Archive for the 'Labour leadership' Category


UPDATED: Rebecca Long-Bailey soars to a 35% chance in the Corbyn successor betting

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

> chart of Betfair exchange market

Former favourite Keir Starmer slips badly as the betting hots up

The chart shows the dramatic changes in the next LAB leader betting following LAB’s GE19 electoral defeat and the realisation that they look set to be faced with a Johnson big majority government for possibly the next five years.

In the immediate aftermath of the result the money piled on Starmer but now that has sharply reversed with Rebecca London-Bailey making the running. It is being reported that John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, are backing Rebecca.

There are a lot of unknowns at this stage. When is Corbyn actually going to quit and will LAB’s NEC amend the rules under which the contest takes place. No doubt the Corbynistas will be doing their best to so arrange things that the next leader is from the same wing of the party that the incumbent belongs to.

One thing we haven’t seen is any attempt to work out what went wrong.

Having a LAB leader with the worst leader ratings on record was always going to show and so it did. A Corbyn lookalike would surely lead to a GE19 lookalike.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Delusions

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” Buffet’s saying has been one which many in finance have had cause to ponder in recent years. Turned round, it applies to political parties: “a toxic reputation takes 5 minutes to develop, 20 years to shake off.” Consider how long it’s taken the Tories to get past (if they have) the “nasty party” tag. From its development in the 1980s, it was 18 years before the Tories won a majority. Labour’s infiltration by Militant started in the mid-1970s. 1985: Kinnock’s Conference speech; 1997: Blair’s New Dawn.

Those bad reputations are used by opponents long past their sell-by date: the Tories made 18 glorious summers of Labour’s Winter of Discontent. 29 years after she resigned, Thatcher is still Labour’s convenient bogey-woman. After defeat, the longer a party postpones the hard thinking about why it lost and what needs to change, the longer and harder it will be to regain power. 8 years, 3 leaders for the Tories before they finally understood that they could no longer blame the voters for falling for Blair. He was not a Pied Piper; the voters were not stupid children. They looked at the Tories; they disliked what they saw.

With the election barely over, Labour is already embracing comforting delusions rather than taking a long cool hard look at itself, warts and all.

Change the leader and all will be well

Leadership is critical, yes, but a leader is not simply the person taking the centre spot in group photos. They set the tone, values and direction of the party. A party and its leader are always, whether explicitly or implicitly, telling voters the following:

  • This is who we are (who we seek to represent).
  • This is what we do (how we fight for you).
  • This is how we do it (our values).
  • This is where we are going (the sort of country we want).
  • This is how we’re going to get there (the practical steps we’ll take).

Changing the leader but keeping the rest unchanged/unchallenged is not enough. Labour voters rejected Corbyn and what he stood for because the latter was an essential part of his leadership and why it was rejected. Putting a pretty blonde in his place – without more – will not address voters’ concerns. For a party fond of ideology, Labour has in recent times seemed obsessed to the point of madness with personalities: any criticism seen as a personal attack on the leader, who must be protected at all costs, even if that meant closing one’s eyes and ears to what was happening.

Striking that in his speech after winning his constituency, Corbyn first launched into an attack on those journalists who tried to speak to him outside his home. His inconvenience was apparently of more importance than MPs losing their jobs or apologising for what had happened on his watch.

Wannabe leaders might usefully think how they would answer the above questions. Heretical as this may seem, the answers are not simply going to be found in their past, their jobs or their genetic inheritance.

The policies were popular

Would it be bad taste to say that after the worst defeat in 84 years, a defeat in which it went backwards in 98% of seats contested, it takes industrial quantities of chutzpah to claim this as evidence of popularity? Yes, it would. But it is entirely accurate.

Yes – individual policies are popular; that does not make the entire package so. Nor is popularity the only measure. Credibility as to execution and cost and whether these are the voters’ most important priorities matter too. Did the manifesto consist of (somewhat nostalgic) policies which mattered to the party (and its union backers) – nationalisation / reversing trade union legislation – rather than the voters it was seeking to attract?

