Labour to be voting for Theresa May’s snap election. “The NHs§ is in a mess and I want to get in there to fix it,” he declared. I would have got a similar answer if I’d put the same query to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner.

Democratic Legitimacy

Just as in the US the electoral college trumps the popular vote so in UK it’s seats not votes that decide who wins a General Election. So the Tories won and get the first chance at forming a Government.

But is that the DUP deal falls apart the only alternative to another election is Jeremy Corbyn. There’s no doubt it would be messy. Hence the herding chickens metaphor

The Tories would outnumber the combined forces of Labour, the Lib Dems, the nationalists and the Green.

But fewer than 14 million voters, just over 43 % backed the Tories and the DUP, whereas 17 million voters — 52.5% backed Labour and the other four parties.

Constitutionally that is insignificant but politically it creates a the space for Labour to push forward with popular policies –that make voters better off and which the other parties would support and the Tories would find hard to oppose.

If Jeremy Corbyn gets the chance to walk in to Downing he should do it and he will do it.

Donald Brind


The first leader out betting. (Also known as how much the world has changed in the last ten days)

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Corbyn is set to see off his second Tory Prime Minster in just his first two years as Labour leader.

Paddy Power have a market up on who will resign first, Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, judging by the reports in today’s papers that 1/12 looks like value, though I’m not backing it, given the other side of the bet is 6/1.

In an extraordinarily well sourced piece, Tim Shipman of The Sunday Times writes that after Mrs May’s response to the tragic events at Grenfall Towers (and in stark contrast to the response of Her Majesty The Queen)

[Tory] MPs warned there had been a collective collapse of trust in May’s leadership, and a cabinet minister told friends he was “worried about her state of mind”. Another minister close to May said: “She had better stop feeling sorry for herself, pull up her socks and start to lead — and if she can’t do that she should go. Shape up or ship out.”

Tory sources said there was a mood to “do an IDS” on May, meaning to force a vote of no confidence to oust her, as happened to Iain Duncan Smith in 2003; 48 MPs would need to demand a vote.

One senior backbencher said he was under pressure to join in: “I’ve got serious members in my constituency texting me saying: ‘You’ve got to get rid of her quickly because every time she appears she’s making the party more toxic’.”

Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, issued a coded call for May to change or go. She said the public wanted “a leader and a party that will carry us through this most turbulent of periods but care about the little man at the same time . . . We have to change, and if we don’t we deserve to die.”

A former minister added: “She’s going to have to go sooner rather than later. The critical moment is June 28 and 29 when there are votes on the Queen’s speech. If it looks like they will be lost, you have to strike.”

The Sunday Times and other papers also note some Leavers in the Tory party are also planning on toppling Mrs May if she doesn’t deliver a hard Brexit, though it probably bodes well for her that these Leavers don’t know the rules about how to topple a Tory leader, as they seem to be unaware the Tory leadership rules were changed in the late 1990s and a stalking horse challenge is no longer an option.

But back to the betting front, ten days ago, a similar market would have likely seen the odds in reverse, which shows a few weeks or ten days is a long time in Parliament. For those who think the outcome of the next election is already set in stone, this should be a salutary warning. There’s roughly 250 weeks until the next general election, the political pendulum can swing in any direction very quickly.



The Tories must leave and give Corbyn his chance

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

A tawdry May-DUP deal is not something Con MPs should sign up to

According to the plan, this should have been the week when Theresa May stamped her authority on her government, her Party and the country. A reshuffle to mould her ministers in her image; a Queen’s Speech to tackle the issues she cares about, in the way that she wants to tackle them; and five years in which to do that, to deliver Brexit and to tee up another term. How the gods laughed.

Instead, May demonstrated – and continues to demonstrate – that while she’s perfectly capable of handling the business of government, she’s hopelessly inept at the politics and PR of government. Unfortunately, the various aspects can’t be separated, nor can any of them be ignored. Not if a PM wants to last in office anyway.

The evidence of the tin ear of May and her inner team to dealing with the politics and PR of running a government and party is already huge. Ministers need to be treated with respect, not only because that is their due out of position but because they hold independent power as substantial figures in Westminster. Instead, they were belittled by a pair of over-mighty SpAds. Journalists need to be humoured with stories, anecdote and copy. Instead, they were locked away from the action during the election and not allowed to even hold the microphone when asking questions. How unsurprising that they didn’t see or report things favourably. The excess of control and the desire to hide from any perceived risk is the antithesis of leadership and betrays a deep lack of self-confidence. And if May can’t be confident in her abilities, why should anyone else?

