Archive for the 'Labour leadership' Category

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Lessons from Labour’s conference for the Conservatives

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Leadership

Labour have, on balance, had a good conference, which should of course worry Conservatives like myself. Their leadership is now in full ascendancy – indeed many of the Corbynsceptic PLP stayed away.

Brexit was largely elided (of which more later), so the actual splits in evidence were merely between different degrees of Corbynism. On reselection, Momentum butted heads with the unions and came off slightly worse, for now. (Watch that space…)

And Corbyn himself is now much improved as a speaker – the first half of his speech was delivered very well, though he lost some energy during the second part. That all adds to the perception that he really could be Prime Minister one day, as does all the talk of a General Election.

The lesson here is simply that unity sells well. Now this might be a little time coming for the Conservatives, but putting on a show at our own conference wouldn’t hurt!

Ideas

Freed from the drudgery of actually negotiating a Brexit, Labour have been full of ideas, the most eyecatching of which was the proposal to force companies to give 10% of their equity to their workers, and then cap the dividends from that to only £500, with the rest going to the government as tax (sorry, “social dividend”).

To my mind this is the epitome of what’s wrong with Labour’s policymaking: it’s superficially attractive but it ignores all the situations where it can’t apply (e.g. foreign & private companies) and the knock-on effects it could have (e.g. de-listing, moving abroad, buybacks rather than dividends, reduction in startup investment). Most of all it also ignores the fact that private sector wages are usually determined in a free-market process and an anticipated £500pa bonus will simply ultimately come off the headline wage.

Labour’s wishlist of ideas is also hugely expensive and not properly costed. It might be a good idea to highlight this next time.

But these ideas are popular. Allister Heath’s headline in the Telegraph is spot on – “the terrifying truth is that Middle England is falling for Corbynomics”. We need to fight back with ideas of our own.

The next General Election

I don’t expect a General Election any time soon, but Labour are clearly planning for one whenever it comes. Their slick PPB shows that the leadership get it – the battleground seats will be predominately small towns.

A lot of the thinking behind this focus has been driven by the new think-tank the Centre for Towns, set up by Ian Warren (@electiondata on Twitter), Lisa Nandy MP and political science professor Will Jennings. The data and mapping on their site is excellent and there is plenty of food for thought for Conservatives there too.

However Labour’s PPB is ultimately a romantic call to turn back the clock (did anyone spot the pit head?) and – as Robert Smithson’s video shows – that ain’t happening. And in the age of the internet, High Streets won’t be coming back in the same form.

Populism

Corbyn and McDonnell’s left-wing populism explains why Labour has managed to dodge the pan-European crisis in social democracy: it is no longer a social democratic party (though it still has many MPs answering to that description).

Matthew Goodwin’s recent article on that crisis references YouGov’s July polling on issues that “most Britons feel unrepresented on”. The top 5 issues were as follows:

  1. The justice system not harsh enough
  2. Immigration restrictions should be tighter
  3. Britain should not militarily intervene in other countries
  4. Government should regulate big business more
  5. The benefits system is too generous

This – not a metropolitan anti-Brexit project – is the space YouGov identified for a hypothetical new party. Under FPTP it is more likely to be filled by shifts within our system.

Obviously neither party would wish to swallow these polling findings wholesale, but the key to a majority is to take this “unrepresented” group seriously. Goodwin hypothesises that the unexpected General Election result was as a consequence of Labour hitting some of these themes while the Conservatives missed them:

“Indeed, I have no doubt that one reason why Jeremy Corbyn did not suffer more working-class losses at the 2017 general election is precisely because he preached economic interventionism while at least recognising the need to respect the Brexit vote and reform freedom of movement. Had Corbyn instead called, à la Blair, to reverse the vote while making the case for open borders, then the result would likely have been very different, just as it would had Prime Minister May followed up her promise to tackle burning injustices with concrete action and a competent campaign.”

The answer here for the Conservatives is to blend our principles and understanding of what works with a recognition that competition and markets aren’t necessarily the same thing.

This doesn’t have to mean economic protectionism, but rather a focus on the consumer. For example, it’s easy to see from free-market principles that supermarket competition drives prices down – it only takes a few switched-on people to move to Aldi or Lidl to drive prices down everywhere, and for everyone.

But same isn’t true for energy markets or telephone contracts. The vast majority of the benefit of competition – and there has been plenty – is captured by the engaged: those willing and able to compare and switch whenever they can. Contracts are fundamentally different to purchases and our government needs to recognise that. Auto-switching and/or internal auctions, not caps, can be the answer.

