Archive for the 'Labour' Category

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It is possible Jeremy Corbyn really hates political bettors

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSE

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

 



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LAB’s GE17 performance is misleading as a tactical voting guide because since then its reputation has been tainted by antisemitism

Friday, November 8th, 2019

There weren’t front pages like this before GE2017

So far the LAB GE19 campaign has been dominated by furious attacks like the one above from the Jewish Chronicle and nearly half a dozen candidates having to stand aside because they are on record as stated things that can be seen as anti semitic.

For the Labour party that is going into this election continues to be afflicted by impact of it and its leader’s actions on this form of racism. One thing’s for sure this isn’t going to go away before December 12th.

An area critical to the campaign where this looks set to impact is on tactical voting which Corbyn’s party is hoping to benefit from as it did last time as being the best option to impede Brexit. Then it ended with a GB vote share of 41%. The latest YouGov has that at 25% a whopping 16 points short of two and half years ago.

If you look over the polling in this parliament all was going well for Labour from June 2017 till February 2018. In that period it enjoyed leads in all or the majority of polls each month. Then came the Corbyn mural row which triggered off a raft of negative coverage on antisemitism which has continued.

This impacted on both the voting intention polls and the leader ratings for Corbyn which are now at a record low. Every single voting intention poll bar one since Johnson became PM has had CON leads

There’s a big fight currently going on between different sites on tactical voting – which party you should support in each constituency to give you best chance of defeating Johnson’s pro-Brexit Tories. One faction is keen to focus almost entirely on what happened at GE2017 when LAB was at its peak. The other factions focus on other more up to data which is less helpful to the red team.

The problem with the GE2017 baseline approach is that this wants to take you back two and a half years before the antisemitism issue emerged. The fact is that this has had a profound impact and it is harder to argue what happened in a particular seat on June 8th 2017 is relevant. Before the last general election the Jewish Chronicle wasn’t running front pages like the one above.

Mike Smithson




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If the latest YouGov is on the right lines the Tories are set to make gains from LAB in London

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

And terrible ratings for the LAB leader in his home city

London has for so long been such a stronghold for Labour that it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that on December 12th it might lose seats in the capital.

Certainly all the simple analysis ahead of the election being called was that the Tories would have to make gains in Labour’s northern heartlands in order to offset the likely losses in Scotland to the SNP and of course in London to the LDs. The idea that there was potential for Johnson’s party in the London itself wasn’t really discussed.

For just two and a half years ago at the last general election LAB chalked up a whopping 54.5% of the overall vote in London. According to today’s YouGov London poll that is now down to 39% leaving the red team vulnerable to seat losses to the Tories and the Lib Dems. The latter has moved according to the poll from 8.8% at the general election to 19% today which gives plenty of potential for LD gains from both the Tories and Labour.

But, of course, we are just starting the campaign which formally kicks off at midnight and during the following 5 weeks there could be a lot of movement as we saw in Theresa May’s General Election. But we cannot expect that will happen as a matter of course. Sometimes there’s very little movement during the campaign itself.

A lot for LAB rests on voters’ perceptions of Corbyn whose ratings are standing at record lows for any opposition leader since modern polling started. Could more media exposure to him with the broadcasting neutrality rules clicking in cause that to change? A lot could depend on it.

Mike Smithson




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Labour’s fan club is far too confident: 10 reasons why 2019 may not be 2017-part-2

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

A recovery for Corbyn is no foregone conclusion; it may get worse for Labour

This is not a prediction as such. There are plenty of counter-arguments to the points I’m about to make, some of which will almost certainly turn out to be true. It would be equally possible to write an article with 10 reasons why the Tory lead may well slide again. All the same, to keep things simple, let’s keep the focus on this side of the equation (not least because that provides a consistent baseline against which we can later argue).

