Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category

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A woman leader could give LAB the polling breakthrough that it is looking for

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Don Brind on Corbyn’s successor

I was on holiday last week with an old mate who is intensely proud of his northern roots. Born a scouser he made his mark on Yorkshire newspapers before his well-honed shorthand, bulging contacts book and nose for news earned him a transfer to Westminster.

He became a popular and respected member of the lobby but decades after his arrival there it still rankles with him that his accent was mocked by a southern, middle class colleague.

That snobbery is alive and well, according to research showing teachers often feel under pressure to change their accents. Surveys by Alexander Baratta, lecturer in English Language at the University of Manchester / revealed that “many teachers – notably those from the North and Midlands – are being told by mentors to adopt a more general (less broad) version of their accents to help construct a more professional identity.”

The country has a wide variety of accents, she said, “but not all are created equal – with some accents deemed to be more socially acceptable than others.“

It’s an issue dear to the heart of Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner who popped up Twitter Angela Rayner?Verified account @AngelaRayner to declare “it’s important that regional accents are celebrated & not “poshed up” … I have myself faced attacks on my accent but have no plans to change it”. Rayner is undoubtedly a contender to become Labour’s first woman leader, especially if you share my assumption that the next leader must come from the Corbyn wing of the party to have any chance of being elected.

By chance, another person who fits the bill, Emily Thornberry was also taking about accents. “You sound posh” said the BBC’s Nick Robinson  in a podcast interview with the Shadow Foreign Secretary. The Today presenter observed that she has none of the shrillness that some women are accused of. Thornberry explained that being sent off to a choir at the age of seven taught her to breathe properly and project her voice, which also “benefited” from years of smoking. Twenty years as a criminal barrister have also given Thornberry the confidence and poise which she displays to great effect in the Commons espcially when standing in at Prime Minister’s questions.

So Thornberry probably has the edge but, for the record, I would be happy with either. Or both. How about a new dream team of a female leader and deputy leader?

“In your dreams. Jeremy is here to stay”, could well be the response of  loyal Corbynistas to my musings. And indeed, Corbyn’s position has seemingly moved from unassailable to impregnable, with the triumph of Momentum candidates, including founder Jon Lansman, in the elections to the expanded National Executive Committee.

And yet. And yet.Unconscious of the irony that he polled just 65,000 votes Lansman  hailed his victory as a landslide, tweeting that that he was “really honoured to now represent almost 600,000 members on the national executive”. His vote was 11% of the total membership and less than a third of the “200,000 supporters” claimed by the Momentum website. Some landslide.

    A much more serious question for Team Corbyn, though, is why, given everything that’s happened to Theresa May and her ministers the Tories are still level pegging in the polls.

Corbyn is rightly credited with performing well in the General Election but we can be sure the next election, whenever it comes, will not be a straight re-run, especially if the Tories can arrange of change of leader.

It’s worth recalling what happened in the early 1990s. The poll tax had made Margaret Thatcher deeply unpopular. Guardian ICM polls in 1990 shows that Labour, under Neil Kinnock’s leadership, enjoyed double digit leads throughout the year, peaking at 24% in the April.

The polls at the time almost certainly had a Labour bias but the key point is that the election of a new leader, John Major, in the November transformed Tory fortunes.

Should Labour now wait and see what happens if the Tories change leader — or should we get in first?

The Labour benches are packed full of talented women. They form 45% of the PLP and Corbyn has ensured that this is reflected in his front bench team.

He would earn his place in Labour history if he stood down voluntarily and declared that he wanted his successor to be a woman.

Don Brind



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Only problem Paul (Mason) is that Corbyn’s LAB needs 7-10% vote lead to win majority

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

We are miles away from seeing the required LAB vote breakthrough

Mike Smithson




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Jared O’Mara is what happens if your candidate is chosen by the party without a proper selection process

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

The pressure mounts on the MP who’s never spoken in the Commons & hasn’t been there for three months

The politically influential Yorkshire Post has now got its teeth into Jared O’Mara – the Labour MP who was suspended in October after revelations of homophobic and misogynistic comments online. He’s being described with the prefix “Shamed“.

