Archive for the 'Labour leadership' Category


Yvette Cooper moves into favourite slot as Corbyn’s successor

Friday, April 21st, 2017

But being the most capable within LAB not always an advantage especially if you are a woman

At PMQs on Wednesday there was no doubt about the best intervention from the opposition benches. It was from Yvette Cooper the former cabinet minister and contender in the leadership election after Labour’s defeat in 2015.

Her point, questioning the reasons for the election, was strong and Mrs May made heavy weather in her response as she is prone to do. It was this intervention that caused a surge in interest in Cooper’s prospects and now she is the betting favourite.

I rate her highly and do not hide the fact that I am very much an Yvette Cooper fan. Yet in the 2015 leadership race she was beaten into 3rd place by Andy Burnham.

But I’m not tempted to bet on her because one thing we know about Labour it that it will not make rational choices and women can often struggle.

Also we might be wrong to assume that Jeremy Corbyn will do the decent thing sometime on June 9th and announce that he’s quitting the job after Labour’s likely election defeat. He could go on and on because of the lack of an effective mechanism to depose a failing leader.

In any case her odds are not long enough given the many uncertainties ahead. There are also many other things to bet on at the moment.

Mike Smithson


Support for Corbyn is weakening among Labour members. Don’t assume a Corbynite replaces him.

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Corbyn is safe for now argues Keiran Pedley but with his popularity among Labour members falling and Brexit on the horizon he is unlikely to lead Labour into a General Election.

Those of you watching Peston yesterday will know that YouGov has a new poll of Labour members out courtesy of Ian Warren of Election Data. 1,096 Labour members were interviewed last week (27 Feb – 3 Mar) and here are some of the key numbers.

The first notable data finding was the one shared by Allegra Stratton on Peston yesterday, which showed Corbyn’s approval rating among Labour members taking a significant hit. The majority of members (54%) still approve of Corbyn’s leadership but this is down 18 points from February last year and more than one in three now disapprove (23% strongly).

Unsurprisingly, there is a sharp divide in opinion between pre Corbyn members (62% disapprove) and those joining since Corbyn became leader (68% approve). However, it is notable that Corbyn draws strong support from Labour women (61% approve), younger members (56% of 18-39s approve) and perhaps controversially, Labour Leave voters (71% approve). However, I note with interest that opinion in London in split (44% approve and 45% disapprove) and his strongest regional support comes from the Midlands / Wales (61%) which is likely netted together due to low sample size.

So some interesting data showing Corbyn’s support taking a hit and also where it comes from but what does it mean for Corbyn’s future as leader?

One finding that understandably got people a bit excited yesterday was the one above that asked whether or not Jeremy Corbyn should fight the next General Election as Labour leader. For the first time, less than half of Labour members say that he should (44%).  Another question (below) asked Labour members whether they would vote Corbyn again in a hypothetical leadership contest and it showed as many members saying they definitely wouldn’t as definitely would.

These figures will lead some to speculate that Corbyn’s days are numbered but I am not that excited by them. Whilst it is significant that Corbyn’s support has taken a hit there has been no great shift in the number that think he should stand down now (up just one point). What we seem to be seeing is a wavering in support rather than a consolidation against him. I suggest that this nuance is actually quite important.

Any move against Corbyn now would probably harden support again in favour of him. I would expect, for example, that a significant number of the 11% above that say they ‘probably wouldn’t vote for him but might’ would actually do so if he were challenged again. That would take Corbyn’s support to 63% which is pretty much in line with what he got versus Owen Smith last year.

This idea is only reinforced when we look at some hypothetical polling on different candidates. As part of the poll, YouGov asked respondents who they would consider voting for and who they would likely end up voting for with or without Corbyn on the ballot. A long list was put forward but I have chosen to focus on the frontrunners for simplicity. Before we delve too deeply into the numbers, I should acknowledge that this sort of poll question is difficult to interpret. It doesn’t reflect the reality of what a Labour leadership contest would look like but it does give us some sense of the viability of different candidates among Labour members.

