Archive for the 'Labour' Category

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Labour joy and Tory gloom

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Don Brind reflects on the conference season

A few weeks ago I was helping a front bencher prepare for a TV appearance and we guessed that one of the questions might be “Do you agree with Laura Pidcock?” She is the newbie MP who declared she wouldn’t hang out with Tory women because she regards them as “enemy”.

The more emollient reply we came up with was: “There are some Tories I like. I just don’t want them running the country.”

For me a perfect example of this approach is former MP and whip, Michael Brown who I lunched with recently. He is great company but the Tory government he was part of – John Major’s – made a bit of a hash of ruling Britain.

With the help of some great talent spotting by veteran lobby correspondent Colin Brown, the ex-MP reinvented himself as the Independent’s parliamentary sketch writer. He still dines in Tory circles – with among others David Davis and Patrick McLoughlin– but he sounds like a journalist.

“I told the party chairman, the longer Theresa May hangs on in Downing Street the bigger Jeremy Corbyn’s majority will be.”

“Jeremy Corbyn will save the Tory party. Young people need to find out that Labour governments always make a mess of things.”

This familiar Tory belief that they are better than Labour at running the economy doesn’t square with the facts — as the public finance expert Professor Richard Murphy of City University, has shown.

Labour government’s are more prudent than Tory governments — Tories have been the biggest borrowers since the war  and that picture holds good if you run the numbers from 1979.

The Big Lie in British politics is the one peddled by George Osborne, with support from Nick Clegg, that the Labour government – rather than American banks — caused the crash of 2007/8. Equally mendacious is the Tory claim to have created a “strong and stable” economy. The claim rests solely only on the jobs numbers, which were subjected to a searching analysis  by Alastair Meeks of this parish a couple of weeks ago.

A genuinely strong economy would be producing rising livings standards and be capable of properly funding vital public services including health and education. That is manifestly not true after seven years under a Tory Chancellor.

The economy is shaky because there are fundamental weaknesses which the Conservatives have neglected including the productivity gap of around 30% with key competitors, a failure to invest enough in infrastructure and skills where the jobs of the future come from, a persistent deficit of around £100 billion a year in trade with the rest of the world and dangerously high household debt.

The question of how a Labour government will deal with the dismal inheritance from the Tories lurked behind the rapture of fans of Jeremy Corbyn in Brighton. They understandably took the chance to celebrate after standing by their man against sceptics like me.

The mood was extraordinary. I’ve seen nothing quite like it before and I’ve been conference-going since 1972.

Despite the buzz my judgement is that Corbyn’s “government in waiting” is not ready yet. I am, however, more sanguine than some other Corbyn sceptics inside and outside the party. I offer three bits of evidence for believing the party is moving in the right direction.
Firstly, I believe that Labour is developing an industrial strategy that will deal with both the opportunities and threats created by the digital revolution. An interesting meeting organised by Labour Business and Fujitsu was addressed by two of the smartest people on Corbyn’s front bench, Chi Onwurah and Liam Byrne. They are people to watch.

Digital is already pervasive across most industries and services and the impact on the future employment market will be huge. I was, therefore, encouraged that Corbyn and his Shadow Health Education Secretary cast their “cradle to the grave” national education service as a part of economic policy – vital to reskilling workers as new jobs are developed.

My third reason for optimism was a line in John McDonnell’s speech.

“And, yes, in 1997, after 18 years of Thatcherism, when whole industries and communities across our country had been destroyed by the Tories and our public services were on their knees, it was the Blair/Brown Government that recognised and delivered the scale of public investment that a 21st century society needed.

“We should never forget that we are part of that great Labour tradition and we should be so proud of it.”

Wow. Praise for New Labour from a Corbynista.

What I take from this is that McDonnell is rightly desperate to become Chancellor and to realise that ambition he’s willing to take lessons from wherever they come.