Not that the failings ended with the election. The human touch was again lacking in handling defeated MPs and – most obviously to the public – in not meeting those who have lost everything in the appalling Grenfell fire, exacerbating the problem by citing ‘security’. The Queen went.

It should be obvious now to Tory MPs that this is part of a pattern; that the behaviour is not just a bad run but is characteristic of May’s way of working and is not going to change. As yet, we know little of the DUP negotiations but again, where is the involvement of other ministers or of the parliamentary party? There is no collegiality; there is no recognition that the smallest rebellion puts her majority at risk. If left to run by themselves, events will ensure that May cannot serve for long. It would be far better to pre-empt that inevitability by not undermining the Northern Ireland process by so overtly aligning with one side, by not undermining the case for fiscal responsibility by agreeing to whatever the DUP come up with (and, consequently, by having to find several dozen times as much to satisfy Barnett consequences for the rest of the country), and by keeping control of events.

Which is to say that May must go.

However, what then? Whoever is leader of the Tories still faces the same parliamentary arithmetic. If the DUP are spurned, the government has no reliable majority. The answer is simple: it too should go. Jeremy Corbyn has already indicated that he is ready to form a government; he should be allowed to do so.

In some ways, Corbyn lost the election: he won fewer votes than the Tories and he won fewer seats than the Tories. In another way though, he won. The argument for fiscal responsibility was lost. This was admittedly partly by default through the unwillingness of May to allow Hammond any airtime or to endorse Osborne’s policies but all the same, the country again believes in magic money trees. And it will continue to do so until it is proven that such trees are not magic but poisonous.

Corbyn should therefore be given time to enact his policies and the country given the chance to judge. The Tories remain in a position where they can block an early election, which can easily be justified through to next May at least on the grounds that the public neither wants nor needs a new election and that Labour should get on with the job they asked for, and can block any legislation that would be too difficult to reverse.

Is this a high-risk strategy? In some senses, yes – giving the ground to your opponent always is. On the other hand, if the choice is between an unstable Labour minority government now and a potential Labour majority government elected after a zombie Tory minority government stumbles and falls in 18 months to two years, it’s a question of the lesser of two evils.

And the lesser evil is Corbyn, now.

David Herdson


Being wrong about about Jeremy and being right about Jeremy

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Don Brind reflects on a better than expected result

“Can I have one of those”, said a young woman as I was walking along the road with a bundle of leaflets in my south London constituency. She was on her way home to collect her boyfriend before going to vote. She was having trouble deciding how to vote. “Is there anything in particular that is worrying you”, I asked. “I’m worried about terrorist attacks. I’m not sure that Labour can tackle it.”

I launched into the argument that Theresa May had cut 20,000 police and Labour were going to recruit an extra 10,000 officers. Could we afford to pay for them, she asked. We couldn’t afford not to, I replied.

It struck home. She was nodding agreement. My follow up, that schools were facing 8% cuts in their budgets was a clincher – her sister was a teacher. “OK, I’m going to vote for you. My boyfriend will too.”

Back at the campaign centre I boasted that if our MP Rosena Allin-Khan survived by just two votes — it was down to me. All day I had been saying on doorsteps, with complete, conviction, this is going to be really close.

I had started the day taking numbers at my local polling station and one of my main fears was underlined when a man walked out saying, very apologetically, “I would have voted for you but I can’t vote for Corbyn. Sorry.”

But then a couple of hours later the Tory teller confided “I voted for Dr Rosena. I’m a Remainer.”
Another pointer to what was to unfold came when my wife, who’d taken over the clipboard, was told by a grey-haired man “I’ve never voted before but I’m voting for Jeremy.”

So Jeremy was a vote winner – but also, as I had argued persistently, a vote loser.
At the beginning of the campaign when key decisions are made about campaign material he looked like a drag on the campaign. That’s why it’s the face of Mayor Sadiq Khan that adorned leaflets in Tooting and in many other London seats.

