Archive for the 'Labour leadership' Category


It’s time we moved back to MPs choosing the party leader instead not members

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Having a leader who is not the choice of MPs will inevitably lead to problems

Consider where British politics is quite likely to be in a few months time – LAB still being led by Corbyn who is opposed by most of his MPs and Johnson being the CON leader in spite of his relative lack of parliamentary support

Both would be in their jobs because of their appeal to party members and neither command the support of their parliamentary parties. Given the main role of a leader is to head the party in the Commons then it should be those who work alongside MPs that should have the final say.

One of the difficulties that Ed Miliband had during his five years at the top was that he wasn’t the choice of his fellow MPs. In the ballot in 2010 he was nearly 9% short of his brother David amongst the parliamentary party.

Corbyn’s position is much worse because as we saw in 2016 a vote of confidence in him amongst the parliamentary Labour Party he secured just 20% of the vote.

Going back within the Tory Party would Iain Duncan Smith have been elected leader in 2001 if it had been left to his parliamentary colleagues. I suggest not. What happened during a critical time in British history, the Iraq war, the party and the country as a whole would have been better served by the Conservatives if the leader had been more able to hold the government properly to account.

The big difference between the Conservatives and labour is that there is a simple process within the former for an elected leader by the membership to be ousted. That’s what happened to IDs in October 2003.

This fad of letting the membership decide is a very modern. Labour introduced it in the early 1990s with John Smith being the first leader to be elected partly by members. The first Tory leadership contest to involve the membership was in 2001.

There was a thread on Twitter a few weeks back which I’ve been pondering about ever that suggested that one of the big problems in British politics is that the main parties select their leaders by leaving the final decision to the memberships.

This diminishes the role of the individual MP. Sure party members should be able to choose their candidates in their constituencies for general elections but that suggests that being involved in the final choice of a main party leader is not a good.

Why should  members, most of whom just pay their subs, be the ones to choose?


Mike Smithson


Tom Watson plans a new LAB MPs grouping and there’s little Milne/McCluskey/Corbyn can do about it

Monday, February 25th, 2019

He’s LAB’s deputy with his own separate mandate

It is very hard to think of any other organisation where a deputy can operate in the manner that Tom Watson is doing at the moment. His response to the defection of nine MPs has been very much to sympathize recognising the culture within the party that led to their decisions. He’s also forwarded to the leadership 50 cases of anti-semitism which he wants investigating.

You wonder what Seamus Milne, Len McCluskey, and Jeremy Corbyn think about this which looks like a direct challenge to the man who was elected leader in 2015 and was reelected a year later each time with a second substantial majority.

Tom Watson was elected deputy at the same time as Corbyn in 2015 and is effectively unsackable by the leader. My reading is that the only way of getting rid of him is to put forward a challenge to his position and there would be another deputy leadership election. That would then be voted on by the membership.

Watson wants his new group to give a platform to those MPs whose views are not currently represented within Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and effectively to give them a voice and help them shape policy.

As TSE pointed out yesterday it was Tom Watson in 2006 who initiated what looked like being a series of minsterial resignations which led to Tony Blair announcing that he would step down the following year. He’s somebody who understands the party and it’s machinations and clearly has a lot of support.

He’s not someone you don’t want as your enemy and he sees his role as protecting Labour.

The biggest issue that will be focused on in the coming days and weeks, no doubt, will be the way that Corbyn and his team have been deflecting the growing calls within the party to back a second referendum on Brexit. The danger for Corbyn is that if a No Deal brexit does take place then he will be seen as jointly responsible with the Tories. This will be Corbyn’s Nick Clegg tuition fees moment writ large – not to be forgotten.

Mike Smithson


It appears Blair slayer Tom Watson has his sights on Jeremy Corbyn

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Tom Watson’s appearance on the Andrew Marr show was very interesting as per the tweets above.

That Labour’s deputy leader has publicly brought the antisemitism issue to Corbyn with the fifty cases makes life very difficult for Corbyn. With a third of voters thinking Corbyn is an antisemite this presents an opportunity for Corbyn to turn around that perception but given past form Corbyn will only make it worse.

Corbynites should be concerned about Watson is doing this, and so publicly, anyone with an understanding of history knows Watson played a crucial role in the early departure of the great Satan Tony Blair. If Watson can help topple the three times general election winning leader he’ll be able to take down the general election loser that is Corbyn.

If the Corbynite fan club is castrated on social media then it will be harder for Corbyn to survive a putsch which makes me think this is part of a very clever plan by Tom Watson.


PS – Meanwhile Mrs May is determined to ensure more Tory defections to the TIGgers as even loyalists who backed the deal are getting exasperated 


Corbyn harking back to LAB’s GE2017 vote share is no solution to the party’s current challenges

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

For many he is seen as the problem

Little noticed in this week’s political turmoil was some new polling from YouGov that had Corbyn dropping to a new low in its well/badly ratings. The trend was in line with all the other leader ratings that we’ve seen the last few weeks that whatever the pollster and whatever the question format Corbyn’s position is on the decline.