Don Brind



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Looking at conference rhetoric – the politics of fear and the politics of hope

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

A guest slot by CycleFree

It has become a truism that political campaigns based on fear are doomed to fail. Positive visions, hope and excitement are what we want, apparently. And there is some evidence to support this: Corbyn’s genuinely inspiring campaigning for what he has said and believed these last four (five?) decades, the increasingly desperate Remain campaign and, of course, May’s abysmal GE campaign, which wholly failed to explain why Corbyn’s choices and what they say about his character, judgment and, therefore, how he would govern would affect voters and in ways which resonated with them.

But is this entirely true? Labour’s campaigns have always stoked fears that the NHS will be destroyed if the Tories are in power. Leave’s campaign last year was based in very large part on fear of foreigners, specifically fear of Turks and young male migrants/refugees from unsavoury parts of the world. Corbyn would likely never have won as many middle class/middle aged voters as he did were it not for the latter’s fear that the Tories would take their homes and savings in old age if they fell ill, a fear skilfully exploited by Labour with the “dementia tax label. In both the latter cases, the campaign which won (the referendum or argument) was the one which best exploited people’s fears as well as presenting an appealing vision of a better way (No University Fees! Keep Your Home! Freedom from the EU!) however unachievable, superficial or lacking in detail that vision may have been or, in the case of Brexit, is now being shown as being.

And so to this week’s Labour conference. Forget the now inevitable argument about whether Labour is tackling anti-Semitism within its ranks (it isn’t and it won’t). Forget the ignorant insults aimed at a 96 year old man and his grandson (take a bow Emma Dent-Coad, MP for Kensington. That’s just what your Grenfell Towers constituents elected you for). Forget Shami making a fool of herself yet again suggesting laws one doesn’t like can be ignored. After all she is only following an earlier Baroness and Attorney-General who thought laws were only for others. Forget even Corbyn’s speech: undoubtedly well received in the hall and elsewhere.

No. The most significant thing said this week was McDonnell’s statement that the next Labour government would not be a traditional” Labour one. We would be well advised to take this statement seriously. Traditionally, Labour governments have all sought to reassure as well as be radical: reassure voters that the economy would be safe, if more fairly run, that taxes would only be on the rich, that public services would be nurtured and valued, reassure business that Labour would invest, reassure the markets that Labour would be a sensible custodian of the nation’s finances.

McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s primary aim is not to reassure, other than as a tactic. It is to change very radically Britain’s economic and political settlement. And the “run on the pound” and “war gaming” remarks are not an error. They are an indication that they intend seeing their measures through and taking whatever steps may be necessary to do so. The fact that these may be unprecedented or harmful or have unintended consequences or hurt those who have voted for them may count for little or nothing. So what might these measures be if, say, money starts flowing out of Britain the day after McDonnell gets made Chancellor? Capital controls? Temporary bank closures? Limits on how much people are allowed to take out? A tax on all savings held in banks in the UK above a certain limit? Conversion of savings into bonds or shares? Seizure of savings above a certain limit?

Alarmist? Improbable? Why? All these things happened to ordinary people in Cyprus a mere 5 years ago. Sure they happened as part of a bank bailout and were blessed by the EU and there were special circumstances: the fact that so much Russian and other “dirty” money was in Cyprus made it easier for some to justify. Still, if it happened there, it could happen here and justifications would be easy for Labour to construct. No-one loves the rich or the markets or bankers, especially if they are seen as obstructing an elected government. For the past 30 years or so, the assumption everywhere has been that you can’t or shouldn’t even try to buck the markets. But bucking the markets is exactly what Corbyn and McDonnell want to do. The Tories would do well not to underestimate both the breadth of Corbyn and McDonnell’s vision nor their determination.

If those opposed to this want to make the case for why it will be harmful, they need to start some war gaming of their own. They need to explain how such measures will affect ordinary voters now, not by reference to the 1970’s: not “the markets won’t wear it” or “remember Callaghan and the IMF” but “you won’t be able to pay for that foreign holiday or buy stuff from Amazon in Luxembourg” or 20% of the money Mum had put by for her care has been taken or “the money saved/to be given to us as a deposit for a home will be in shares you won’t be able to sell for years” or “Dad has to pay a wealth tax on his house out of his pension and can’t”. They need to start demolishing, forensically, item by item, those Labour proposals which won’t work – and only those – and they need to start making the case now.