But Corbyn supporters had long argued that Jeremy could be a vote winner if only people got the chance to see him as they saw him. And the great joy of a British General Election is that the broadcasters give equal time to the parties. Jeremy got his chance. Armed with his little red book – the For the Many not the Few manifesto — he took it.

With ten days to go I tweeted that I was wrong about him and that he had grown into the job.
Something important was also happening at street level. Corbyn fans and Corbyn sceptics, who last year were arguing and voting over whether he should be replaced, were working side by side and developing a mutual respect. Momentum followers, sometimes derided as clicktivists and slacktivists, were there doing the hard slog alongside veterans of many campaigns. It won’t have been lost on MPs, who saved seats that looked in jeopardy or those who gained seats.

The campaign succeeded – up to a point. There is a huge amount of work still to do.

Thrusting the “weak and wobbly” Theresa May into hung Parliament agony was a big achievement. It has stopped, grammar schools, the dementia tax, foxhunting, hopefully, hard Brexit.

Austerity will, however, continue. Theresa May sacked George Osborne but his ghost still haunts the Treasury. That means living standards will carry on falling, the crisis in the NHS will continue school budgets will be cut — because Labour did, after all, lose the election.

Jeremy Corbyn faces a new and different challenge when MPs return to Westminster to engage them in preparing for the next election, whenever it comes.

In a charming exchange with Newsnight’s Nick Watt he offered his critics a group hug. It’s the right spirit.

He will, of course, feel great loyalty to the front benchers who have supported him over the past year and during the campaign but he also needs to recognise that there are a lot of talented and articulate people outside their ranks. How he embraces them will go a long way to deciding whether Labour can build on 2017 or whether 40% and 262 MPs turns out to have been a high water mark.

Don Brind


From loser to leader – and beyond

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

After Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning general election vindication, he must now show real leadership by reaching out to all parts of the Labour party, argues Joff Wild

So, Jeremy Corbyn will be able to take a holiday in August. After spending the last two summers fighting Labour leadership elections, this year he can head off for a fortnight at a socialist poetry workshop in the sun safe in the knowledge that he stands triumphant and unassailable as leader of the party.

True, Corbyn has just led Labour to its third successive general election defeat, but whatever moderate naysayers might wish he has undoubtedly proved us wrong. His past record of associating with apologists for terrorism would be exposed and the electorate would recoil, we said; well, it was and his ratings went up. His economic policies would not stand up to scrutiny, we claimed; but Tory Garden Tax and income tax scares cut no ice. His Brexit stance would put off Remainers and Leavers alike, we warned; nope, voters on both sides had little problem with it. He would crack under the relentless pressure of a long campaign, we predicted; actually, unlike Mrs May, he gave every impression of having a really good time.

But it was not just that. During the election campaign, Corbyn showed that you can pitch policies from the left and get a hearing; while, crucially, he also demonstrated that you do not have to live in fear of the right wing press. Previous Labour leaders have focus-grouped policies to death, stage-managed their every appearance and carefully measured each word in order to avoid unhelpful coverage in the Mail, the Sun and the Express, but Corbyn just carried on regardless. He knew that the negative headlines and the character assassinations would happen whatever he did, so he did not bother kow-towing. There are, he understood, other ways to get to the people you want to address. How Ed Miliband must wish he had pursued the same strategy in 2015.

And there’s more. Although no detailed studies of the election will emerge for the while, when they do they are likely to show that Corbyn energised younger voters to turn out in a way that they have not done for many years. More importantly, though, he also grabbed a large proportion – if not a majority – of all working age voters. The Tories are reliant, more than ever, on the elderly to keep them ahead. Then there is Scotland, where Labour started to win again. After a long decline, the party’s vote increased and it gained seats, while becoming competitive in a number of others. That could be huge for future general elections. At least some of the credit for the revival must go to Kezia Dugdale and her Scottish Labour team, but there is no doubt that Corbyn was a powerful factor, too.

In short, Corbyn played a blinder. Against all expectations and despite a polling deficit of 20 points at the start of the campaign, Labour gained millions of supporters, its vote share went up and so did its number of MPs. Depriving the Tories of a majority has probably killed off the ridiculous threat to destroy the UK economy and the living standards of millions of people by walking away from the EU without a Brexit deal; while within months it is likely that the current prime minister will have departed the scene. By contrast, there will be no Labour leadership contest now until Corbyn decides to stand down.