That said, before the election began, there was a lot of chatter among Labour supporters that everything would be all right come election night, just as it turned out to be in 2017. Of course, Labour did lose that election, finishing well behind the Tories in seats and votes and – crucially – failing to form the government (which is the only true measure of who ‘won’). But they did gain seats, put on a very impressive number of votes on 2015, and eliminate the Tory majority.

Can Labour do it again? It is of course possible – so many things are – but here are ten reasons why they might well not:

1. Labour is polling really poorly: worse than 2017

It’s true that there’s a lot of variation among pollsters at the moment but one thing they all agree on is that Labour’s doing badly. They’ve not polled top-side of 30% with anyone since before the European elections, YouGov had them at 21% this week and five firms reported them at 24% or below during October. Six weeks out from the 2017 election, Labour’s worst score was 24% and in the month before, only two firms had them sub-25; by the end of the month, Labour was mainly in the high-20s. The relative position is about two points worse – and that 2017 performance was the worst for any main opposition party.

2. Corbyn is also record-breakingly unpopular

What is true of Labour’s vote share is mirrored in Corbyn’s personal rating. Corbyn set a new record for any Leader of the Opposition in Mori’s 40+ year series, recording a net satisfaction rating of -60 in September – and then repeated the feat in the October poll. At the same point prior to the 2017 poll, his equivalent rating was -35. Other pollsters asking similar questions tend to find only 15-21% positive support, though the negative (and hence, net) figure tends to depend on the question and the options offered. But even his best figure with any pollster since April is still worse than that -35 score from 2017. The tweet-thread, from @james_bowley gives an excellent overview of how Corbyn’s rating has declined over the last 30 months.

3. Johnson isn’t very popular either but he still has a sizeable lead

This is perhaps a case of having your cake and eating it but there’s method in there. At the time Theresa May called the 2017 election, her personal rating (again, using the Mori series) was +19. Johnson’s is currently +2, which is itself a major bounce from his September score of -18 and presumably a significant part of the recent increased Tory lead. What this means is that Johnson will find it harder to fall as far during the campaign in the way that May did – especially as much of his support is based on Brexit, from Leave voters and little is likely to change on that front. He may have a lower ceiling but his support is probably stronger – which means Johnson is likely to retain a sizeable lead on the leadership rating question unless Corbyn can very substantially improve his score.

4. The campaign is far more likely to be dominated by Brexit than 2017

Two and a half years ago, Brexit was a distant prospect; now, it’s clearly not. The lines are much clearer between the parties and the deadline much closer. Voters are likely to weigh the issue more heavily (and indeed, going by ‘issues’ polling, are doing so). While other issues will get an airing – and Labour is doing its best on that score – the Tories, Lib Dems and Brexit Party all have an interest on keeping as much focus as possible on the EU withdrawal question, and that’s a question which Labour’s answer to is badly defined and easy to mock.

5. The Tory campaign is likely to be far better than in 2017

The Tories’ effort in 2017 is widely regarded as the worst election campaign ever. I don’t remember Labour’s 1983 effort but whatever the absolute ranking, it was a shocker. The PM and party leader hid in a cupboard, the manifesto couldn’t have been better designed to upset many key Tory voters, there was no properly defined campaign hierarchy leading to confusion, contradiction and a campaign strategy that became hopelessly misaligned with reality. We can reasonably expect that Johnson and co will not repeat these mistakes.

6. Corbyn is not as good a campaigner as he’s given credit for

Jeremy Corbyn’s reputation as a campaigner is based on three elections: the 2015 and 2016 Labour leadership contests, and the 2017 general elections. In the first of these, he won heavily against the odds; in the second, he won at a canter; in the third, he led Labour back from the brink to near-victory. Except a lot of that didn’t have much to do with him.