Fear of losing what you have is a powerful motivator, as the reaction to the dementia tax showed. Fear of being made worse off is equally powerful, as the reaction to university fees and interest rates on the loans also showed. It is a key part of any effective campaign. It is not the only one, of course. It won’t necessarily win on its own. So we will have to wait and see for the Tory Conference whether the Tories are capable of attacking Labour intelligently or only each other and, more critically, whether they have any positive story to tell the country.

CycleFree



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It is a mistake to assume that LAB leave voters feel as strongly about Brexit as CON ones

Monday, August 28th, 2017

If it comes to the crunch LAB leavers see jobs as more important

With Labour apparently shifting its position on Brexit a notch or two there’s been a lot of interest about what Labour voters think particularly those who supported Leave at the referendum.

There is not that much polling about where we can see specifically how LAB Leavers view an issue compared with CON ones and those of other parties. One of surveys that had this split and is publicly available is from YouGov last month and is featured in the chart. Those who had voted for Leave were asked if they or one of their family losing their was a price worth paying for leaving the EU.

As can be seen by 47% to 31% CON leave voters told the pollster that this was a price worth paying. LAB voters, meanwhile, split 52% to 23% that it was not a price worth paying. This was the precise question wording:-

“Regardless of whether you think such an occurrence is likely, would you consider Brexit causing you or members of your family to lose their job to be a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the European Union?”

The CON voter figure is quite striking. That getting on for half feel so strongly about leaving the EU that they are prepared to countenance they or members of their family losing their jobs says a lot about their strength of feeling.

All this is important because in the weeks ahead TMay’s government is going to face the huge challenge of getting the “Great” Repeal Act through the Commons and the Lords and will require very skilled party management. Labour appears to be preparing the ground for a tough parliamentary battle.

Mike Smithson




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Well red, Alastair Meeks on Labour’s new MPs

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

One in five of Labour’s current MPs did not serve in the last Parliament.  With more than 50 new MPs, the new crop is going to make a big difference to Labour’s political balance.  So what does it look like?

As with the new Conservatives, many of the new Labour MPs have been assiduous in tidying up their online presence.  It’s only human to wonder what indiscretions lurk among the deleted tweets.  I expect we’ll find out in due course.  I expect that some of the new MPs on both sides of the house will find that it isn’t the crime but the cover-up that really causes damage.  Part of the damage that’s caused is that these MPs don’t stand out from the crowd.  If they’ve expressed forthright views in the past, it would be good to hear them.  Who knows, those views might find a ready audience.

There are five returning MPs: John Grogan, Chris Ruane, Tony Lloyd, David Drew and Chris Williamson.  Four out of these five are on the left of the party (John Grogan is the exception), and two are strong supporters of the Corbynite wing of the party.  Four out of these five have immediately been given jobs by Jeremy Corbyn (John Grogan is again the exception).

The new Labour MPs include plenty who come from the traditional routes of Labour power: Parliamentary and union apparatchiki, charity executives, public sector officialdom and a sprinkling of lawyers, teachers and health workers.  But this time there are several new MPs who have significant experience of running small businesses.  This is a departure for Labour and one that might provide an infusion of fresh thinking.  What’s missing?  As with the Conservatives, I can see no significant experience of science, nor any of engineering.  It seems like Britain is going to have to wing it when it comes to really technical stuff.

Nearly half the new intake are women, and it also includes the first turbanned Sikh MP, the first MP of fully Cypriot origin, at least two disabled MPs and at least four gay MPs.  For all the discussion about anti-Semitism in the Labour party, one of the new MPs is in the Jewish Labour movement.  At least two are very committed Christians.

There are two obvious tests for incoming Labour MPs: their attitudes to Brexit and their attitudes to Jeremy Corbyn.  For different reasons, quite a few seem reticent about expressing their views on both fronts.