But, here’s the rub: despite all of the above, Labour did lose. Mrs May’s mind-numbingly poor campaign and her utter mediocrity notwithstanding, the Tories won more votes than Labour and many more seats. If Labour ever wants to be in government again, it is vital the party does not forget this – especially as its next opponent is highly unlikely to be Mrs May.

Corbyn has demonstrated that being opposed to austerity is nothing to be afraid of. What is less certain, though, is whether Labour’s economic package was seen as sufficiently credible by enough voters in enough marginal constituencies. John McDonnell – who will undoubtedly remain the shadow chancellor – would be well advised to ponder on whether the state acting as a guarantor of high quality service provision at a reasonable price, rather than mass nationalisation, is the way forward for the Labour party in the 21st century.

For all her manifold faults, Mrs May has opened the way to having a sensible discussion about funding social care for the elderly – Labour should seize the opportunity. A return to Andy Burnham’s 2010 policy proposals, killed off by the Lansley/Osborne/Cameron Death Tax slur, is a possible way forward. A more enlightened approach to Corporation tax than a straight, across the board rise might also be worth a look; along with a rethink about where education spending priorities should lie. Labour must stand for redistribution and this can be radical in nature, but to get to a majority more voters have to be convinced that the sums add up and money will not just be frittered away.

As we have seen to such tragic effect, in a rapidly changing, highly connected world, threats can emerge from anywhere. Voters rightly want to be certain that their government will keep them as safe as possible. Corbyn’s past did not hurt him, but Labour still trails the Tories by a large margin on security and defence. Until that changes, the party will find it very hard to form a government. This is an area that definitely needs more thought and much greater work. It would also help greatly if Labour could embrace patriotism. It is not a bad or embarrassing thing; most people of all political persuasions are naturally patriotic about their country.

The last two years have seen Labour in a state of almost permanent civil war. A ceasefire was declared six weeks ago and look what happened. After showing all of us what a great campaigner he is, Jeremy Corbyn must now turn his hand to real leadership – something that he has struggled with up to now. Since he took charge, policy creation has been ad hoc, often contradictory and almost totally opaque – generally confined to a small group of close Corbyn advisers, many of whom hail from the Marxist left and have no strong affection for the wider Labour family. This needs to change.

There are many excellent MPs in all parts of the Labour party and they should now be used. If the leader can find it in himself to open up the policy-making process, to reach out to the soft left and moderates and to put together a shadow front bench of all the talents – one that includes not only the likes of McDonnell, Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner and Jon Ashworth, but also figures such as Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Dan Jarvis, Ed Miliband and Stella Creasy – then Labour will very quickly begin to look like a government-in-waiting.

For their part, Corbyn’s critics in the Parliamentary Labour party and the wider movement must now accept that the left has won the civil war and that he is here to stay. Jeremy Corbyn has definitively earned the right to set the party’s policy direction and to be its face to the world. With Theresa May emasculated and the Tories in seeming turmoil as the uncertainty of Brexit approaches, the UK needs a strong opposition. By reaching out to his opponents and showing magnanimity in victory, Jeremy Corbyn can give the country what it craves, so paving the way for Labour to assume power whenever the next general election is called. If he fails to do so, we may just find that 8th June 2017 marks the high point of Labour’s appeal to the electorate.   

Joff Wild

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


On Betfair the chances of a CON majority edges to lowest level since election was called

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Was a 95% chance – now 84%

During tonight’s Channel 4/Sky News Corbyn/May event I monitored the Betfair overall majority market to see if there was any movement. Half a million pounds is being traded on it every day and the liquidity is there.

The answer was that there was a bit of movement but it is hard to attribute this to the programme. The question now is whether the event and the coverage of it will have any impact on voting intentions.

I thought that both Corbyn and May did OK and I was surprised that the PM was not tempted to attack the Labour leader in anyway whatsoever.

Paxman was appalling with Corbyn and his absence from regular political coverage since leaving Newsnight certainly showed. His whole line of questioning seemed to provide the peg for the LAB leader to demonstrate that he wasn’t quite as left-wing as he’s portrayed. He was much better with May.

TMay overall gave an accomplished performance and was at her weakest when trying to explain why we are having an election at all blaming everything on the Lib Dems. I am sure this might become an issue in the closing phase.

