Archive for the 'Labour' Category

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Three new Scotland polls find Corbyn’s LAB struggling to recover

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

The first public surveys since Corbyn’s August Scottish initiative

It might be recalled that in August Corbyn had an extended visit to Scotland with the aim of revitalising the party where it used to be so dominant. Over the past few days we have seen the first published polling since that move

Ahead of the SNP conference which is currently going on there have been three new Scotland-only polls – the first since July. All show LAB still in third place north of the border the part of the UK where they were totally dominant. This all changed, of course, the post September 2014 SNP surge following the IndyRef.

In the past two general election the 59 Scottish seats have seen far more turbulence than just about anywhere else in the UK. At GE2015 Scottish LAB went from the 41 seats to just a single MP. There was something of a recovery at GE2017 when the Scottish total move to 7.

    If Labour is to get anywhere near winning most seats at the next general election it has to regain ground in Scotland and given it had so many seats were not so long ago the potential must be there

These are the latest three polls:

Survation Oct 2nd for Sunday Post
CON 26%
LAB 24%
SNP 41%
LD 7%

Panelbase Oct 4th for S Times
CON 27%
LAB 26%
SNP 38%
LD 6%

Survation Oct 5th for SNP
CON 28%
LAB 26%
SNP 37%
LD 6%

At GE2017 the shares were SNP 36.9%, CON 28.6, LAB 27.1, LD 6.8%.

Mike Smithson




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Lessons from Labour’s conference for the Conservatives

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Leadership

Labour have, on balance, had a good conference, which should of course worry Conservatives like myself. Their leadership is now in full ascendancy – indeed many of the Corbynsceptic PLP stayed away.

Brexit was largely elided (of which more later), so the actual splits in evidence were merely between different degrees of Corbynism. On reselection, Momentum butted heads with the unions and came off slightly worse, for now. (Watch that space…)

And Corbyn himself is now much improved as a speaker – the first half of his speech was delivered very well, though he lost some energy during the second part. That all adds to the perception that he really could be Prime Minister one day, as does all the talk of a General Election.

The lesson here is simply that unity sells well. Now this might be a little time coming for the Conservatives, but putting on a show at our own conference wouldn’t hurt!

Ideas

Freed from the drudgery of actually negotiating a Brexit, Labour have been full of ideas, the most eyecatching of which was the proposal to force companies to give 10% of their equity to their workers, and then cap the dividends from that to only £500, with the rest going to the government as tax (sorry, “social dividend”).

To my mind this is the epitome of what’s wrong with Labour’s policymaking: it’s superficially attractive but it ignores all the situations where it can’t apply (e.g. foreign & private companies) and the knock-on effects it could have (e.g. de-listing, moving abroad, buybacks rather than dividends, reduction in startup investment). Most of all it also ignores the fact that private sector wages are usually determined in a free-market process and an anticipated £500pa bonus will simply ultimately come off the headline wage.

Labour’s wishlist of ideas is also hugely expensive and not properly costed. It might be a good idea to highlight this next time.

But these ideas are popular. Allister Heath’s headline in the Telegraph is spot on – “the terrifying truth is that Middle England is falling for Corbynomics”. We need to fight back with ideas of our own.

The next General Election

I don’t expect a General Election any time soon, but Labour are clearly planning for one whenever it comes. Their slick PPB shows that the leadership get it – the battleground seats will be predominately small towns.

A lot of the thinking behind this focus has been driven by the new think-tank the Centre for Towns, set up by Ian Warren (@electiondata on Twitter), Lisa Nandy MP and political science professor Will Jennings. The data and mapping on their site is excellent and there is plenty of food for thought for Conservatives there too.

However Labour’s PPB is ultimately a romantic call to turn back the clock (did anyone spot the pit head?) and – as Robert Smithson’s video shows – that ain’t happening. And in the age of the internet, High Streets won’t be coming back in the same form.

Populism

Corbyn and McDonnell’s left-wing populism explains why Labour has managed to dodge the pan-European crisis in social democracy: it is no longer a social democratic party (though it still has many MPs answering to that description).