So what to make of these results? The first thing to say is that if Corbyn is on the ballot he probably wins again right now for the reasons I mention above. Interestingly though, there does seem to be a pattern emerging of his ‘core’ support among Labour members being around 35-40%. 36% would definitely vote for him and 38% choose him in the above poll. However, the second thing to say is that if he isn’t on the ballot then things are wide open. Corbyn supporters don’t just go to McDonnell or someone else. We see this clearly if we look at the results with Corbyn not on the ballot but cut by levels of support for Corbyn. This helps us understand what a post Corbyn world might look like.

Two things strike me from these numbers. The first is that if we add up the ‘Corbyn candidates’ and ‘non Corbyn candidates’ (crude and subjective I know) the membership is pretty evenly split although the ‘swings’ lean towards ‘Corbyn candidates’. Perhaps the Labour membership is more committed to Jeremy Corbyn the man than ‘Corbynism’ itself? The second is how Clive Lewis, often touted as a successor, doesn’t really have a base in the membership. The ‘swing’ vote likes him a bit but committed supporters and opponents of Corbyn not so much. Factor in his lack of an obvious parliamentary base and you question how viable he really is. Emily Thornberry seems better placed to inherit the Corbyn mantle assuming McDonnell doesn’t stand whilst Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper and Keir Starmer all look like viable candidates from the party’s right. Cooper probably wouldn’t run again but her support in the PLP means you cannot discount her.

Don’t assume a Corbynite takes over. Brexit could be ‘Corbyn’s Iraq’

Looking at these numbers overall, Corbyn’s popularity among Labour members has clearly taken a hit but it is also clear that challenging him now would only reinforce his leadership. Whether that will still be true a year from now is less clear. As Brexit gathers pace we might expect his popularity to diminish further. Elsewhere in the poll, we find that 66% think Brexit is the most important issue facing the country, 53% think he has handled it badly so far and 68% of members would back a second referendum on EU membership. If Corbyn’s popularity falls further by next year and a genuine pro-European alternative candidate emerges then he could well be in trouble.

Of course the key questions are ‘who is that alternative’ and ‘in what circumstances does Corbyn go?’ Those are the million dollar questions and we cannot ‘know’ the answers. Nevertheless, my hunch is he won’t lead Labour into 2020 (members increasingly don’t expect him to) and Brexit will open the door for alternative leaders to emerge. Personally, I am still watching Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy but don’t be surprised if at some point in the future we see Chuka Umunna face Emily Thornberry in a leadership contest and Umunna wins. In reality though, Labour’s future will belong to whoever has the guts to seize it. With this weekend’s poll, we can begin to see how that future might not involve Jeremy Corbyn as leader or Corbynism at all.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley tweets about polling and public opinion at @keiranpedley and presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast. Listen to the latest episode on Copeland, Stoke and what makes a good Prime Minister below.


POLL ALERT: Labour has a ‘Corbyn problem’ and it’s not going away

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Two-thirds of voters think he’s the wrong person to lead Labour into a General Election

A new Polling Matters / Opinium survey, taken before the Copeland and Stoke by-elections, shows that voters think Corbyn is the wrong person to lead Labour into a General Election, with those considering voting Labour more likely to do so if he is replaced. Keiran Pedley explains.

In the latest of a series of surveys for the Polling Matters podcast, Opinium asked three questions of a nationally representative sample of 2,019 UK adults. The survey asked if people would consider voting Labour, if Jeremy Corbyn was the right person to lead Labour into a General Election and what impact replacing him might have on their likelihood to vote Labour.

The results make clear that voters have made their minds up about Jeremy Corbyn and it isn’t good news for Labour if he plans on leading them into the next General Election.