He was elected for Sheffield Hallam last June winning the seat from Nick Clegg but has yet to make a maiden speech or even speak at all in the House. When his comments were revealed LAB opened an enquiry and he was suspended from the party. That was back in October and still we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

What is clear is that O’Mara did not become the Labour candidate in what was a key target for the party by going through a normal selection process. Because of the surprise nature of the last election LAB short-circuited the process in some seats in order to get candidates in place. Why this should have happened is far from clear given that other parties were able to have normal selections in the normal way within the extended time period of the campaign.

His absence from the House means that LAB has been one person short in the key votes which could have been critical giving how close some of the decisions have been. there are, of course, more of these to come given the precarious position of the Tory parliamentary situation.

Quite what LAB can do about him is hard to say you given that they can’t force O’Mara to resign his seat. If he stays in such a situation he will become a continuing embarrassment for Team Corbyn. The Yorkshire Post, for one, is not going to let this go.

Mike Smithson




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The dangers of reverse-reasoning: a Christmas parable

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Beware starting from a conclusion and working backwards

“This time next year, we’ll be running the country”, as Jeremy Corbyn didn’t quite say a few days ago in his interview with Grazia. It’s a near-repetition of his prediction at Glastonbury this June – except that there he was talking about Christmas 2017 rather than 2018 – and for those not favourably inclined towards him, might bear a passing resemblance to the unsubstantiated optimism of another Christmas staple. Admittedly, Del Boy did eventually become a millionaire but it took him 15 years and an extraordinary slice of luck. Corbyn may also end up being right but if he is, it too will be more down to luck than judgement. The error in his prediction is in starting with a conclusion he wants to be true and working backwards from there.

Not that this is anything new. The original Christmas story should be warning enough of the dangers of reverse-reasoning, if we discount heavenly interventions.

The Sky At Night broadcast a good Christmas Special two years ago, investigating what the real Star of Bethlehem might have been and considering six astronomical options. Three stood out: a triple-conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, a nova, and a comet. All three have solid evidence behind them (though the nova and the comet are an either-or as the historical reference, from the Chinese, is to a ‘broom star’, which could be either).

If we transport ourselves back a little over 2000 years, a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn would be astrologically significant: the planets representing the gods of kings and of change. A rare triple-conjunction – where the pair followed each other through the sky for some months, as they did in 6BC – would re-emphasise that significance. But how to apply that knowledge? The appearance of a nova or a comet the next year would provide that answer. The rarity of the conjunction, the astrological nature of the planets involved and the sudden appearance of a guesting celestial body shortly afterwards would be exactly the sort of thing that would send wise men – as those who studied and interpreted the heavens would be – scurrying west.

Would it be enough to find a specific child? Herein lies the problem of having already reached the conclusion. If you follow the stars west and then south, as the heavens might well have guided the magi, you could indeed end up at Bethlehem and, having so arrived, would no doubt be able to find a child born at the relevant time, after local enquiries. The biblical story may well be true in as far as the visit of the wise men is concerned (and if it was, it’s the sort of thing that would have been well-documented as well as being remembered locally – particularly if Herod’s response is as the Bible records – so could well have formed the basis of a Gospel written 70 years later), but just because they set off to find a child and were successful in so doing, that wasn’t necessarily of any greater significance.

Put another way, on a purely rational basis, the logic suggests that extraordinary astronomical events did not appear because of the birth of Christ; instead, Christ was born (or identified) because of extraordinary astronomical events.

We could take this further and suggest that given the paucity of historical evidence for Christ’s early life and the likelihood that if the Bethlehem story is grounded in fact then it would have been remembered thirty or so years later, then it wouldn’t be too difficult for a would-be prophet of about the right age to assume the identity of the child the magi found: why not harness the power of the prophesy? But here we enter controversial and speculative territory.

The relevance to today – or to any time – is simply in the message that it is all too easy to start with a conclusion you want to be true and then rationalise the supporting analysis and logic; for the wish to be father to the thought. Mostly, that just ends up with bad bets. Sometimes though, it changes worlds.