Matthew Goodwin’s recent article on that crisis references YouGov’s July polling on issues that “most Britons feel unrepresented on”. The top 5 issues were as follows:

  1. The justice system not harsh enough
  2. Immigration restrictions should be tighter
  3. Britain should not militarily intervene in other countries
  4. Government should regulate big business more
  5. The benefits system is too generous

This – not a metropolitan anti-Brexit project – is the space YouGov identified for a hypothetical new party. Under FPTP it is more likely to be filled by shifts within our system.

Obviously neither party would wish to swallow these polling findings wholesale, but the key to a majority is to take this “unrepresented” group seriously. Goodwin hypothesises that the unexpected General Election result was as a consequence of Labour hitting some of these themes while the Conservatives missed them:

“Indeed, I have no doubt that one reason why Jeremy Corbyn did not suffer more working-class losses at the 2017 general election is precisely because he preached economic interventionism while at least recognising the need to respect the Brexit vote and reform freedom of movement. Had Corbyn instead called, à la Blair, to reverse the vote while making the case for open borders, then the result would likely have been very different, just as it would had Prime Minister May followed up her promise to tackle burning injustices with concrete action and a competent campaign.”

The answer here for the Conservatives is to blend our principles and understanding of what works with a recognition that competition and markets aren’t necessarily the same thing.

This doesn’t have to mean economic protectionism, but rather a focus on the consumer. For example, it’s easy to see from free-market principles that supermarket competition drives prices down – it only takes a few switched-on people to move to Aldi or Lidl to drive prices down everywhere, and for everyone.

But same isn’t true for energy markets or telephone contracts. The vast majority of the benefit of competition – and there has been plenty – is captured by the engaged: those willing and able to compare and switch whenever they can. Contracts are fundamentally different to purchases and our government needs to recognise that. Auto-switching and/or internal auctions, not caps, can be the answer.

And, to refer again to Robert’s video, jobs are a harder problem: in the information age people’s value to their company is more explicit than ever, which means the traditional career model isn’t coming back. The answer here has to be in education and training; a tighter immigration policy post-Brexit ought to increase investment in domestic training.

Brexit

The focus on the next election, and on those Leave-voting small towns, is why Labour are being so circumspect on Brexit, despite the wishes of Andrew Adonis, David Lammy, Keir Starmer and much of their membership. Adding another 3,000 votes to Keir’s majority in Holborn will not be much use if they can’t gain back Mansfield or defend Dudley.

There’s not that much value in me opining what the final deal will be, though I still think it’s likely that there will be one, probably fudged somewhere between Chequers and Canada. I wouldn’t be sitting too comfortably if I were the DUP – since the deal is quite likely to need some cross-party backing (or abstention) anyway, what’s finding another 10 votes?

The fact that negotiations have been difficult was always to be expected – in fact I’m a little surprised to have got this far without stronger rows or walkouts. The working of Article 50 has clearly favoured the EU, as it was always intended to: we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of months.

A deal is important for the country but also for my Party. The radical nature of Brexit is a challenge to our traditional USP of, well, conservatism, and John McDonnell is clearly hoping that one radical shift may induce another. We therefore need to deliver a measure of continuity as we Leave.

The overall lesson for the Conservatives from Labour’s conference, and the themes they are espousing, is that the technical fact of our exit needs to be the start of a national renewal. GE2017 and Brexit have consumed May’s premiership, but we shouldn’t forget how popular her initial pitch was. The challenge is to deliver that whilst staying true to our party’s principles. Otherwise we risk delivering the country into the hands of the most left-wing Labour Party in living memory.

Aaron Bell

Aaron works in the betting industry and is a long-standing contributor to politicalbetting.com, posting under the username Tissue_Price. He stood for the Conservatives in Don Valley at the General Election last year.




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How the Labour conference reacted when Sir Keir Starmer said Remain should be an option in any public vote

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Mike Smithson




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While the nation faces huge and historic issues over Brexit Labour gathers in Liverpool to talk about itself

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Today’s Times column by Phillip Collins hits the nail on the head about Labour and its current state.