The new Conservative MPs spanned a wide range of opinion on Brexit.  Not so for the new Labour MPs.  Only David Drew looks like a likely Leave voter.  A couple more seem pretty uninterested in the subject.  The rest were Remain supporters of varying degrees of intensity.  Many Leavers had hoped that Parliament would become much more evenly balanced between Leavers and Remainers after the election.  With no more than a quarter of the new intake originally supporting Leave, that hope has been dashed.

For now, most of the new Labour MPs look set to be quiescent on the subject.  They had their opportunity to make their feelings known when they were given the opportunity to vote on the Queen’s Speech amendment to seek to stay in the Single Market.  Only three took that opportunity.

Almost all the new Labour MPs seem enthusiastic about Jeremy Corbyn for now.  That was not always the case.  Some, like Paul Sweeney, called for him to stand down last year, but are now enthusiastically extolling his virtues – since he has immediately been appointed a shadow Scotland minister it seems that Jeremy Corbyn has a forgiving nature.  On my reading, just 9 or 10 could be called Corbynites and a further two or three seem to be Core Group Plus.  However, when you consider that only 40 of the Parliamentary Labour party supported Jeremy Corbyn last year and only 36 pledged their nomination for him in 2015 (with quite a few of those being loaned), that represents a considerable proportionate increase in his support as compared with the older part of the Parliamentary Labour party. 

I was surprised to see just how strongly many of the newbies had supported the outrageously-named Women Against State Pension Inequality.  This grouping of 50-something women, who contrary to their name wish to retain the preferential state pension terms (relative to men) that they were originally in line to receive, have succeeded in bagging the very active support of more than a fifth of the newcomers.  This should be an inspiration to any group with a grievance, no matter how misplaced – if such a ropey cause can enlist so much Parliamentary support, there’s hope for anyone.

Who should we watch out for?  Jeremy Corbyn is not afraid to promote new talent – in part this has been a necessity for him given the past refusal by old hands to serve under him.  And he has already promoted some brand new MPs into shadow positions.  The most senior is Lesley Laird, his shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.  He looks to have chosen well in this case.  She comes across as a highly capable pragmatist who hasn’t forgotten why she’s in politics.

He has also immediately promoted Afzal Khan, who has a long political pedigree in local and European politics.  Some of his past (and regretted) comments on Israel will not allay concerns among some about the direction the Labour party is taking on that subject but again he comes across as a pragmatist.

Anneliese Dodds has a special interest in tax justice which she has already pursued as an MEP.  It is no surprise to see her already appointed as a shadow treasury minister.

Ellie Reeves (sister of Rachel, wife of John Cryer) is already a very well-known figure on the Labour right.  She is immediately going to be the focus of attention, both friendly and unfriendly.

Laura Smith looks like a doer. She expresses herself clearly and simply, and seems like the type to roll her sleeves up and get on with things.  Ged Killen looks cut from the same cloth.  In a just world, they would be given the opportunity to show what they can do.

You can view a document on the Labour’s new intake by clicking here

Alastair Meeks




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The scale of LAB’s lead in the parliament’s first polls is unprecedented

Monday, June 26th, 2017


Wikipedia

Never before has main opposition party had such margins after an election

We have now had three voting polls since the general election and all of them, as can be seen in the table above, have shown clear leads for Labour.

This is highly unusual and almost unprecedented. Almost always the first polls after a general election see the winner doing better than it did in the voting on the day.

Thanks to Mark Pack’s excellent Pollbase place we can ascertain that there has only ever been one case before of the main opposition party beating the election winner in the early polls of a new parliament.

The exception could bring some cheer to the Tories because Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives struggled in the early days of her Parliament after her 1979 General Election win. Then Gallup and NOP recorded LAB leads of up to 1.5% in the first surveys and we all know that Mrs T went on to win a landslide four years later.

But 1.5% is nothing like the scale of the first three voting intention polls of this parliament which have seen gaps of 3-6%.

My reading is that Corbyn is still benefiting from the sheer shock of the June 8th result partly because most of the pollsters got it so wrong. If all of them had been producing numbers like Survation then my guess that the impact could have been less.

We move on this week to the vital vote on TMay’s Queen’s speech and what has actually been agreed with the DUP.