Our first question asked whether people would consider voting Labour and the results were filtered by likely voters. Political parties will often ask questions like this in their private polling as they seek to understand how they can appeal to voters beyond those currently committed to supporting them. This question serves two purposes in our analysis. Firstly, it gives us an indication of what Labour’s ‘floor’ might be and secondly it enables us to cut our subsequent questions not just by Labour voters but by degrees of support too. (Incidentally, I appreciate the idea that Labour’s ‘floor’ is 25% will be subject to debate but it feels credible. However, that’s for another day).

Our second question asked whether a range of party leaders were the right people to lead their respective parties into a General Election. Before we get into the analysis a few housekeeping things here. The above numbers are a slight variation on a tweet I posted a few days ago related to the same question. That tweet related to the total sample of 2,019 whereas the above focuses on voters only. There is little significant difference in the numbers but I am focusing on voters only here for consistency in this post.

Returning to the numbers themselves they are clearly dreadful for Labour. Two-thirds of likely voters say that Jeremy Corbyn is the wrong person to lead Labour into a General Election. The numbers for Theresa May are almost the opposite with 61% saying that she is the right person (including some 91% of Conservative voters). Perhaps most worrying for Labour on Corbyn’s numbers is that only 9% of voters indicate that they ‘don’t know’. This suggests, unlike for Paul Nuttall and Tim Farron, that voters have made their mind up about Corbyn and they are not impressed.

So these numbers are pretty dire overall but it’s when we cut them further that things get interesting. Here is the same question broken out by Labour voters overall, those definitely voting Labour and those considering doing so regardless of their current voting intention.

These numbers neatly summarise Labour’s problem. Those committed to voting Labour are broadly supportive of Corbyn (though hardly universally so) whereas those that would otherwise consider voting Labour think he is the wrong man for the job. These numbers suggest that Corbyn is a drag on the Labour ticket and that Labour will struggle to grow its voter base from where it is with Corbyn at the helm. Meanwhile, those that would consider voting Labour think that Theresa May is the right person to lead the Conservatives into a General Election by 58% to 35%.

Our final question asks voters to consider the potential impact of Corbyn being replaced on their likelihood to vote Labour. This is never an exact science and should very much be treated as a hypothetical. We shouldn’t start trying to extrapolate what sort of poll boost Labour might get by replacing Corbyn. Several variables would be at play there, not least who actually replaces him.

Nevertheless, there are two important lessons we can learn here. One is that 55% of voters say that Corbyn being replaced would make no difference to whether or not they would vote Labour. To an extent this shows how much trouble Labour is in and backs up Corbyn supporters that say Labour’s problems are bigger than one man. However, the key lesson here is the second one.  Those that would consider voting Labour say that Corbyn being placed would make them more likely to vote Labour by approximately a 3:1 margin. 43% say it would make them more likely and just 37% say no difference. This suggests that there is a body of centre-left opinion in the UK that would look again at Labour under new leadership. It is possibly this finding, more than any other in this post, that Labour supporters should consider most carefully of all when thinking about the party’s future.

Conclusion: Corbyn isn’t Labour’s only problem, but he is a problem

In post Brexit Britain Labour’s problems are bigger than simply who leads the party. It needs to hold together an increasingly fractured electoral coalition whilst dramatically increasing its current levels of support, all versus a popular incumbent Prime Minister. However, following the loss of Copeland last Thursday, it is clear that the party is going in the wrong direction. It is losing support rather than gaining it. Labour is going backwards.

The above numbers clearly show that Jeremy Corbyn is part of the problem. Two-thirds of voters think he is the wrong man to lead Labour into a General Election. Whilst support for Corbyn among committed Labour voters is reasonable (if hardly spectacular) it is clear that he is a liability among those that need to be won over. ‘Labour considerers’ think he is the wrong person for the job and indicate that they would be more likely to vote Labour if he was replaced by quite a margin. The solution is obvious. Labour needs new leadership. Whether it will get it (and when) is anybody’s guess.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran is the presenter of the PB/Polling Matters podcast and tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley.