Mike Smithson


Analysing Labour’s rise in the polls

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Popular policies might be the explanation for Labour’s increase in the polls since the start of the campaign

At the start of this general election campaign, I thought there was a chance that my 10/1 bets on Labour polling sub 20% might be in play but during this general election campaign if the polls are accurate, Labour’s share of the vote has risen, and Labour might end up polling close to 40%.

Now there’s much discussion about what is driving up Labour’s share of the vote, what it isn’t is the Tories collapsing, the Tory share of the vote has been strong and stable and relentlessly polling in the 40s.

If we look at the chart above from YouGov, we can see Labour’s manifesto seems to have improved the perceptions around Labour, whilst the chart below shows the Tory manifesto hasn’t been that much of a hit, with the main Tory policy people seem to recall was the Dementia Tax

YouGov observe

For both parties around 60% of people could remember at least something connected to a manifesto promise (though in many cases that was barely more than “tax the rich” or “Brexit”). And in this sense, the two parties’ proposals gained a similar resonance. However, there was a big contrast in the types of policy that people took away from the two manifestos.

For Labour the more “positive” policies received clear cut-through: 32% of people recalled the pledges to axe tuition fees, 21% remembered promises to increase NHS funding, 20% recalled commitments to nationalise the railways, Royal Mail and the National Grid. All of these are also policies which our polling has found the public support, and which are relatively clear and easy to understand.

For the Conservatives, though, only one policy was recalled by more than a fifth of voters: the changes to care funding (or, to use the more negative term used by many respondents, the “dementia tax”). The one cut-through promise from the Tory manifesto was both unpopular and complicated, a stark comparison to the more straight-forward and popular pledges made by Labour.

The other Tory proposals that were noted by the public did not achieve a great amount of recall. Policies around going ahead with Brexit was remembered by 12%, while means-testing the Winter Fuel Allowance was acknowledged by one in ten (10%).

It is worth noting that even when people do recall policies, they are not necessarily what they base their vote on. Ballot box behaviour is much more about the broader perceptions of the parties, such as what it stands for, its leaders and their perceived competence. Here too, however, there seems to be clear evidence of damage that the Conservative manifesto caused the party.

Before the manifesto were published, 45% of people thought the Conservatives had plenty of policies, with 35% thinking they were well thought-through, while 38% believed they weren’t. But following the manifesto launch, only 19% thought the party’s policies were well thought-through, while over half (54%) did not.

For Labour, the traffic went the other way. Before its manifesto launch only 25% of people thought the party had well-thought through policies, but following publication, this figure rose to 31%.

Given a key plank of the Conservative party’s offering to the country is the claim that it is the strong and steady party of competence, the notable drop in the proportion of people thinking they have well thought-through policies for the country should be worrying. But there are still two weeks until poling day so there is time enough for this to change.

My advice to Labour is that Labour should try and ensure that the rest of the campaign is fought on policy and not personality nor the back stories of Labour’s front bench.



Jeremy Corbyn – Labour’s election gift to Mrs. May and the Tories

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Towards the end of last week I had a long conversation with a Conservative activist who has been canvassing in key target seats in the southeast.

He had been working in the Dagenham and Rainham parliamentary constituency mostly focussing former council estates which at past elections have been pretty solid for Labour. What was striking, he told me, was the massive negative reaction to Jeremy Corbyn that he was getting on the doorstep and how quite a few of those being canvassed wanted to use the conversation to vent the anger with the Labour leader.

The reaction was in some contrast to the middle class areas of the constituency where there was a move to the Conservatives but not nothing like on the scale as on the former council estates.

What is interesting is that this is also the reaction that many Labour canvassers are finding. The Tweet above from the former Labour MP and ex-BBC colleague of mine, Denis MacShane, is typical.

The Lib Dems I know who been out in target seats are also experiencing a lot of hostility towards to the man who has convincingly won two LAB leadership elections.

This is of course all reflected in the polls. Upto GE2015 LAB could largely take the working class vote for granted but now large swathes of it have disappeared.

From what I can gather everything that was predicted about Corbyn’s leadership in a general election is actually happening. He is proving a massive negative and his supporters are left trying to find even more excuses.

Mike Smithson