The Labour leadership contests were fought with an extremely favourable electorate to the far left. That few people noticed this before the election started doesn’t change the fact. Corbyn also benefitted from particularly lacklustre opponents. Then, in 2016, he didn’t actually do all that well. Against a lightweight opponent (unlike 2015), he only put on 2%. Had the votes from the third- and fourth-placed candidates in 2015 been redistributed to enable a like-for-like comparison, chances are his share would have declined despite an even more favourable electorate. And then there was 2017 which, as noted, the Tories helpfully provided Corbyn with a ladder to climb out of the hole that he himself had dug. The best that can be said for him is that he has an assured confidence that his strategy is right and he tends not to panic – which is a good thing unless the strategy isn’t right.

7. The Lib Dems won’t be talking about gay sex for four weeks

You might not remember the Lib Dems’ 2017 election and chances are they won’t want you to. They went into the election with 8 MPs and a poll rating barely out of single figures, and were struggling for any media attention. What little they did achieve was wasted when the leader, Tim Farron, a committed Christian, failed to give a clear answer on the sinfulness of gay sex – which resulted both in the issue dogging him for the rest of the campaign and also crowding out what little other coverage his party might have gained.

2019 is unlikely to see any sort of repeat. The Lib Dems have been on a roll since the European elections, having gained a host of MPs through defections and having more than doubled their poll share. With a distinctive line on Brexit and a willingness to attack Labour as well as the Tories, Labour cannot assume a clear field on the left-of-centre.

8. Scottish and Welsh Labour are doing even worse than in 2017

Scottish Labour had a catastrophic 2015 election and recovered only slightly in 2017, gaining six seats for a total of 7. That was with 27% of the vote. The last five proper Scottish polls for Westminster (i.e. not counting sub-sections of GB-wide polls), all have Labour below 20% – worse even than in 2017. On those figures, Labour is set for losses again in Scotland.

Likewise Wales. For so long a Labour fiefdom, that dominance now seems broken. The last two Welsh polls have placed the Tories first; the last three have had Labour at 25% or below (compared with the 49% they polled in 2017). The saving grace in Wales is that unlike Scotland, the opposition is fragmented: there’ll be no wipeout on these figures. All the same, the polling is very ugly.

9. Labour is more internally divided than at any point under Corbyn

One feature of the Corbyn leadership has been how tight-knit the leadership group around him has been since 2015. Despite the hostility of the PLP, defections, and poor poll ratings and elections (the 2017GE is the only real success: the locals, by-elections and Euros have been consistently bad), the group closest to him – both elected and appointed – have covered his back. But recently, divisions have begun to open up with rumours of a rift with McDonnell, the sidelining of Karie Murphy, and the departure of Andrew Fisher. Parties struggling in elections tend to turn on themselves and while Labour avoided that in 2017, the scope for it this year seems higher should things not begin to pick up.

10. Labour’s front bench is weak

The election cannot be fronted by Corbyn alone. He needs to be supported by his colleagues and with two exceptions – McDonnell and Starmer – they are not very effective media performers. The likes of Burgon, Long-Bailey or Abbott already have reputations for being gaffe-prone or robotic in interviews and several others are similarly weak. The extent to which Tory divisions and failures during the last parliament weren’t capitalised on is as good a measure as any. But in an election the media – social and mainstream – will happily make a story of a cock-up, which lightens the tone from the grind of the predictable.

As I say, there are counter-arguments as to why the Tories might do badly or why Labour can overcome these weaknesses. All the same, as PB’s Kieran Pedley put it the other day, Labour seems like a team which having been 3-0 down in last year’s cup final and ended up losing only on penalties, is far too complacent about being 3-0 down again in this year’s match. Their strategy is now clear on how to recover: repeat 2017 but bigger and better; ignore Brexit, promise huge spending commitments and wage class war. It’s a very bold gamble to talk about what you want to talk about rather than the electorate’s priorities when the people already don’t much trust you. Maybe it will work but there are many reasons to think it won’t.

David Herdson



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Where the Cummings “People vs Parliament” plan might stumble: LAB voters significantly less concerned about Brexit

Monday, September 30th, 2019

How will this affect the campaign?