ICYMI Listen to the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast below where Keiran interviews Margaret Thatcher’s authorised biographer Charles Moore about her legacy, whether she would have voted for Brexit and how Theresa May compares.


How Labour fights back; or dies

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017


Labour probably has one last chance to return to relevancy, writes Joff Wild. Who members choose as the party’s next leader will make or break it.

The death of social democracy in Europe, it turns out, has been greatly exaggerated. A look at opinion polls in three of the continent’s four G8 economies shows that the centre-left is competitive and could be governing by the end of the year.

That the Democrat party in Italy, the SPD in Germany and Emmanuel Macron in France have a genuine shot at power is especially notable because they are not the only option – all three face credible challenges from other parties and candidates further to the left. The same applies to PSOE in Spain, where opinion polls show that it and Podemos combined get the support of around 40% of the electorate (Podemos, currently and marginally the more popular, is now engaged in the kind of blood-letting the far left does better than anyone else, so it will be interesting to see how its polling does over the coming months).

In fact, the one big western European country where the left seems to be performing catastrophically badly is England. Here, the Labour party – unlike elsewhere in Europe, the only game in town – is polling at historically low levels and is stuck with a leader whose levels of unpopularity are unprecedented. The question now being asked by those who want a viable centre left alternative to the Tories is can that situation be reversed; or are we watching the slow death of Labour as a potential party of government?

It’s the leader, stupid

The lesson to be learned from France, Germany and Italy is that a lot of a party’s success depends on its leader. Of course, we know that applies in England – and the UK, more generally – too, but it is a truth that Labour has chosen to ignore since 2010. Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, even more so, could have been perfectly designed to put off the kind of floating voters in marginal English constituencies whose support a party needs in order to win elections.

If Labour is ever to come back, the next time members are given the chance to vote for a leader – and that looks likely to be next year, if not this – there are some character traits that they should be looking for.

First and foremost, Labour needs a leader who is not uncomfortable with the kind of harmless patriotism that most English people of all political persuasions are happy to indulge in – wincing in the presence of the Union Jack or the Cross of St George is a disastrous look.

Second, let’s have someone who is not from and based in London – Labour should have a Midlands or a Northern accent.

Third, and crucially, a new leader must be able to call on the most talented MPs in the party to fill the shadow front bench. The current Conservative cabinet is not exactly replete with superstars and a Labour team that includes the likes of Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Chris Leslie, Caroline Flint, Dan Jarvis, Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Liz Kendall, Jon Ashworth, Stella Creasey, Stephen Kinnock, Angela Eagle and even Ed Miliband would give it a run for its money. As important, of course, is that the voter-repellent likes of John McDonnell, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott and Corbyn himself would be hidden from view, just as they used to be.

The adage that it is governments which lose elections, rather than oppositions which win them, is an old one; but it has been around for so long because it is largely true. Looking ahead to the next three years, Theresa May and the Tories face a series of very difficult challenges. Up to now, she and they have had a clear run because they have faced no serious scrutiny. A new Labour leader, backed by a credible shadow cabinet, would change that – and probably very quickly.

With a Brexit deal to be done, the prospect of broken referendum promises to come, an unreliable and unpredictable US president installed in the White House, rising prices and further spending cuts on the way, there would be plenty for Labour to get its teeth into. It would be realistic to expect that a competently-led opposition would, at a minimum, be able to deny the Tories an overall majority in 2020. From where Labour is now that would be a significant advance and something on which to build.

Longer term, like all the major parties, Labour faces serious, complex issues around developing a post-Brexit world view which reflects the realities of a globalised economy that will be increasingly automated. Identity, immigration, tax, spending, housing, the NHS and social care, constitutional reform, and our relationship with the rest of the world will all have to come under the spotlight. Difficult questions will have to be asked, the public will have to be listened to, not lectured.