And, to refer again to Robert’s video, jobs are a harder problem: in the information age people’s value to their company is more explicit than ever, which means the traditional career model isn’t coming back. The answer here has to be in education and training; a tighter immigration policy post-Brexit ought to increase investment in domestic training.

Brexit

The focus on the next election, and on those Leave-voting small towns, is why Labour are being so circumspect on Brexit, despite the wishes of Andrew Adonis, David Lammy, Keir Starmer and much of their membership. Adding another 3,000 votes to Keir’s majority in Holborn will not be much use if they can’t gain back Mansfield or defend Dudley.

There’s not that much value in me opining what the final deal will be, though I still think it’s likely that there will be one, probably fudged somewhere between Chequers and Canada. I wouldn’t be sitting too comfortably if I were the DUP – since the deal is quite likely to need some cross-party backing (or abstention) anyway, what’s finding another 10 votes?

The fact that negotiations have been difficult was always to be expected – in fact I’m a little surprised to have got this far without stronger rows or walkouts. The working of Article 50 has clearly favoured the EU, as it was always intended to: we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of months.

A deal is important for the country but also for my Party. The radical nature of Brexit is a challenge to our traditional USP of, well, conservatism, and John McDonnell is clearly hoping that one radical shift may induce another. We therefore need to deliver a measure of continuity as we Leave.

The overall lesson for the Conservatives from Labour’s conference, and the themes they are espousing, is that the technical fact of our exit needs to be the start of a national renewal. GE2017 and Brexit have consumed May’s premiership, but we shouldn’t forget how popular her initial pitch was. The challenge is to deliver that whilst staying true to our party’s principles. Otherwise we risk delivering the country into the hands of the most left-wing Labour Party in living memory.

Aaron Bell

Aaron works in the betting industry and is a long-standing contributor to politicalbetting.com, posting under the username Tissue_Price. He stood for the Conservatives in Don Valley at the General Election last year.




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While the nation faces huge and historic issues over Brexit Labour gathers in Liverpool to talk about itself

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Today’s Times column by Phillip Collins hits the nail on the head about Labour and its current state.

“..The issues of the hour are historic. Are any of the half-formed answers to the Irish border question at all practicable? Will the strong desire of the European Union 27 to agree a deal quieten the opposition to Mrs May’s besieged plans? Is it really worth risking exit without a deal for the distant and unlikely prize of winning a second referendum? Is there not a danger that thwarting the first referendum would result in civil disobedience? Is that not a democratic outrage? Never mind all of that. Let’s talk about the contemporary criterion for conference motions.

The Labour Party has decided it need not pay attention to the historic turn of events…The Labour leadership isn’t interested in Europe. All it has ever wanted is to take back control of the Labour Party. Which is what the Labour conference will essentially be about. All conversations in the party since Tony Blair left office have been, in one way or another, about which faction is the rightful owner of the party heritage…”

Meanwhile this from the latest polling ought to be worrying the red team.

Mike Smithson




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Et tu, John? Is another JC set to get stabbed in the back by a close ally?

Monday, September 17th, 2018

The truly great, such as Caesar & Thatcher, are removed from power by their allies stabbing them in the back, is Corbyn about to join that club?

The Sunday Times reports

While those who are aware of the discussions say there is no imminent threat to Corbyn, they claim it is the first time that senior party figures have begun to question whether he is the right person to lead Labour into the next general election.

A source said: “John McDonnell is a pragmatist and is hell-bent on getting Labour back into power. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that. While he is not actively agitating against the Labour leader, there are people around him who are starting to raise questions about the future of the leadership and whether some of the shine is beginning to fall off Corbyn.”

Another source added: “While it is unclear whether McDonnell wants the leadership for himself, some within the party are convinced he is on manoeuvres and has been remoulding himself as the voice of reason.”

Corbyn provoked further fury within the party last week when he said he would not protect colleagues facing the threat of deselection by hard-left activists.

However, McDonnell is said to have privately told colleagues that he is not in favour of the mandatory reselection process, in comments which have been interpreted by some as part of his charm offensive to win over Labour MPs.

A Labour MP said: “Even moderate Labour MPs are coming around to McDonnell. I have heard Labour MPs say recently that they think McDonnell would be preferable to Corbyn.”

All of this chimes with what I have been saying for a while, Labour’s obsession with Israel and Palestine seems a political waste of time when all that energy could, and should, be focussed on attacking the government on any number of matters.

How much have you heard Labour banging on about the problems with Universal Credit or the train system in recent months? Those are but two areas where the government is vulnerable. The leadership and members seem more obsessed with the Middle East than Middle England, focussing on the latter helps wins general elections in this country, not the former.

I suspect John McDonnell is one of the few Labour MPs Corbyn will willingly stand down for, particularly as McDonnell doesn’t bring as much baggage on Middle Eastern matters as Corbyn.