There seems to be little doubt that the Tories will take hits from the SNP and the Lib Dems in the coming General Election. On top of that there could be messy situations in seats where Tory MPs who have been sacked stand again under a different flag potentially splitting the blue vote.

If the Tories are to stay in the game and possibly win a majority then they need to take LAB seats something that proved particularly difficult at the last general election. TMay’s then party lost 28 seats to LAB but only gained six seats from them. It was the Scottish CON gains from the SNP that saved her bacon.

One of the challenges in what would be a Brexit dominated election is that LAB voters are less concerned about Brexit than those of other parties. This is shown in the above chart based on new Ashcroft polling data published at the weekend. Opinium’s poll for the Observer had broadly similar figures.

This is also in line with the large sample General Election day in June 2017. by Lord Ashcroft which sought to find out why people had voted as they did. A key question what was the main factor in determining people’s votes. This found 48% of CON ones named Brexit as the prime influencer whereas just 8% of Labour once said the same.

So just over 2 years ago CON voters were 6 times more likely to be concerned about Brexit than LAB ONES.

Labour might not be as vulnerable in its effort to retain seats in leave voting areas as might appear.

Mike Smithson


 



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Labour’s general election plan on Brexit- it looks as though the fudge will continue

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Surely a clear position is required?

As well as the side shows of the move against Watson that were pulled and the top Corbyn advisor who has quit the the big story about behind the secenes in Brighton appears to have been the policy, or non-policy, on Brexit.

We know where Johnson’s Tories stand and Swinson’s LDs but if you are looking for clarity from what is currently the official opposition then you are probably going to be disappointed.

Somewhat naively I was expecting that the impending general election would focus minds amongst the red team and that they’d come out for Remain while at the same time having a good bash against the Tories for their no deal threats and against the LDs for their revoke now without a new referendum plan.

So many GE2017 LAB voters, up a quarter according to the polling, have now switched to the LDs that that surely was going to provoke a response. You can’t go into elections without such a large slice of your support base.

Well it looks as though I’ll be wrong. As I write at 3.45pm the leadership’s plan is to go into the general election without having a view – something that pleases neither side.

What’s happening here, of course, is that Unite is using its considerable influence to quash any remainery.

Mike Smithson


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The hurricane on Labour’s horizon

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Labour can’t rely on election campaign miracles every time

As Labour gathers for its annual attempt to spread a veneer of forced goodwill over ruthless power-plays, rather like a Game of Thrones family Christmas, they ought to be asking a rather different introspective question than ‘how does Momentum increase its control?’. They should be asking ‘how do we get out of this disastrous polling position?’. They almost certainly won’t.

Because the truth is that Labour’s polling position – buttressed by real votes in real elections – is appalling. It’s easy for familiarity to breed complacency. With the polls having Labour’s share hovering around 25% on average since the European elections four months ago, these are numbers we’re now used to so rather than being shocked, we just accept them as the new normal.

The reality though is that the latest poll of each of the ten companies to have released results based on fieldwork carried out this month put Labour between 21% and 28% (inclusive). Even the best of these is slightly below what Labour polled in 1983, when their GB share was 28.3%; everything else would certainly be their worst result since 1918. As the two polling companies whose polling got closest to the actual result at the EP election (also the two companies least likely to be affected by false voter recall) give Labour 21% and 24% respectively, chances are the true share is at the bottom end of that range.

Put another way, these polls imply that Labour has lost almost half its vote – over six million voters – since the 2017 election.

It’s true that the Tories are also well down on their own 2017 share: the same ten polls put them in the 28-38 range with an average of 32 and shares from Mori/YouGov of 32-33. That’d be a decline of around 10%, equating to a quarter of their 2017 vote or around 3.5 million votes. That’s bad but in the context of a worse Labour decline, it’s still a net swing to the Blues.