I believe that collectivism, redistribution and solidarity at home and abroad remain principles around which coherent, relevant policy can be built. We are all stronger when we work together to achieve common aims; when the weakest and most vulnerable are fully protected; when there is equality of opportunity for all; when the state stands as the guarantor of best-in-class services and basic living standards. But Labour has to accept that the solutions of the 20th century are not going to work in the 21st. The party will never be relevant while ensconced in its comfort zone.

With the right leader, I am confident that all the huge challenges Labour faces can be met. Whether members choose such a person when given the chance, though, is another question entirely. If they do, a positive future awaits. If they don’t, then the party is probably over.

Joff Wild

Joff Wild posts on Political Betting as SouthamObserver. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpaJW


Hilary Benn. The Peacemaker who should be the next Labour leader

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Leadership talk is in the air. Names are tossed into the ring, trampled on and tossed out again. I have a simple view. When you look at the enormous task of transforming Labour’s fortunes there is only one name worth considering.

So: sorry Yvette, Lisa, Angela, Liz, Seema, Chuka, Keir, Clive, Dan. I love you all and admire your various talents. But Hilary Benn is the only person capable of dragging Labour back into electoral contention.

There are lots of rising stars: the new Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, her predecessor Clive Lewis, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, former Shadow Climate Change Secretary Lisa Nandy, not forgetting Jess Phillips the chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour party who is the subject of a must-read interview in the Guardian  . They provide lots of reasons for being optimistic about the future. But it would be cruel in the extreme to pitch any of them into what is now the job from hell.

Indeed, Benn might take a bit of persuading. Labour’s plight, with the party in the mid twenties in the polls and its leader’s approval ratings trailing his Tory opposite number’s by 40 per cent, is worse than that facing Neil Kinnock in 1983. But the persuaders have a good line to pitch to Benn. It comes from his acclaimed Commons speech in December 2015 – “now is the time for us to do our bit”. That speech, calling for military action in Syria, is Benn’s standout qualification for the leadership.  It is also, of course, for many Labour members,  the biggest barrier to his election.

Parliamentary performances aren’t everything but nor are they insignificant. Theresa May is a pedestrian performer in the Commons. Her leaden-footed response to Jeremy Corbyn’s ambush over the Surrey sweetheart deal  was the Labour leader’s best PMQs to date. But it didn’t come out of the blue. She is often matched or bettered by him.

The Prime Minister would have even more to fear from Benn. As well as outclassing her in the Commons, he can match her for government experience — nine years as a minister from 2001 to 2010, seven of them in the Cabinet. It is inconceivable that she would retain that current 40 point lead in personal approval. And having an electable leader is the key to Labour’s to climb back to safer territory in the polls.

But could Hilary Benn be elected by a Labour membership that has produced two Corbyn landslides? After the Syria speech Benn was dubbed a warmonger and compared to Tony Blair on Iraq for daring to champion military action.

But in my view, too many in the party are trapped in a simple “Stop the War” mentality whereas building peace around the globe is a complex task. It is one that Benn thinks broadly and deeply about, as is clear from a speech he made as International Development Secretary in 2005. Most of the issues he addresses are still with us.

More generally, last year’s landslide stemmed as much from anger at the way MPs tried to remove Corbyn and dissatisfaction with Owen Smith as it did from an ideological shift in the electorate. An election without Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper would be wide open.

Will he stand down. The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush in his indispensable daily newsletter counsels caution.  He ssays “Corbyn would never voluntarily hand back control of the party to his opponents, so until there is a rule change(so that fewer MPs are needed to nominate a leadership contender), any talk that he has planned his retirement should be treated with extreme scepticism.”Corbyn himself insists he is going nowhere — but with unconscious irony he used the Trumpish phrase “fake news”, which is now taken as confirmation of whatever the president is trying to deny.