Is a lack of free broadband what has been keeping voters up at night? When asking questions, the single most important thing to do is to really listen to the answers. Has Labour stopped listening because it has taken voters for granted? Or has it only been listening to those saying what it wants to hear?

It was all about Brexit

No it wasn’t. Not least because Labour was quite successful in talking about other issues, the NHS, for instance, which became by the end of the campaign as important as Brexit. An end to austerity was promised: but there was no analysis of where austerity had happened, how it was going to be addressed and paid for.  The money was apparently going to come from a few wicked tax-avoiding billionaires and other rich people. In reality, many of the cuts have been to local government budgets affecting areas like social care, topics Labour spoke little about.

It also finally admitted that pretty much everyone would have to pay more tax but got no credit for this admission, dragged out of it as from a recalcitrant witness. It then managed to find £58 billion from thin air to give to a small group of voters. (“For the few, paid for by the many“, as the manifesto did not say.) Curious that a party claiming to care about the poor thinks that those who have to watch every penny don’t care how governments finance their promises.

All the fault of the press

A well-worn delusion this. Politicians whining about the media are like sailors complaining about the sea, as someone once said. Yes – much of the MSM is not enamoured of Labour. Yes – newspaper owners tend to be very rich. So what? This is the age of social media, when newspaper circulation and readership is on the decline, when there are myriad ways of communicating ideas and plans. Self-pitying moans about smears, being attacked, being asked questions and challenged are the reactions of narcissistic cry-babies.

Being able to explain clearly and crisply what you are about; being able and willing to debate and argue and persuade (not simply assert) is basic political tradecraft. (The sheer inability of many quite experienced politicians to answer even a vaguely difficult question is astonishing. They would not survive even one mealtime in our household. What do they do all day?)

Closely allied to this is the belief that voters have been misled, whether by the press or by other parties, as if voters are too stupid to think for themselves. It does not take a degree to know when someone is sneering at or patronising you. For all the talk about wanting to help “their” voters, some Labour politicians give the impression that they do not much like the actual people they want to represent, that they are simply there to be the object of the politician’s virtue. (Those taking practical steps to help – Stella Creasy, for instance, over loan sharks – have been sidelined.)

A new leader won’t have Corbyn’s baggage

Well, that’s a low bar. But this won’t be enough, now. First, there is the EHRC report to get past. Second, there will need to be good answers as to why blind eyes were turned. Most important, getting rid of the mindset, the fertile swamp in which the Manichaean, conspiracist, “virtuous us” vs “wicked them“, anti-Semitic virus grew and flourished will need lots of hard work, not just speeches. It will need disciplinaries and expulsions. It will need the leader to reset the party’s moral compass, to teach its membership what is right – and wrong – and demonstrate it in all they do. It will need to be visible, focused, determined and prolonged. It will take a lot of the leader’s energy. It will be painful. And oh so necessary.

The one thing which all good leaders have is courage. Thatcher had it; so did Kinnock. Blair – at times. Cameron, too – over gay marriage. The courage to think the unthinkable; to apologise when necessary; to listen with humility when being given a difficult message; to ask tough questions; to speak hard truths – to oneself, to the party (Kinnock: “I’m telling you and you’ll listen” is all too pertinent today), to voters. It is not the same as rage and protest, however eloquently done.

Rather than tell itself comforting stories, Labour needs to have the courage to look at itself honestly if it wants to choose its next leader wisely.



Labour’s last chance?

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

You can only play with fire for so long before being burned

Labour is rather fortunate. Rather than looking on at a mere disaster, its members and supporters could have been witness to the electorate having smote the ruin of a once-great party unto the dust.

Despite Boris Johnson having led the Tories to their highest vote share since 1979 – and their sixth successive increase in share, the last three in government – there was surely the potential to have polled even more strongly had the Tory leader had the confidence and ability to face media and public scrutiny. Margaret Thatcher would not have ducked an Andrew Neil interview, never mind hidden in a fridge. Perhaps for Boris, those manoeuvres were the right tactical choices but sceptical voters can’t have been impressed.