These voting intention figures are backed up by other data. This month’s Mori leader satisfaction ratings saw Corbyn poll the worst-ever net rating for a Leader of the Opposition since the series began in 1977: -60. That’s around 30 points worse than Hague going into the 2001 election or Kinnock going into the 1987 one; it’s 15 points worse than Foot’s rating two months before the 1983 poll.

As this tweet notes, there’s a clear (but not always consistent) relationship between the gap in leader ratings and the eventual election result. Although we don’t yet have this month’s rating for Johnson, the most recent figure that we do have implies a very healthy Con majority.

If you prefer real votes we could equally take the local by-election results this week. Labour’s vote declined in all six. Or looking a little further back, Labour’s vote share suffered double-digit declines in the two summer Westminster by-elections (note that while Labour started in third in Brecon this year, when Blair was leading Labour back towards government, Labour put on vote share in similar by-elections such as Littleborough & Saddleworth or Perth & Kinross – being squeezed isn’t inevitable in such circumstances). Alternatively, we could look at the EP elections, where Labour finished third, with fewer votes than the Lib Dems – the first time that’d happened in a national poll since 1910; Labour failed to win a single constituency.

Of course, this might not matter. The election won’t be tomorrow; it might not be for months. Much could change between now and then. There will be an election campaign and Corbyn might perform another miracle to match the one from 2017 but it’s unlikely.

2017 has entered Labour mythology but the truth is that the cards fell perfectly for Corbyn. Having called the election on the issue of Brexit – where the Tories were reasonably strong at the time – Nick Timothy then sabotaged the Conservative campaign by producing a manifesto which was massively unpopular and which also had the effect of dragging the election debate onto domestic policy where Corbyn was far more comfortable. On top of which, Theresa May practically hid in a box for the duration, while Tim Farron wasted the Lib Dems’ media exposure by becoming embroiled in a bizarre controversy about Christianity and gay sex. They gave Corbyn a far clearer run than anyone expected, and made the most of it.

It would be optimistic in the extreme for Labour to expect such a favourable ride again (and of course, both Labour and Corbyn are more unpopular now than they were before the 2017 vote). Labour’s Brexit policy is confused and if the row over the Deputy Leadership is going to set the tone for Labour’s conference, chances are the divisions on Brexit policy won’t be healed. If so, the question of whether Labour is an ‘in’ or ‘out’ party will dog them throughout the campaign.

Labour could quite simply be sleepwalking into a catastrophe the like of which they cannot imagine. It’s easy for commentators to slip into the comfort zone, predicting small changes. Most elections do produce relatively small changes. However, the electorate is becoming ever more transactional and identifying less with parties, as this very good Prospect article explains and inertia only takes you so far. As happened in Scotland this decade or across the UK in the 1920s, change, when it comes, can come quickly and ruthlessly. No party has a right to the top table (Boris Johnson and co might want to take note there too, in passing).

This isn’t to say that Labour will suffer the kind of wipe-out that Scottish Labour did in 2015 (which actually just repeated what happened in 2011); not straight away anyway. But there is a whole dashboard of warning lights flashing. They should not be ignored.

David Herdson



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The coming Battle of Brighton could determine the fate of Brexit

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

If Labour sticks to its current fudge of a policy, No Deal is the likely outcome

Conferences don’t usually matter. These days, they’re mostly occasions when the party can try to sell itself and its policies to the media and the public – a glorified party political broadcast, if you like – while also acting as a bonding exercise for members of that party. It doesn’t always work out like that of course, but those are the primary aims.

For Labour and the Lib Dems, however, there is another purpose: to set policy. The Tories have – wisely, in my opinion – never gone in for allowing members to dictate to MPs what their policies should be: they’re the wrong people in the wrong place to be doing so. Usually, these policy positions don’t matter. Either they endorse what the leadership was going to do anyway, or the leadership can find a way round the inconveniences when there is disagreement, or the policy is a dead duck because the party isn’t in power, no-one’s paying attention and it can be rewritten or quietly dropped come the manifesto. This time however, one particular policy debate really will matter.