The current leadership speculation does seem to be based on something real. It stems from a twitter stream by Jennifer Williams, political editor of the Manchester Evening News. Based on three Shadow Cabinet sources. she reported that Corbyn, has “given a departure date to his close circle. Hence the frenzy … Third source agrees there’s definite manoeuvring. Expectation that Corbyn is going, not necessarily straight away, but going”

I have a single source saying the same thing. “Are we going to get a new leader before 2020?” I asked. “Yes”, came the reply. When and how was less clear. A member of Team Corbyn told me last week that “succession planning” was what any good business would do. I was intrigued to see the phrase pop up in the Sunday Times report of leaked focus group reports.

So, I am persuaded that one way or another we will get a new leader. There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn has raised his game since his re-election last September but electors have written him off. I see absolutely no chance of him bringing about the transformation needed. The only person who has any chance of doing that is the man who described himself as a “Benn but not a Bennite.”

Don Brind


Corbyn is going nowhere – for now

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Next year, not this, is the best bet for a change of Labour leader, argues Joff Wild

The good news for Jeremy Corbyn is that he is not the most unpopular politician in the UK. The bad news is that the two men who beat him to top spot are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. With the Labour leader being kept out of view from voters in Stoke and featuring prominently on Tory campaign literature in Copeland, and the party’s overall poll ratings continuing to slide on the back of the highly divisive and utterly pointless decision to three line whip Labour MPs through the lobbies in support of Tory Hard Brexit, it is no surprise that talk of Corbyn’s leadership is once again front page news. As TSE observed today, it’s becoming a question of when he goes, not whether.

Obviously, anyone who like me wants a decent opposition to the Tories, let alone a competitive Labour party electorally, will scream “the sooner the better”, but sadly things are not as simple as that. While Corbyn stepping down immediately would be wonderful, the chances are that he won’t. In fact, the awful truth is that while Theresa May gets on with negotiating the Brexit deal, for the next year or so at least it’s likely that facing her across the Commons floor will be the current Leader of the Opposition, hopeless, hapless and shorn of the last vestiges of whatever authority he might once have had. Thus, unfortunately for the UK, the only serious scrutiny the Prime Minister will need to worry about at this crucial time in the country’s history is that which comes from her own party. Here’s why.

At the next Labour party conference, being held in Brighton this autumn, a vote will be held about lowering the nomination threshold to become a candidate in any future leadership election. Entitled the McDonnell amendment – as it was originally suggested as a means for the shadow chancellor to succeed Corbyn – the proposal is that instead of being required to secure the support of 15% of MPs and MEPs (while they are still around), as is currently the case, a prospective candidate would only be required to secure 5%. Obviously, that would make it much easier for someone from the far left to get onto the ballot, paving a clear path for Corbyn to quit a job he so obviously hates in order to spend even more time making jam and tending his allotment.

Given that the only way for Labour to win and exercise power is to have more MPs than other parties and to be able to organise them effectively, the wisdom of a leader with just 5% support from those sitting behind him or her in the Commons is moot, to say the least. But let’s put that to one side; instead, let’s focus on whether the McDonnell amendment will pass. That is unlikely.

It is now clear that most of Corbyn’s support is derived from keyboard members who never go near a constituency Labour party (CLP). If you look at votes on appointments in which being physically present at a meeting is required – ie, almost all those outside the leader, deputy leader and CLP NEC members contests (which are online) – then moderates win most of the time. What this means is that MPs and Parliamentary candidates will continue to be primarily chosen by moderate members and that CLP delegations to conference are likely to be mostly made up of moderates.

If I am right on this, the McDonnell amendment will not pass. But I could be wrong. What is pretty much certain is that there is no way Corbyn will voluntarily stand down before the vote occurs.

If I have called it incorrectly and the proposal gets through, Corbyn’s resignation is unlikely to follow immediately, especially as he would be succeeded on an interim basis by Tom Watson, who is widely despised by Corbyn’s team. Instead, the far left will agree the candidate it wants to put up to take his place and Corbyn will say he will stand down once the election has taken place in 2018, so leaving Watson in limbo.

