Archive for the 'Labour leadership' Category


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


Alastair Meeks reviews the next Labour leader betting

Sunday, November 4th, 2018


Whenever I want something sensational to read, I look at my Betfair account.  It’s not always sensationally good, but there’s always something to consider.  The markets I usually end up checking out are the long term ones: next Prime Minister, next Conservative leader and next Labour leader in particular.  These three markets have much in common and indeed overlap heavily: the next Prime Minister is likely to be one of Jeremy Corbyn, the next Conservative leader and the next Labour leader. 

One thing that they have in common is that they pay out rarely. I’m 50. In my lifetime, there have been nine changes of Prime Minister, seven changes of Conservative leader and eight changes of Labour leader. So, each of these markets pays out on average only every six or so years. Nor is it the case that the rate of change has increased much recently. In the last 25 years there have been four changes of Prime Minister, five changes of Conservative leader and four changes of Labour leader, a pay-out on average for each market every five to six years or so. 

You would never appreciate that from the political commentary, which thrives on a diet of stories about vulnerable leaders. I am pleased to say that leads a lot of political bettors astray. The temptation to back possible contenders who have had good weeks is hard to resist. The contenders you need to back are those whose good weeks coincide with the change of leadership. There is no particular reason to assume that these will be the same people unless you think a leadership contest is imminent. It usually isn’t.

I like a happy story, so I’m going to illustrate this with a market that has worked out really well for me, the next Labour leader market. Almost before Jeremy Corbyn was chosen as Labour leader, there was speculation about his position. And so a succession of possible replacements were mooted, backed into short prices, only to fall out of favour again. Often the prices were driven by sentiment rather than any rational consideration. With the party membership firmly dominated by the Corbynites it was far from clear how any of the much-touted right-wingers were ever going to get the job.

So in three years I have at various times laid Dan Jarvis, Hilary Benn, David Miliband, Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, Owen Smith, Keir Starmer and Clive Lewis at prices in single digits. The shortest priced of this octet is Keir Starmer who was last traded at 13.5. Three (Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith) were last traded at a three digit price. Angela Eagle was last matched at 920.

My point is not to boast about good bets (I am sure that many others did similarly and the strategy is neither particularly clever nor particularly original) but to point out that some apparently serious contenders can fall by the wayside with remarkable speed. There’s a reason why laying favourites is so often advised. It applies with especial force in long term markets such as these where early position is little or no guide to the eventual result of the race. Leadership markets are more like the keirin than the Tour de France.

Why are people put off doing this? There’s concern about tying up money over time. That is a valid concern but it can be overdone. If you lay a candidate at 8 with a stake of £700, you risk tying up that £700 for a return of just £100 for many years – and you might still lose your money. Might you not be better just putting the money in the bank? 

All that can happen. In practice, however, this week’s poster boy often becomes next month’s Norma Desmond and that £700 can usually be recouped for a fraction of £100 long before the race is run. Or, alternatively, you can lay the latest poster boy – you won’t be tying up any more money. If over time you get to lay eight candidates at 8 for £700 you will be up £100 if any of those eight win – and up £800 if anyone else does. And you can withdraw that original £700 back to your bank without further delay.

This is not a particularly dynamic strategy.  It requires a shift of mindset, however.  First, it requires you to move away from the idea that a leadership election is probably imminent.  History has shown that it probably isn’t. 

Next, you need to move away from the idea that you can spot the winner or even that you can spot the likely contenders – at any given point you should proceed in the absence of compelling evidence on the basis that a leadership election is years away.  If that’s right, the contenders are not just unknown but unknowable.  This is especially true of a party out of power.  In the last 25 years we have seen Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the opposition.  In each case they would not have been remotely considered plausible successors when their predecessor became leader. 

This is easier said than done. I blush to see some of my own past comments about possible Labour leadership candidates. No, I’m not going to link to them.  Take my word for it, it is all too easy to be overconfident that you can see ahead into the middle distance.

Next, you need to keep a clear head. Momentum (or Moggmentum) is of no use at all at the wrong time.  David Miliband, George Osborne and Boris Johnson have all at different times been seen as inevitable successors.  Standing against the crowd takes a certain strength of character: there will always be apparently good reasons why those candidates will be seen as so well-placed. Laying them when their star is shining brightly takes nerve.

Finally, you need to stay clearheaded if markets move in your direction. It is all too tempting to take notional profits before the rats get at them. But you are at least as likely to be doing the wrong thing. If you close a bet you are giving up on upside as well as protecting yourself against downside. Consider doing nothing in such circumstances. It is often the best action.

Oh, and the corollary that favourites in these markets are too short is that there are some longshots that are too long. If you back a few well-chosen candidates well into three figures you can reasonably hope that one or two of them will shorten sharply in the coming years. I have bet at very long odds on Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ed Miliband and Kate Osamor, among others. Some now look very silly. But Rebecca Long-Bailey is now the fourth favourite. The amount that I have taken by laying off my bets on her since she shortened has paid for all the rest put together and much more besides (and she would still be among my best winners).

This market has not stopped. On general principles there is much to be said for laying Emily Thornberry at 7 or so: she looks a very credible possibility right now but experience has shown that such contenders can be expected to fade. 

I believe that some figures on the Labour right, having been far too short for a long time, are now too long.  The Labour membership are looking for inspiring leadership rather than necessarily being unthinking hard leftists. A Labour right winger who could construct a positive message rather than snipe at the current leadership could easily win. Stella Creasy for example, will never win over Momentum supporters but she has the character, achievements and determination to win over the uncommitted. Rachel Reeves also cannot be discounted.

But it you want some real long shots, there are quite a few members of the shadow Cabinet that can be backed today in high three figures.  Some – Tony Lloyd, Valerie Vaz, Shami Chakrabati, Christina Rees, are available at 1000.  They are likely to have the time to prove themselves. Some will no doubt return to obscurity. But there has to be the possibility that one of them will catch the public’s attention.  Lesley Laird, who I backed at 1000 and is now at 520 is one who I am keeping an eye on in particular. Try covering a few of them. I have.

Alastair Meeks


Lessons from Labour’s conference for the Conservatives

Friday, September 28th, 2018


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!


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.


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.


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, posting under the username Tissue_Price. He stood for the Conservatives in Don Valley at the General Election last year.


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


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.