But the Tories can only ever be rivals to the Labour Party; existential threats must come from the left-of-centre. Outside of Scotland and Wales, that means primarily the Lib Dems. Over the course of the election campaign, the Lib Dems lost more than a third of their support, mostly to Labour. The last five polls before the vote for the early election all put the Lib Dems in the 18-20% range and Labour between 21-26%. Had that campaign-period swing not taken place then not only would Labour’s losses would have been far, far worse but the Lib Dems would themselves have made solid gains – and that swing was not guaranteed.

In the event, Labour ran a sufficiently dynamic campaign, while avoiding public infighting, to be able to claim the mantle of being best-placed to oppose the Tories and Brexit. They also ended up being the more moderate Remain option, despite the logical difficulties of their policy and Corbyn’s own position. The Lib Dems would have been better, in retrospect, to have maintained their Second Referendum policy, putting – and backing – Remain against Johnson’s deal. But without a stronger, more heavyweight leader, the Lib Dems would probably have suffered whatever their policies.

What the election did show was just how weak the bonds between voters and their party now are, outside a few ultra-safe areas, and how rapidly they’ve dissolved. This problem isn’t unique to Labour of course – the Tories’ EP election result shows a similar breakdown on the right – but it was they who suffered the worse this time. And the Tory Party in 2019 once again showed its willingness and ability to dump a failing leader; Labour demonstrated their inclination to protect theirs.

Where does this leave Labour going into the next parliament? Well, on the one hand, it has a field of opportunity. Johnson’s ratings took a hit during the campaign but he was given the votes both to complete a task and to keep Corbyn out. Both tasks are likely to be complete within a year at most. Unless Labour elects a similarly extreme and incapable leader (which given the membership and current Labour front bench has to be a possibility), he will not find votes so easy to come by in 2024 – if indeed he is still Tory leader by then.

Indeed, the Tories, having undermined their own voting coalition of generations in order to build a new one round the transient issue of Brexit will find their own base decidedly wobbly unless they can firm up Brexit into a wider values-based alliance.

However, oppositions will only be given so long to challenge a government, especially one that hits trouble. The 2017-19 parliament showed the strains within Labour but memories of the 2017 election must have stayed some hands that now wish they’d acted. If Labour does elect a new leader in the old one’s image, they will be playing with fire.

David Herdson


LAB’s leadership rules will limit the number of nominees and could well ensure it’s an all-female battle

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Starmer looks a clear lay to me

Irrespective of what happens on Thursday, there will be some form of Labour leadership election soon. Tom Watson standing down as Deputy Leader (and MP) alone ensures that. If Corbyn does well enough to retain the leadership then the contest to be his deputy becomes a contest to be heir-apparent; if not, we get the full-blown leadership contest more-or-less straight away.

A few notes of caution first. The election may well not be immediately. If Johnson forms a new government but with a sufficiently slim majority (or with no majority at all), there’s a fair chance that Labour could try to disrupt the passage of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement further, which is best done if senior Shadow Cabinet members are not at each others’ throats.

Similarly, there’s a chance that the election could be delayed if Labour does form a government: holding the contest while trying to settle down into government, embark on a Brexit renegotiation and launch a radical domestic agenda is best not done concurrently with an internal contest – though it couldn’t be delayed indefinitely. The summer would be best.

However, while polls can be wrong and events can change opinion, as things stand, Labour will be remaining on the opposition benches. If so, current assumptions about how that election might play out are missing some crucial details.

When Labour changed the rules on nominations, lowering the threshold for candidates from 15% of MPs (and MEPs, if there still are any), to 10%, this was widely reported as a relaxing of the qualification. Yes and no. It will certainly make it easier for one – or maybe two – candidates to gain the required number of MPs’ signatures but that was not the only change made. In addition, in order to be validly nominated, a candidate must also receive:
– 5% or more of CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) i.e. 33+, or
– At least 3 affiliates, including at least 2 trade unions, comprising at least 5% of the affiliated membership.