That assumes that we’ll get to conference season: there is the possibility that a general election called during the September session of parliament, either at Boris Johnson’s prompting or after a Vote of No Confidence, does away with the conferences. Personally, I doubt there’ll be such a poll, for plenty of reasons, from the risks involved for all sides, to the desire to kick the can where no appealing option presents itself now but might do so later. But while noting the possibility that they might be called off, let’s assume they’re not.

In that case, we can assume that there will be an almighty battle over Labour’s Brexit policy when they meet in Brighton.

By that point, the Lib Dems will have already had their conference, with Jo Swinson making her debut as party leader. Will she – or will Lib Dem activists – seek to go beyond their current policy and move towards an outright Revoke stance? It would certainly be consistent with ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ and be more justifiable in the context of either a new election or a forced choice between that and No Deal, both of which are entirely plausible scenarios for the next three months, never mind the next twelve.

If they do, that puts even more pressure on Labour but either way, the current policy fudge may well not be sustainable. You might argue that the policy isn’t a fudge; that since last year’s conference, Labour has redefined it to a point where it’s in favour of a second referendum at some point in the future after a Brexit renegotiation in pursuit of unicorns of its own, where it might support (or not) what it had agreed. Personally, I’m not sold on the clarity there.

However, what that policy does mean is that Labour remains – in theory at least – a Leave party. It also means that under a Labour government, the second referendum would almost certainly not be for at least another two years, to give time for the talks to succeed or be seen to irrevocably fail, and for the legislation to set up the referendum to pass.

Are Labour members happy to go into the coming election as a notionally Leave party – especially if the Lib Dems have defined themselves as unambiguously Remain? The answer, both from the evidence of last year’s conference and from the breaking ranks of even key leadership figures like John McDonnell (who’s said that he’d back Remain in a second referendum, whatever the other option/s), is ‘no’.

That fudge came about, however, for a reason – and not just because Corbyn and key allies and lieutenants of his see opportunities in Brexit to pursue more socialist and interventionist policies they believe aren’t possible within the EU. The Labour Leave vote was a real part of their coalition in 2017 – close to a third of their total came from Leavers – but that’s declined by at least half since then. Adopting an outright Remain stance probably means writing off any chance of winning those voters back. Cultural resistance might prevent many of them switching to the Tories but other options exist, most obviously Farage’s Brexit Party and simply abstaining.

Looking at the shorter term though, there’s another implication; probably an even more important one. It’s clear from the letters that have been flying about this month that there’s a lot of disagreement among the opposition as to what they strategy should be, never mind the tactics that should come out of that strategy. As long as that division exists, the government stands a very good chance of delivering Brexit – almost certainly a No Deal Brexit, for lack of alternatives – on October 31.

The simple fact is that the government cannot be stopped unless virtually all opposition MPs and some Tory rebels unite either consistently behind a plan, or on one or two one-off but extremely important votes, such as Votes of (No) Confidence. At present, there isn’t that unity – and one big reason that there’s not that unity of action is that there’s not a unity of purpose. How can there be when Labour is in principle a Leave party?

Certainly, there’s a near-consensus on the opposition benches (and a little beyond) to stop No Deal but that’s not something that may be possible in isolation. While there’s undoubtedly a majority in the Commons opposed to No Deal in principle, is there still a majority opposed to it if it comes with Corbyn as PM, or if it means Revoke, for example? That’s far less clear.

As long as Labour is committed to holding its own renegotiation to leave – even if the chances are that most members would then campaign to Remain – that may well of itself be enough to prevent the Commons forces opposed to the government coalescing around a viable strategy. In other words, the fate of Brexit may rest on the machinations of backroom deals in Labour’s compositing committees.

David Herdson