Mike Smithson




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From loser to leader – and beyond

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

After Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning general election vindication, he must now show real leadership by reaching out to all parts of the Labour party, argues Joff Wild

So, Jeremy Corbyn will be able to take a holiday in August. After spending the last two summers fighting Labour leadership elections, this year he can head off for a fortnight at a socialist poetry workshop in the sun safe in the knowledge that he stands triumphant and unassailable as leader of the party.

True, Corbyn has just led Labour to its third successive general election defeat, but whatever moderate naysayers might wish he has undoubtedly proved us wrong. His past record of associating with apologists for terrorism would be exposed and the electorate would recoil, we said; well, it was and his ratings went up. His economic policies would not stand up to scrutiny, we claimed; but Tory Garden Tax and income tax scares cut no ice. His Brexit stance would put off Remainers and Leavers alike, we warned; nope, voters on both sides had little problem with it. He would crack under the relentless pressure of a long campaign, we predicted; actually, unlike Mrs May, he gave every impression of having a really good time.

But it was not just that. During the election campaign, Corbyn showed that you can pitch policies from the left and get a hearing; while, crucially, he also demonstrated that you do not have to live in fear of the right wing press. Previous Labour leaders have focus-grouped policies to death, stage-managed their every appearance and carefully measured each word in order to avoid unhelpful coverage in the Mail, the Sun and the Express, but Corbyn just carried on regardless. He knew that the negative headlines and the character assassinations would happen whatever he did, so he did not bother kow-towing. There are, he understood, other ways to get to the people you want to address. How Ed Miliband must wish he had pursued the same strategy in 2015.

And there’s more. Although no detailed studies of the election will emerge for the while, when they do they are likely to show that Corbyn energised younger voters to turn out in a way that they have not done for many years. More importantly, though, he also grabbed a large proportion – if not a majority – of all working age voters. The Tories are reliant, more than ever, on the elderly to keep them ahead. Then there is Scotland, where Labour started to win again. After a long decline, the party’s vote increased and it gained seats, while becoming competitive in a number of others. That could be huge for future general elections. At least some of the credit for the revival must go to Kezia Dugdale and her Scottish Labour team, but there is no doubt that Corbyn was a powerful factor, too.

In short, Corbyn played a blinder. Against all expectations and despite a polling deficit of 20 points at the start of the campaign, Labour gained millions of supporters, its vote share went up and so did its number of MPs. Depriving the Tories of a majority has probably killed off the ridiculous threat to destroy the UK economy and the living standards of millions of people by walking away from the EU without a Brexit deal; while within months it is likely that the current prime minister will have departed the scene. By contrast, there will be no Labour leadership contest now until Corbyn decides to stand down.

But, here’s the rub: despite all of the above, Labour did lose. Mrs May’s mind-numbingly poor campaign and her utter mediocrity notwithstanding, the Tories won more votes than Labour and many more seats. If Labour ever wants to be in government again, it is vital the party does not forget this – especially as its next opponent is highly unlikely to be Mrs May.

Corbyn has demonstrated that being opposed to austerity is nothing to be afraid of. What is less certain, though, is whether Labour’s economic package was seen as sufficiently credible by enough voters in enough marginal constituencies. John McDonnell – who will undoubtedly remain the shadow chancellor – would be well advised to ponder on whether the state acting as a guarantor of high quality service provision at a reasonable price, rather than mass nationalisation, is the way forward for the Labour party in the 21st century.

For all her manifold faults, Mrs May has opened the way to having a sensible discussion about funding social care for the elderly – Labour should seize the opportunity. A return to Andy Burnham’s 2010 policy proposals, killed off by the Lansley/Osborne/Cameron Death Tax slur, is a possible way forward. A more enlightened approach to Corporation tax than a straight, across the board rise might also be worth a look; along with a rethink about where education spending priorities should lie. Labour must stand for redistribution and this can be radical in nature, but to get to a majority more voters have to be convinced that the sums add up and money will not just be frittered away.