These may not sound particularly onerous for serious candidates but they are. In 2015, both Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper would have failed the affiliates criterion (Kendall didn’t receive any; Cooper did but they fell short of the 5% threshold). Cooper would have gained ballot access on the CLP nominations but Kendall wouldn’t.

One thing the rule change does is put huge power in the hands of four unions – Unite, Unison, the GMB and Usdaw – each of which comfortably meets the 5% threshold: a threshold it’s almost impossible practically to reach without one of those four onside. True, their nominations don’t see a candidate directly onto the ballot paper but there are enough smaller unions and friendly societies that it ought to be possible to make the requirement.

What of the CLPs? Shouldn’t 5% be easily reachable for any credible candidate? Not necessarily. In 2016, with only two candidates on the paper, Owen Smith won the support of only 53 CLPs, representing 8.2%. Had the antu-Corbyn vote been split, it’s highly unlikely that any challenger could have gained the nominations.

Note also that the rules strongly imply that these CLP and affiliate nominations take place before close of nominations – in other words, members and unions won’t necessarily know the final line-up when they’re nominating and could well back candidates who subsequently withdraw (or be split by such candidates that they end up not nominating anyone).

So, what of the potential candidates? The current favourite is Sir Keir Starmer, though the odds of 9/2 rightly indicate how wide the field is. I wonder though. If Labour is elected, he surely can’t contest the Deputy Leader election while negotiating Labour’s revised deal within three months – which means he won’t have the machine or endorsements others will gain, nor the office.

But either way, would he even get the nominations? I’ve no doubt he would be fine among MPs but as far as I’m aware, he doesn’t have close links to any of the big four unions and while you’d think he should gain the CLP support, I have my doubts. To me, Starmer appears to lack both an ideology and passion. In any election, but particularly an internal party one, that can be fatal when his opponents will be clearly from the left and speaking to a left-biased membership.

Even if he does gain the nominations, if it takes much longer than the media expect, that will knock the momentum out of his campaign while handing over the front-runner baton to someone else. (That ‘someone else’ is very likely to be a woman. Given Labour is painfully aware that it’s now the only major party not to have had a female leader, male candidates will begin at a disadvantage anyway).

All of which is to say that I think he’s substantially over-priced. For value, I would look more to Angela Rayner (12/1, Ladbrokes / BetFred), who has been prominent in the campaign, Dawn Butler (50/1, Ladbrokes), who is a close Corbyn ally and a declared candidate for the Deputy Leadership. To my mind, Rebecca Long-Bailey should be favourite and her current best odds of 11/2 (SkyBet) are about right but at half those of Rayner, I don’t think she’s twice as likely to win.

Of course, we don’t yet know either the timetable for the election (it might start next week; it might not be until 2023 or even later), we don’t know the candidates and we don’t necessarily know the rules – they could be changed again, both if Corbyn does win but also if I understand them correctly, the NEC itself has the power to change them unilaterally.

But as certainty firms up, so value will tend to dissipate – hence why it’s a good time to scenario plan betting beyond Thursday.

David Herdson


Starmer starting to pull away in the Corbyn successor betting

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 chart of Betfair exchange

Given the proximity of the general election there’s increasing interest in the next LAB leader betting where Sir Keir Starmer favourite status is hardening up as seen in the chart. If LAB does lose, as the polls currently indicate, on December 12th and a LAB leadership contest starts soon afterwards then he looks as though he’s in a good starting position.

Assuming LAB gets defeated then this will be its fourth successive general election setback and my guess is that perceived electability rather than ideological positioning will be the key factor in choosing a successor.

Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions won’t thank me for describing him as a “new Blair” but he does look credible from an electoral standpoint and might be the choice to lead assuming that the party is in opposition once again.

He’d also be a formidable LOTO for Johnson to have to face each Wednesday and he’s shown his political prowess being part of the current LAB leadership though staying distinct from Corbyn.

His big problem is his gender giving the quite widespread desire within the movement for the next leader to be a woman.