But if I am right and the McDonnell amendment fails, Corbyn and his comrades in arms have a big question to ask themselves: does he stay in place and lead Labour to catastrophe at the next general election, so destroying the far left inside Labour for a generation at least; or does he step down and let the soft left or even the centre take the can for a shellacking? I think there is a good case for believing that the far left may well seek to shift as much blame as possible to its Labour rivals for a 2020 defeat, as that may allow for a comeback in the following decade.

On the other hand, if Corbyn chooses to stay, the drift away from him among members is only likely to continue. As polls stay low and real results remain dire, we can expect a challenge after the local government elections in May 2018.

Of course, we could still get a change this year. All that it would take is for Len McCluskey (or Gerard Coyne, if there is a miracle in the Unite general secretary election) to call for a contest. That would then give licence to MPs to gather nominations without accusation of disloyalty. My sense is that we are well past peak-Corbyn and that if there were a union sanctioned challenge in 2017 he would lose. Of course, when he does go, he will take a lot of those keyboard members with him; that can only be good news for Labour and for the country as a whole.

Joff Wild

Joff Wild posts on Political Betting as SouthamObserver. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpaJW


As the Labour Party’s private research is leaked, there appears to be an inevitability about Corbyn departing before the general election

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

It feels like it is now a question of when Corbyn quits before the next general election, not if.

The Sunday Times have a copy of the Labour party’s internal research conducted by their pollsters BMG, it appears there is some succession planning taking place by Corbyn, with a focus group being undertaken on his potential preferred successors, John McDonnell, Angela Raynor, and Rebecca Long-Bailey.

A focus group conducted in Manchester last month found that voters think

  • Jeremy Corbyn is “boring”, appeared “fed up” and “looks like a scruffy school kid”
  • Angela Raynor “was judged to be “not likeable”, a “bit charity shop-looking” and “weird”, with one participant suggesting voters would not take her seriously.”
  • John McDonnell said  of him that “he looked “posh” and “confident”, others thought he looked “timid” and “nervous””
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey “emerged as the most credible figure with voters describing her as “passionate”, “genuine”, “sincere” and “very smart”, although some saw her as “aggressive” and “rough.””

As Ian Warren, the chap behind the Election Data twitter account, observed last night “If you’re running focus groups on your successor…….well, it’s indicative shall we say.” The focus grouping has been described as a routine event, but  one shadow minister said “They have been focus grouping who could replace him and gone for Becky — it is succession planning.”

The Sunday Times report that “This weekend one shadow cabinet ally suggested the “exhausted” leader would like to give up and “pass the Corbynite flame” to Long-Bailey or Rayner, but is carrying on from a sense of duty.”

All of this is bad news for those of us betting Corbyn doesn’t depart as leader in 2017/before the next general election. I suspect a peace deal between Corbyn and the Parliamentary Labour Party where Corbyn agrees to stand down if his favoured candidate gets on to the ballot paper will be the best way to get out of the pickle the Labour Party currently finds itself in. I think that peace deal will happen.


PS – This story should end any chance of Clive Lewis being next Labour leader, though some might see it as a hatchet job to stop someone who has been disloyal to Corbyn and or a real contender to be next Labour leader. I’m leaning towards the former.


The music stops. Who would grab the chair if Jeremy Corbyn steps down?

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Alastair Meeks on the next Labour leader betting market

From the start of his leadership of the Labour party, many Labour MPs struggled to contain their doubts about him.  Even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, Mike Gapes was quoted as saying: “I’ll show him as much loyalty as he showed other leaders.”  Within three months, nearly a third of his party including his own shadow Foreign Secretary were in mutiny against his preferred line on airstrikes on Syria.  By the following March, his team had categorised MPs into gradations of loyalty.  Only 19 were described as “core group”.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Labour’s Parliamentary party embarked on an extended chaotic attempted coup against its leader.  Despite securing the support of only 40 MPs in a confidence vote, Jeremy Corbyn refused to step down.  Owen Smith eventually secured the right to challenge him and was soundly rejected by the membership, who showed they remained loyal to their leader.  Since then, the Parliamentary Labour Party in opposition to Jeremy Corbyn has been kept muzzled and kennelled.