David Herdson





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Corbyn’s new “I’ll be PM by Xmas next year” boast fails to impress punters

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

The markets remain unmoved

We all remember the heady days of June this year when after doing surprisingly well at the general election Corbyn was reported to have a told people at Glastonbury that he would be PM by Christmas.

Well we are five days away and that certainly isn’t going to happen. But he’s now reported today saying that he expects to be Prime Minister by Christmas 2018. He said “there will probably be another election in the next 12 months’ which he’d probably win.

That is fantasy stuff. Labour is too far behind the Conservatives in terms of seats that even if he could create a coalition with the LDs, SNP & PC LAB would still not be top party.

For Corbyn to achieve his goal there has to be an mass exit from the Conservative Party which seems unlikely or else there needs to be another General Election.

A problem with the latter of course is the Fixed Term Parliament Act which Theresa May used last April when she decided to go to the country after just on 2 years. But that required two-thirds of all MPs to back an early election which they did.

Now I’m sure that Theresa May learnt an enormous amount from what happened on June 8th and one of those, I would suggest, is that PMs have to be ultra-careful careful about calling early elections even when you have 20%+ poll leads. This would resonate as well with other potential successors. What the outcome of the last year’s election has done is effectively to block out governments going to the country early even when they have got massive poll margins

The other way that the fixed term Parliament Act allows an early election is if there is a vote of confidence in the government which is not rescinded within two weeks.

Again it is very hard to see that happening. Even if the DUP had not entered an agreement with the Conservatives it is hard to envisage the party doing anything that could enable Mr Corbyn to secure the keys of number 10. The Labour leader’s Irish links in the past are just too toxic.

On the betting markets there has been a slight movement towards 2022 election on Betfair. 2018, the year that coping was talking about, is still seeing as a 27% chance.

Mike Smithson




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For the first time since GE2017 consecutive polls have Corbyn’s Labour behind

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

His ambivalence over Brexit impedes LAB on the biggest issue

Two Westminster voting intention polls in the past 24 hours have both got the COM in the lead and of course LAB in second place. This is the first time since the general election that consecutive polls have showed this.

    Labour’s real problem is that it is failing to have a clear distinctive voice that resonates with the vast numbers of Labour voters Who are strongly for remain.

Brexit is by far the biggest issue of the day yet Mr Corbyn seems extraordinarily reluctant to talk about it and exploit opportunities where the Conservatives appeared to be divided. An opposition leader worth his salt would have seized upon the divisions in government and be piling the pressure on now.

Last week at PMQs, it will be recalled, the Labour leader totally failed to mention what was then the biggest embarrassment for the government – the statement by David Davis earlier to a committee that there were no impact assessments as he had been talking about for months.

Today an opposition leader worth his salt would have really being tearing into the government over the comments made by David Davis which have now been seized on by other European leaders has reasons to delay proper trade talks.

Corbyn has two problems: He doesn’t really believe in staying in the EU which means he is very much out of line with party voters. Second is that he simply does not have the mental flexibility to seize issues that could embarrass the government and develop them.

One of the findings in today’s YouGov poll has Theresa May extending her lead by five points as who is the best prime minister. She was up and he is down.

How different it all looked in the summer when he made his Glastonbury appearance a week or so after the general election. Then we were being told that he had predicted that he would be in Downing Street by Christmas . Well it ain’t going to happen.

Mike Smithson




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Letter to Laura. Does Momentum want to help Jeremy control the party or run the country?

Monday, November 20th, 2017

“When are we going to convert you?” I was frankly rather flattered to be asked that question by Laura Parker, then political secretary to Jeremy Corbyn and now national director of Momentum.

Her question was whether, in effect, I had abandoned my Corbo-scepticism following the General Election in which her boss had led Labour to a better than expected result. I pointed her to my PB verdict on that result. I said I was wrong – and right — about Jeremy: that he had been both a vote winner and a vote loser.

That judgement probably still stands. There is a Marmite quality to Corbyn that, despite the government’s multiple mishaps, helps explain why Labour and the Tories are level pegging in the polls as are Corbyn and Theresa May in the personal ratings.