Mike Smithson


We could be just 18 days away from the next LAB leadership contest

Monday, November 25th, 2019

The Friday afternoon’s following general elections almost always see at least one party leader stepping down. Given Corbyn has indicated that he will go if LAB register a fourth successive general election defeat then just 18 days from today a party leadership race could begin.

So far as the chart shows Rebecca Long-Bailey has now been pipped as the Betfair betting favourite by Keir Starmer but he’s rated by punters as having less than a 20% chance. Quite how this fits with the widespread assumption that the party establishment wants LAB to have its first female leader I don’t know. Certainly most of the top places in the betting a women.

Before the weekend TSE took out a longshot bet on Richard Burgon who increasingly during this election been getting a lot of media coverage. Maybe a male could make it by devising some convoluted promise to bring in a rule change of some sort that would mean the successor is a woman.

I have a small punt at 180/1 on the MP who has appeared in the Commons at  Corbyn’s side almost throughout his leadership, Dawn Butler.  She’s now at 32/1.

Although I don’t have any hot tips and find LAB difficult to read the general pattern with replacing leaders after failing in elections is to choose someone who is very different. Thus the Tories replaced TMay with ex-Mayor. That’s why I think Starmer could be in with a good chance.

Corbyn, who has faced three different Tory PMs, has appeared totally secure in the job in spite of his dreadful leader ratings.

Mike Smithson


It is possible Jeremy Corbyn really hates political bettors

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

If the polls are broadly correct we are potentially only a few weeks from the start of the next Labour leadership contest, for some of us we’ve been betting on the identity of Jeremy Corbyn’s successor for around fifty months so these are exciting times, however there is a potential spanner in the works.

As per the tweet above we could see two people replacing Jeremy Corbyn, the Huffington Post says

‘Jeremy Corbyn Could Be Succeeded By Co-Leaders If Labour Loses. Joint ticket would balance male-female, Leave-Remain, town-city base of the party. “The Greens make it work”…..Among those who could represent northern Leave areas are Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford), Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne), Laura Pidcock (Durham) Lisa Nandy (Wigan).

Possible contenders for the Remain-supporting big city half of the duo would include Keir Starmer, David Lammy, John McDonnell, Jonathan Ashworth, Dawn Butler and Emily Thornberry.’

Crucially this isn’t a fantasy but a real possibility as the Huffington Post says ‘No party rule change would be needed for the job-share.’

With Labour using the brilliant alternative vote system to elect their leaders, a system that is being widely adopted across the world by large margins, appealing to a large sections of the Labour electorate to finish in the top two makes the two leaders possible as well as equitable.

So if we have joint leaders then I can see the dead heat rules applying with the traditional bookies, I can also see the traditional bookies and the main Betfair market voiding the next Labour leader markets which will ruin the betting positions of so many if the co-leaders ideas becomes reality. Bet (or don’t bet) accordingly.


PS – Being Spartans is all the rage these days in British politics, the ERG famously christened themselves Spartans after they ensured the UK wouldn’t leave the EU in March, whilst Sparta was governed by co-rulers. All political parties most be hoping that in December’s election they don’t play the role of Sparta in the Battle of the Hot Gates.



The battle to succeed Corbyn could soon be upon us and Long-Bailey retains her favourite position in the betting

Friday, November 8th, 2019

This is a betting market that we have hardly paid any attention to because Corbyn has appeared so secure. Well he’s indicated that if LAB loses the election then he will step down so the chances are that the fight could start before Christmas.

Corbyn has been there from September 2015 and has faced three PMs.

We know that leading figures in the party have stated that the next LAB leader should be woman and as can be seen all but two of the top group in the betting are female.

Ar one stage Thornberry appeared to be the likely successor but she appears to have slipped from favour. Long-Bailey has retained her position in the betting for months but what that means in practice is hard to say.

A lot could depend on how contenders are judged to have performed in the general election campaign and it could be that other figures could emerge.

  • The chart above is based on the Betfair Exchange market.
  • Mike Smithson