As we have seen to such tragic effect, in a rapidly changing, highly connected world, threats can emerge from anywhere. Voters rightly want to be certain that their government will keep them as safe as possible. Corbyn’s past did not hurt him, but Labour still trails the Tories by a large margin on security and defence. Until that changes, the party will find it very hard to form a government. This is an area that definitely needs more thought and much greater work. It would also help greatly if Labour could embrace patriotism. It is not a bad or embarrassing thing; most people of all political persuasions are naturally patriotic about their country.

The last two years have seen Labour in a state of almost permanent civil war. A ceasefire was declared six weeks ago and look what happened. After showing all of us what a great campaigner he is, Jeremy Corbyn must now turn his hand to real leadership – something that he has struggled with up to now. Since he took charge, policy creation has been ad hoc, often contradictory and almost totally opaque – generally confined to a small group of close Corbyn advisers, many of whom hail from the Marxist left and have no strong affection for the wider Labour family. This needs to change.

There are many excellent MPs in all parts of the Labour party and they should now be used. If the leader can find it in himself to open up the policy-making process, to reach out to the soft left and moderates and to put together a shadow front bench of all the talents – one that includes not only the likes of McDonnell, Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner and Jon Ashworth, but also figures such as Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Dan Jarvis, Ed Miliband and Stella Creasy – then Labour will very quickly begin to look like a government-in-waiting.

For their part, Corbyn’s critics in the Parliamentary Labour party and the wider movement must now accept that the left has won the civil war and that he is here to stay. Jeremy Corbyn has definitively earned the right to set the party’s policy direction and to be its face to the world. With Theresa May emasculated and the Tories in seeming turmoil as the uncertainty of Brexit approaches, the UK needs a strong opposition. By reaching out to his opponents and showing magnanimity in victory, Jeremy Corbyn can give the country what it craves, so paving the way for Labour to assume power whenever the next general election is called. If he fails to do so, we may just find that 8th June 2017 marks the high point of Labour’s appeal to the electorate.   

Joff Wild

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




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A Labour view as the campaign draws to a close

Monday, June 5th, 2017

The prospect of a landslide’s now being averted

I was an eye witness to the last terror attack in London on March 24th. As walked into New Palace Yard at Westminster on that afternoon I heard one of the shots that killed Khalid Masood and saw him and his victim PC Keith Archer laying on the cobbles, before I was ushered indoors by security staff.
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The following day in the Commons I was impressed at the way both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn rose to the occasion the following day. Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition captured a mood of national determination not to be cowed by terrorism.

Fast forward to Sunday June 4th and here’s the Prime Minister, having allegedly suspended the Tory election campaign using the privilege of the Downing Street podium for what in part felt like a campaign speech about future measures to tackle terrorism.

The conclusion I draw is that she is rattled. She was getting her retaliation in first against the inevitable questions about the 20,000 cut in police numbers on her watch in the Home Office. Compared to that day in March Theresa May is a diminished figure.

As Mike Smithson tweeted For the first since she became Prime Minister  YouGov have come up with a negative rating for her. He observed that her Doing Well score dropped 7% to 42% while the Doing Badly climbed 7% to 49%.

Meanwhile, says PB’s supremo, Corbyn has enjoyed “one the most extraordinary turnarounds in leader ratings that I have ever seen.” Doing Badly has dropped 14% to 44% while Doing well is up 12% at 42%. The “dementia tax” debacle has raised questions the Prime Minister’s fitness for the job of negotiating Brexit, according to a quarter of pundits I quoted in last week’s post  , Phil Collins and Rachel Sylvester of the Times, The FT’s Janan Ganesh and the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson.

And Corbyn sought to exploit those doubts about May temperament and skills by emphasising that Brexit negotiations are a team sport. He gathered together Labour’s Brexit team together at an election rally in Essex . Alongside the leader were Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer, (who got an endorsement from the Independent the best person to negotiate Brexit), Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner – who has emerged as one of the stars of the Labour campaign.

Corbyn said: “ On June 19, Labour will be ready: ready to negotiate a Brexit for the many and not for the few … ready to deliver a deal that gives British businesses and society a chance to thrive”. In my humble opinion, as they say, that Labour Team is more than a match for the bluster and wishful thinking of their Tory counterparts May, Davis, Fox and Johnson.