That’s not to deny that Labour have been making a strong showing since the election, winning arguments, especially on the economy and public services, and votes in the Commons, all spearheaded by Corbyn’s confident performances at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Nonetheless, the successes haven’t been reflected in the polls. The party does need to do better, even if Tony Blair’s suggestion that it ought to be 15-20% ahead is, to my mind, rather fatuous. Matt Singh offers a more granular analysis of why the chaotic goings on in the Tory Cabinet are not moving the polls.

My focus here is on what role Momentum, under its new leadership, will play in boosting Labour’s fortunes.

The divisions in the Tory party highlighted by the infamous Telegraph “Mutineers” splash  are both an opportunity and an awful warning for Labour. My question to comrade Parker – of whom I’m a big fan — obviously focuses on the awful warning bit.

Momentum boasts more than 30,000 members and as many as 200,000 supporters among a total Labour membership of 550,000. – more than all the other parties put together.

Wise heads at Westminster see Momentum as a hard core of ideologues plus a much larger army of idealists but who can be driven together by ham-fisted opposition by irreconcilable Corbyn opponents. They note that loyalists figure strongly among front benchers there are more than two dozen Tribune group members among them. This is a good basis for keeping Labour MPs working together.

The big worry is about Momentum’s capacity to foment debilitating divisions in local parties. The political editor of the Manchester Evening News Jennifer Williams provides an interesting case study. The city council’s business friendly economic policies – “which have regularly seen Manchester feted nationally as a northern urban success story” is being challenged by Momentum. She reports that Momentum has had very limited success in council selections but quotes one  local MP talking of  “a decade-long fight for the soul of the Labour party.”

Council selections are in full spate for next year’s May elections in other big cities, including the 32 London Boroughs, as well as more than 200 shire districts. My own experience in Wandsworth makes me fairly sanguine. In elections for party officers in Tooting the Momentum slate was comfortably defeated but , more significantly, party members from all sides were out campaigning the next day in a council by-election. Local eyes are set on a big prize – seizing control next of Wandsworth council which has been in Tory hands for 40 years.

Victory in a General Election is an even bigger prize and the Guardian’s Zoe Williams hits the nail on the head. She says Labour is looking more purposeful and coherent, “But what would really distinguish it, ahead of an election that cannot be far off, would be to foster an atmosphere of generosity and trust.”

I agree. I hope Laura does too.

Don Brind



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Why the Tory plotters wanting to oust May need have no worries about letting Corbyn in

Monday, November 13th, 2017

A new CON leader WILL NOT mean an early general election

With the Sunday newspaper reports that the CON MPs plotting an early retirement for Mrs May being just 8 MPs short of the 48 required for a confidence vote we could be very close to a formal move against Mrs May.

One of the big arguments that May backers and the Tory whips are apparently making to MPs is that if she goes early then it heightens the risk of an early general election in which Jeremy Corbyn could be Prime Minister.

The same theme is taken up by the New Statesman George Eaton in an article in which he sets out how the fear of letting Corbyn in is being used.

… , having lost their majority earlier this year, the Conservatives are loath to do anything that could prompt a second general election. Labour would begin as favourites and Tory MPs sincerely fear the consequences of a Corbyn victory.

Faced with a choice between bad and worse, most Tory MPs believe that May’s survival represents the former. “

This, of course, is completely bogus and overlooks the legal mechanics of how general elections are now called. No longer does a Prime Minister have it in her or his gift to trot along to the Palace to call a general election.

For while the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, enacted as part of the coalition deal, is still on the statute book it is very hard to envisage the circumstances in which Mr. Corbyn enters Number 10 in the foreseeable future.

The FTPA lays down just two ways that an election can be called early: by two thirds of all MPs voting for one as happened last April or by a vote of no confidence in the government which is not rescinded within two weeks. Given what happened to Tories in June it is hard to see any TMay successor being foolhardy enough to risk either route.

In any case the next Tory leader is likely to have been elected in a members’ ballot which would give him or her more legitimacy. It was the avoidance of such a vote last year which was one of the factors that drove Mrs May to use the FTPA process in April.

There is no other legal mechanism for an early election to be called which is something which many close observers and active politicians don’t seem to have fathomed.

Mike Smithson