Political authority is a lot like virginity, once it is gone then it is difficult to get back, if McDonnell’s close allies are questioning his leadership then we are closer to the end of his leadership than the beginning of it. It will be very hard for the Corbyn cult to dismiss John McDonnell as a Blairite agitator.

At the time of writing you could get between 14/1 to 20/1 on John McDonnell being Corbyn’s successor.

TSE



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Further thoughts on Chris Williamson succeeding Jeremy Corbyn

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Earlier on this week I wrote a piece on Chris Williamson’s odds to succeed Jeremy Corbyn tumbling from 100/1 to 33/1 in a week, I also explained the reasons why I wouldn’t be jumping aboard that betting bandwagon.

The tweets below from Theo Bertram are a response to my initial tweets on the subject. Theo is someone who knows the Labour party very well, he has been an adviser to both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, so I really do pay attention to him as he understands the Labour party better than I do.

Whilst I do still think it is unlikely Williamson succeeds Corbyn because of the size of his majority but if Corbyn lowers the threshold to stand in Labour leadership contests it could happen, especially in light of Theo’s comments.

So going forward, I won’t be laying Chris Williamson in this market, currently his best price is 25/1 with Bet365.

TSE



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Chris Williamson’s odds to succeed Corbyn move from 100/1 to 33/1 in a week

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Why I’m not jumping aboard on this betting bandwagon

The major betting news today is the odds of Derby North MP Chris Williamson tumbling from 100/1 last week to 33/1 today.

My primary reason for not backing Williamson is that if someone from the Corbynite wing of the party succeeds they will need explicit public and private support of Jeremy Corbyn.

From my vantage point I’d expect the likes of John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Rebecca Long-Bailey, et al to receive the support of Corbyn before Chris Williamson does.

Whilst Williamson might adore Corbyn it doesn’t seem entirely mutual, as evidenced with which the ease Chris Williamson left the shadow front bench when Williamson got himself into trouble with his plans to double council tax.

The other primary reason for my decision not to bet on Williamson is the problem with Amber Rudd would have faced before her Windrush problem, the size of their majority. A little over a 2% Labour to Tory swing would see Derby North turn blue, just like it did in 2015.

Having a leader with a smallish majority would see them targeted by their opponents in the mother of all decapitation strategies. It would see them spending less time nationwide as they focus on holding their seats. It turns out size does matter.

You can get 40/1 with Bet365 and on the Betfair exchange on Williamson succeeding Corbyn if you disagree with my assessment.

TSE



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How the Labour Party would split – and why it won’t

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

A summer of conspiratorial meetings amongst serial rebels has fuelled talk of a split.

Picture the scene. Lord Mandleson hosts a BBQ where “up to” 20 Labour rebels look at their options for a breakaway party. Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson was amongst the group, uniting the remnant Blairite and Brownite camps against Corbyn.

Whether plotting to adopt the IHRA definition against the NEC, or plotting to deliberately lose to spite Corbyn (Stephen Kinnock not being very good at this), there is a clear sense of an internal battle for supremacy coming to a head. MPs vs Members. Let’s consider the options discussed at the Mandy BBQ:

1) Do Nothing. Jeremy Corbyn is an old man. His support claims to be “the membership” yet in practice the majority of members are silent. They do not participate in anything other than leadership elections, do not participate locally in any shape or form, and are already drifting away.

Jeremy Corbyn will retire, and a sizeable chunk of the membership will leave when he goes. When he does the party can change shape, organisation, message. Nothing that has been done – despite shrieking headlines of takeovers at local and NEC levels – cannot be undone.

2) A breakaway group of Labour MPs. Various options are open to them – an independent parliamentary group, the creation of SDP2, leaving to join the Greens, the LibDems, even a takeover of the Co-op was floated. None of these are particularly appealing to Labour rebels. SDP2 means starting from scratch in terms of organising and funding, the Greens and LibDems offer their own aims not the fulment of the rebel’s dreams.

3) A wholesale split in the party. Tom Watson has form plotting to remove unwanted leaders, and his physical shedding of weight has been accompanied by him clearly shedding any pretence at agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn or the Momentum cabal. A Watsonite Labour Party carrying the majority of MPs could try and claim legal title to the party machine, effectively de-merging the hard left into Momentum (“as you already have your own membership structure, branches, executive”)

4) A realignment in British politics. A similar piece could be written about both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, and Brexit has all the potential to create a big enough bang to fracture the fragile coalitions that make up our parties. Vince Cable went AWOL for a key Brexit vote supposedly attending a dinner party discussing the creation of a new centre party.