The historical record shows that for an opposition party to re-take power the leader has to have a clear ratings margin over the incumbent PM.

The 54% negative number from YouGov was not as bad as the 72% who told Ipsos MORI that they were dissatisfied but it is still the worst it has been with this particular question in this polling series

This coincided with the 8 MPs announcing their departure with their reasons all pointing to the leadership of Corbyn particularly on Brexit and his failure to address the ongoing anti-semitism within the party.

Looking back since the 2017 General Election the factors that seemed to have triggered a decline in Corbyn’s personal position have related to anti-semitism and his ambivalence on Brexit. It was the events in March last year that lead to MPs demonstrating against him outside Parliament that ended his comparative ratings honeymoon.

That Corbyn’s position is secure because of the membership base should give lots of hope to those opposed to LAB.

Labour’s fundamental problem is that it has a leader who is not popular even amongst many of those who voted for the party in 2017 but is almost totally secure in his position.

Mike Smithson


Today could be the day that Corbyn’s Labour Party finally splits

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Judging by activity on social media overnight there appears to be a reasonable chance that today could be the day that the Labour Party finally splinters. The Tweet above from Corbyn loyalist Rebecca Long-Bailey reflects one of the ways that the mainstream party is responding to the threat.

This was supposed to happen last Thursday with a widely briefed story that at 8 p.m. that evening a big development would take place. Some leading names were associated with those reports. It didn’t happen partly, because this was such a big night in the Commons anyway and my guess is that the prospective rebels wanted to maximise the impact of their actions.

    The big questions, if this does happen, are how many are taking the plunge and who they are. It really needs some big hitters like those who have been seen as leadership prospects in the past to be amongst them.

Corbyn is no stranger to rebellions against his leadership and in 2016 80% of LAB MPs voted that the had no confidence in him. Because of the Labour party structure that was not enough to oust Mr Corbyn who went on to win a second leadership contest by a big majority.

One of the big deterrents to potential rebels is the memory within the movement about what happened during the last splinter within LAB in the early 1980s. This was, of course, the formation of the breakaway SDP. Its creation and the massive challenge of the first past the post voting system enabled the Tories to increase their majority by a huge amount at the ensuing 1983 general election.

But it appears Corbyn’s actions on anti-semitism and, of course, his equivocal approach to the main political issue of the day, Brexit, have just been too much for a number of MPs.

Interestingly there’s a by-election in prospect following the death of Newport MP Paul Flynn who retained his seat at GE2017 with 52.3% of the vote.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s Ipsos-MORI ratings take a huge tumble with 72% saying they are dissatisfied with him

Friday, February 8th, 2019

These looks being the worst LAB leader ratings on record

The latest Ipsos-MORI voting intention figure have LAB and CON level pegging which puts the pollsters out of line with Opinium and YouGov which both have CON leads of seven points.

But there’s a shock for the LAB leader in the firm’s satisfaction ratings which have been recorded in every published survey since the 1970s. A total of 72% of those in the sample said they were dissatisfied with Corbyn against just 17% who said said they were satisfied.

I’ve scanned through every poll from the firm since 1977 and cannot find anything that is as bad as this for a LAB leader.

Historically these ratings have been a better pointer to general election outcomes than the voting intention numbers.

The Standard in a commentary notes:

“..It’s not hard to work out why. He has led Labour into the intellectual wilderness, allowed nasty anti-Semitism to flourish, encouraged deselections by the hard Left of moderate MPs, visited the graves of terrorists and made alliances with Venezuelan dictators. But all this was known some time ago.

What is the reason for the more recent collapse in Mr Corbyn’s ratings?

The answer, according to the polling, is his position on Brexit.

A mere 16 per cent think he is providing strong leadership on this central issue facing the country, less than half Mrs May’s rating — 47 per cent of the public think he is acting in his personal interest rather than the national interest. They are right. ..”

Things, of course, could change between now and the next general election and we might look back at this and see it as a low point. But this should be worrying for the party.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Next Leader: Dawn Butler at 100/1?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

We need to learn the lessons of Corbyn’s wins

Identifying Labour’s future leaders used to be a relatively easy job, certainly when compared against the Tories. Gaitskell, Wilson, Callaghan, Smith and Brown were all clearly identifiable as strong contenders five years or more before they took on the job. Blair, at that same distance, could have been seen (rightly, as it turned out), as a future potential leader but not the next one. Kinnock and Ed Miliband were a little harder to pick but both were up and coming cabinet or shadow cabinet members at times when a generational jump was to be expected. Even Foot was a heavyweight, if one whose time, after Callaghan’s win in 1976, looked to have passed.

And then Jeremy Corbyn happened and the magic circle was forever broken. No longer was the shortlist restricted to a small number of cabinet or shadow cabinet members. No longer did popularity with and support among MPs matter. All that counted, once nominated, was the ability to appeal in the heat of the moment to Labour’s members and sign-up supporters.