In recent weeks, however, the political manoeuvring against Jeremy Corbyn has entered a new phase.  Yet more frontbenchers resigned over the decision to vote in favour of a second reading of the Article 50 bill.  Clive Lewis and Diane Abbott, both rated Core Group members in March 2016, have both signalled their distance from their leader’s stance on Brexit, Clive Lewis actually resigning from the shadow Cabinet in order to oppose a third reading.  “Sources close to the leader” keep briefing that Jeremy Corbyn has privately agreed a departure date.  No matter how many public denials are issued, a cadaverine odour is hitting the nostrils.

So it is possible that the end might be coming very suddenly.  If so, we need to be prepared.  Who might then take over?

It’s time to look again at the rules of engagement.  At present, potential candidates must secure nominations from 15% of Labour’s MPs before being put forward to the membership.  So the winner will either be nominated without an opponent by the Parliamentary party or will be the MP who most appeals to the membership from among those who secure meaningful support from their Parliamentary colleagues.

This first stage is a vital component in determining the identity of the next Labour leader.  The difficulty that a Corbyn-approved candidate might have in meeting this test has been cited by some commentators as a reason why Jeremy Corbyn might still try to cling to power.  Conversely, two or three right of centre figures might easily clear this hurdle but could then struggle to win over the much more leftish membership.  If this is going to a contested election, the different wings of the Labour party are going to need to play this very carefully indeed.

The Parliamentary hurdle is particularly challenging for those from the left of the party.  Jeremy Corbyn only scrambled onto the ballot paper with loaned (and now regretted) nominations to broaden the debate.  If the leadership election takes place under the current rules, there is likely to be space for a maximum of one left-winger on the ballot paper.  Even that one is going to need to reach out to those on the centre left.  So if the successful candidate is to come from the left, he or she is either going to have the backing of the current leadership or move much further towards the centre.

This causes Clive Lewis in particular a fairly hefty problem if there’s a vacancy in the short term.  He isn’t likely to get the support of the existing leadership in the event of a succession – that seems to be devolving onto Rebecca Long-Bailey if the press speculation is correct – but he is seen as being very much a left-winger.  Where is he going to get his nominations from?  Until he solves this problem, he is emphatically a false favourite.  I’ve been laying him at odds below 5/1 on Betfair.  I’m very comfortable with this position at present.

Who is likely to make the ballot?  I expect the current leadership would manage to get its preferred successor on the ballot paper.  Since that currently seems to be Ms Long-Bailey, I’d have thought the current odds on Betfair of her at roughly 11/1 and those on Clive Lewis should be almost exactly reversed (disclosure, I backed Rebecca Long-Bailey at odds of up to 350/1 last October).

Once the choice reaches the membership, I’m far from convinced that they will choose the most left-wing candidate just because they chose Jeremy Corbyn. Learning from experience, they are likely to choose the candidate who can articulate a vision that inspires them, who has been loyal (or obviously principled) and who can command respect among the broadest possible range of their fellow Parliamentarians.  Sir Keir Starmer cannot be discounted but is a little bloodless.  Tom Watson is another possibility, though he may struggle to overcome the distrust of many Corbynites, even if they themselves were only a few cars behind on the road to Damascus.  Lisa Nandy and Dan Jarvis, for example, might also fit the bill.  And, of course, Rebecca Long-Bailey might find her voice.

Because of the make-up of the Parliamentary Labour Party, those on the right have more space to identify their chosen candidates.  Those on the left will need to decide whether they hang together or hang separately.  As the day on which a new leader seems to come ever closer, the list of conceivable replacements is shortening.  If you can’t work out how they get through the hoops, lay the possible candidates, don’t back them.

Alastair Meeks