Emmanuel Macron broke away from the socialists, founded a new centre party and led it to power. A failed Brexit fracturing Labour and the Tories at the same time could make a new party born out of the wreckage look like the sane option. Especially if the alternatives are a Boris-led Tory Party fighting off a Farage UKIP resurgence or a Corbyn-led Labour Party busy denouncing the Momentum traitors.

The only rule in politics is that everything is possible – look at the 2017 General Election campaign. But from a betting perspective where does my money go? I am a Labour councillor, activist and member of nearly 25 years so I am personally caught up in this. I’m also a Co-op Party member.

My expectation is that “do nothing” is most likely. People like me sick to the back teeth of Corbyn and the dross that surround him will wait him out, as happened with Michael Foot. The split will be the hard left slouching off again post-Corbyn to join scab groups aimed at keeping the evil Labour Party out of power. Until that happens, I would be gobsmacked to see anything more than the odd MP aping James “Who” Purnell.

Unless of course Brexit really does fracture the political parties beyond repair. At which point literally anything is possible. Anna Turley and Anna Soubry as colleagues?

Rochdale Pioneers

Rochdale Pioneers is a member of the Labour Party and a long standing contributor to PB.



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Just 19% of LAB voters believe Israel’s more to blame for the lack progress on Middle East peace than the Palestinians

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Sure the Deltapoll for Prospect finds that three times as many LAB voters than CON ones blame Israel but it is the huge “both equally” numbers that are a surprise. Here as the chart shows there’s really not that much difference between supporters of the two main parties and the whole sample.

This does suggest at the very minimum that this is far from the top of most people’s concerns.

Given the polling it is hard to disagree with Martin Boon of Deltapoll who is quoted in the latest edition of Prospect magazine as saying:

“The great irony about Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party being consumed by the Jewish question is not only that personal reputations are sinking as a result, but that infinite amounts of emotional and political energy is being drained on a subject that very few Britons know much about, and probably care even less. Exactly what Labour hope to get out constant introspection on Israel and Palestine is an absolute mystery”.

The damage for Labour is that for months the party has appeared to be totally split and we know that voters don’t like parties to be divided.

Of course what has put this on the agenda has been Corbyn’s history- things he said and did before he became leader. This has been driven by what’s available on the record and by the media. The result has been so much energy is being directed at the internal Labour battle and there is also the opportunity cost – the summer could have been better spent by the main opposition fighting the Tories.

The problem, of course, is that the leader himself is so much involved and this is all about him. In those circumstances the party machine has to back the boss. If there is indeed a split within Labour then antisemitism will have made a contribution.

Mike Smithson




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A bet that seems like a guaranteed 14% return in just over 4 months

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Video: Footage of Jeremy Corbyn, in yellow, taking on his critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party. NSFW

As long as Labour members see Corbyn as the Messiah & not a very naughty boy there won’t be a Labour leadership contest.

Paddy Power’s market on whether there’ll be a Labour leadership contest in 2018 seems like an absolute slam dunk for backers of the 1/7 for the following reasons.

Whilst Corbyn appears to have better relationships with terrorists and anti Semites than most of his own Parliamentary party colleagues Corbyn continues to enjoy near messianic levels of support with Labour members.

If Labour MPs were going to force another leadership contest Corbyn is going to win again for the foreseeable future. Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn must feel like Darth Vader striking down Obi-Wan Kenobi, ‘If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine’ might well be Corbyn’s taunt to his Labour opponents.

With Corbyn absolutely pummelling his opponents in the last two Labour leadership contests, under the alternative vote system, a system designed to stop X candidates is still seared on the minds of opponents of Corbyn.

For an overwhelming majority of Labour members Corbyn’s still the one and only, he’s not the same as all the rest, just look at the support Corbyn’s received over the anti Semitism issue.

Even if we see mass defections from Labour to an SDP2 I suspect Corbyn will be safe. It will reinforce the view amongst members that a lot of Labour MPs aren’t really loyal to Labour. As we saw with the defection of Mark Reckless it only seems solidify support for the leadership as opprobrium is heaped on the defectors in language that would shock most people.

There’s a chance Corbyn may voluntarily stand down but I can’t see that happening this side of March 29th 2019, he has the potential to shape Brexit and thus the UK for decades to come, he won’t turn down that opportunity. He’s also still working on making Labour perpetually Corbynite policy friendly, that still needs work.

Another factor is that the Corbyn’s critics were proven spectacularly wrong in June 2017 when at the general election Corbyn’s Labour polled 41% in Great Britain, they may have learned some humility after their humiliation.

With Corbyn being a healthy teetotal vegetarian I expect he will be in this for the long haul, so that’s why I’m confident on backing the No option in this bet.

TSE