Since then, the influence of MPs in the process has waned even further: the threshold for nominations has dropped from 15% to 10%, while new requirements for nominations from local associations and affiliated bodies have been introduced. Those changes favour both the left, who have a natural advantage among members, and also those with name recognition. Ironically, Corbyn himself might have found it difficult to be nominated in 2015 under the current rules as unions might have been unwilling to back what was seen, at the start of his campaign, as the traditional purely gesture candidacy of the Labour left.

However, Corbyn did stand and did win. Twice. Labour’s membership has clearly shifted far from where it was when it elected Miliband, never mind from where it was when it elected Blair (the future three-times election-winner took 58% of the Labour members’ votes in 1994). It’s possible that Labour’s membership is currently undergoing another seismic change with reports of a sizeable drop due to Corbyn’s equivocation and inertness on Brexit but Labour is being uncharacteristically coy in publishing numbers.

Not that any current drop in membership really matters. Even if members are leaving over the attitudes of a 1970s Eurosceptic, the next leader is almost certain to be of a new generation and the ‘registered supporter’ concept means that it’s a doddle for those people to take part in the next election, whether renewed member of not.

Which brings us to the question of who that might be. The only five potential candidates listed in the betting at less than 25/1 are Emily Thornberry (6/1), Keir Starmer and Angela Raynor (10/1), and John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey (16/1). However, I have my doubts about each.

Thornberry doesn’t seem that close to Corbyn and considering the prominence of Brexit, Venezuela and Russia as mainstream issues (not to mention other favoured Labour topics like the Middle East), the Shadow Foreign Secretary has made remarkably little impact, either in the media or in parliament. She has the appearance of a compromise candidate, which might have been an advantage in previous electoral systems but not this one.

Starmer is, by a country mile, the most administratively capable individual on Labour’s front bench and the only one I’d trust to run a department of state. What he’s not is a leader. He reverts too readily to being a capable barrister acting on instructions. I have little sense of what he stands for or what motivates him, if anything. In a leadership election, that would be fatal.

John McDonnell, by contrast, has no problem in saying what he stands for. His problem is a different one. If the vacancy, post-Corbyn, were caused by political factors (e.g. a lost election), what value would there be in electing McDonnell as successor, even if he does understand the mechanics of politics better than Corbyn? Even if Labour were to win and McDonnell become Chancellor, with Corbyn standing down in the same parliament and experience counting for more than it would in opposition, McDonnell would by then almost certainly be into his seventies.

As for Raynor and Long-Bailey, while I wouldn’t write their chances off, nor are they setting the political world on fire.

Which is not unlike how it was in 2015 and, as such, means we ought to keep more than an eye on other options. One that strikes me as extremely good value is Dawn Butler, who is widely available at 100/1 (the same as Richard Burgon, who should also be shorter, and Jon Lansman and Gisela Stuart, who shouldn’t).

    Why Butler? Primarily because she seems very close to Corbyn. To indulge in a little Kremlinology, she sits next to him at PMQs, despite her junior status within the shadow cabinet. That seating position is entirely Corbyn’s decision and shouldn’t be ignored as a triviality.

If Corbyn does endorse a successor when he retires – and I think a lifelong campaigner is likely to do so – and if the Party retains an attachment to the politics and the person of Corbyn by that point, such an endorsement will make a big difference. At the very minimum, it’s almost certain to ensure they gain the nominations necessary to reach the ballot paper. Butler could well get it.

Butler also has a key strength of her own: she clearly believes in what she’s saying. Never mind that what she says (and how she says it) might not be best designed to appeal to Worcester Woman; the next Labour leadership election isn’t about them. It’s about capturing the mood of the members and supporters by appealing directly to what motivates them. That takes a tremendous confidence, if not a little shamelessness – Butler can tick both boxes.

One other factor will play to her favour. In a Party where identity characteristics matter, Labour’s record of having only ever elected men as leader – and white men at that – is not a cause for celebration. The race card will be particularly relevant if the Tories have already replaced May and done so with a non-white candidate of their own, as is very possible.

None of this is to say that she will succeed Corbyn. It is, however, to say that her odds should be far shorter than the 100/1 currently on offer.

David Herdson


Now we’ve got some non-YouGov polls showing CON leads the position looks a tad less good for LAB

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

With three new voting intention polls out in the past couple of hours this has been the biggest evening for Westminster surveys June 7th 2017 – the day before the last general election.

One of the positive things for LAB until this evening is that no other pollster than YouGov had shown a CON lead since the first week in November. It became a little bit easier to portray YouGov as an outlier.

The big thing in polling analysis is the general direct of travel rather than one particular poll and it does appear as though the Tory position in relation to LAB has edged up a notch.

Certainly LAB ambivalence on Brexit, the biggest issue for years, had actually worked but I just wonder whether that is changing. This demonstration earlier in the week shows the tensions.

Another thought is that if this parliament does survive until the 2022 then Brexit will be done and dusted and will have much less of a political impact.

Mike Smithson