Much as I’d like to see it, however, I’m not expecting Starmer et al to be on the plane to Brussels. The polls still point to a May majority but maybe one short of the landslide she hoped for.

May’s desire for a landslide had nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with being able to crush Tory dissidents. They forced her to back down over the national insurance increase for the self employed, they oppose grammar schools, they are queasy about school cuts and they oppose her hard Brexit approach.

There is now a realistic chance of averting the landslide and making it possible for brave Tories to combine with Labour and others at Westminster to pull the country back from the damage of a hard Brexit.

Don Brind



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It’s the economy, stupid. And Team Corbyn aren’t stupid.

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Don Brind on final phase of the LAB campaign

It may all end in tears but for now the diverse team of Corbyn fans and old media sweats who make the Leader of the Opposition comms team can pride themselves on helping the party and their leader to narrow the yawning gap in the polls since Theresa May called the snap election the best part of a month ago.

Because they are smart I expect them to make a decisive switch to highlight economy and business in the last ten days of the campaign. And they have plenty of ammunition to fire.

British families will be getting poorer over the next few years as incomes fail to keep pace with inflation.  Only Greeks, Italians and Austrians have a bleaker outlook according to the OECD.  At the same time the NHS will be in a state of unending crisis caused by underfunding and schools will be cutting teachers and increasing class sizes because of budget cuts. Nothing in the Tory manifesto offers to changes that.

These key facts give the lie to Conservative claims to have created a “strong economy”. The claim is pure fiction. The reality is that after seven years with the Tories in charge the British economy is weak and shaky.

According to OBR forecasts we are in the middle of a catastrophic decade for earnings says Torsten Bell Director of the Resolution Foundation and formerly Ed Miliband’s policy chief. It’s the worst squeeze in over two centuries.   “History teaches us two things, says Bell. “First, that Prime Ministers do not normally choose elections at times like this, and second that when an election happens anyway, the incumbent government gets a kicking rather than the increased majority the current polls imply.”

Against that back drop of Tory failure I expect Labour to highlight how the plans to get the economy growing through investment in infrastructure and skills is the way to create prosperity and security for British families.

Labour have also to decide shortly who to send along to the BBC TV  debate on Wednesday where Theresa May ’s stand-in will be Home Secretary Amber Rudd. For me there is no contest about who should stand at the Labour podium in the 7-way debate. It should be Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary who has been spearheading Labour campaign against school budget cuts. She is a gutsy performer who will be well able to expose the shaky economy and what she calls the “weak and wobbly” Prime Minister.

It’s not just Labour who think May has failed to live up to her self-styled “strong and stable” leadership. The “dementia tax” debacle has raised questions the Prime Minister’s fitness for the job of negotiating Brexit, according to a quartet of pundits whose columns will have made for unpleasant reading in CCHQ — Phil Collins and Rachel Sylvester of the Times, The FT’s Janan Ganesh  and the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson .

Collins says her replies on social care were “ weak and untruthful and Mrs May was exposed as not being quite the woman advertised. She has been rumbled as not very good and there is no turning back from that.

Sylvester “the debacle reveals the shortcomings of the prime minister’s controlling and occasionally paranoid approach to power .. it does not bode well difficult Brexit negotiations that will require flexibility and empathy as well as determination.”

Ganesh “The complex work of EU exit starts in June … the question is no longer what this government stands for but whether it is any good. Or at least whether it is good enough, given the work ahead.”

Nelson “Her shambolic U-turn over the so-called ‘dementia tax’ has given everyone cause to doubt whether she is as ‘strong and stable’ as she says she is. In fact, she can look indecisive and a bit dozy.”

Nelson’s article is headlined “Could Theresa May blow this election? The answer is probably not according to the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.He reckons the Tory’s falling poll lead is believable – but May still has her “purple fire wall” — the 2015 Ukip voters who switched to the Tories in this year’s local elections.

May is undoubtedly having a bad campaign but unless the ex-Kippers desert her, Labour supporters can expect that watching the TV exit poll on June 8th is likely to be every bit as painful as it was in 2015.

Don Brind