“..The issues of the hour are historic. Are any of the half-formed answers to the Irish border question at all practicable? Will the strong desire of the European Union 27 to agree a deal quieten the opposition to Mrs May’s besieged plans? Is it really worth risking exit without a deal for the distant and unlikely prize of winning a second referendum? Is there not a danger that thwarting the first referendum would result in civil disobedience? Is that not a democratic outrage? Never mind all of that. Let’s talk about the contemporary criterion for conference motions.

The Labour Party has decided it need not pay attention to the historic turn of events…The Labour leadership isn’t interested in Europe. All it has ever wanted is to take back control of the Labour Party. Which is what the Labour conference will essentially be about. All conversations in the party since Tony Blair left office have been, in one way or another, about which faction is the rightful owner of the party heritage…”

Meanwhile this from the latest polling ought to be worrying the red team.

Mike Smithson




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There will be no second referendum whether Labour backs it or not

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Indeed, Labour best hope is to push for one – but to fail

Brexit is not unlike Hurricane Florence. A huge amount of energy is being expended, mostly to destructive effect, dumping a load of output which is flooding out a great deal else, while not going anywhere fast.

And just as Florence attracts storm-chasers, Brexit attracts any number of other eccentrics, on all sides, either to participate in the main thing or to chase rainbows. One such rainbow is the fabled second referendum (I reject the phrase ‘People’s Vote’, which is nothing more than a euphemism for a referendum and we’ve already had one of those; it’s particularly dangerously misleading in the singular). Almost since Remain lost the first vote, some Referendum Deniers have been agitating for a second shot but with Labour possibly about to back that call, we should think carefully about what such a change in policy would mean, both in terms of likely success and on how it’d affect politics more generally.

On the question of success, the answer is that it’s very low. Ladbrokes are quoting 9/4 on another referendum before the end of 2019. I think that’s far too short: the odds should be about 8/1. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult for an opposition to force a government to do something it really doesn’t want to do.

A referendum can only happen if the government wants one. Each needs its own legislation to compel councils to run the polling stations, postal votes and so on. Perhaps in theory the government could run it centrally by post but such a ballot would suffer credibility issues, could be subject to boycotts, and the result lack legitimacy if the outcome was close, as seems likely for any Leave/Remain option. So voting would have to be done the normal way, which means an Act of Parliament – and that only happens if the government drafts and introduces the Bill, and makes time for it.

Before we get a Bill though, there needs to be some consensus on what the question to be put is (or questions are). Is it a re-run of Leave/Remain, is it Deal / No Deal (assuming there is a deal), or is it a three-way choice. If the full options of Remain / Deal / No Deal are on offer, is the vote by AV or are there two questions (and if the latter, what question is put first)? Without that consensus, any campaign would suffer from too much infighting and too many divisions to effectively apply pressure to the government.

Also, there would need to be some thought as to what happens after the vote. So far, the discussion has barely progressed beyond “Brexit is awful, we must have a second vote to get us out of it”, which does at least give an answer to the “what question” question – though not one to interest a government currently negotiating Brexit – but pays no attention to the practicalities of what happens next (admittedly, not a failing unique to them but that’s not an excuse).

However, first of all, that legislation. Let’s suppose that by November we have both a deal in place, legislation ready to go before parliament, and a government forced into introducing it – all of which are bold assumptions. The first referendum Bill took over six months to go through parliament in 2015. Even if a new Bill could be rammed through in just one month – a process which would undoubtedly leave malcontent in its wake and set up allegations of unfairness, a rigged playing field and bias – the time available for campaigns to organise and register, and then for the vote to be held would be mightily tight to the March 29 deadline. In reality, we’re well past the point where it could happen before Brexit Day.

But suppose it could, because that’s the basis on which the rainbow is being chased. Were it to ratify the deal the government came back from Brussels with, no great problem. The other two possibilities, unfortunately, are a problem. And going by the polling on the Chequers Plan, the outcome would be one of the other two options.

The elephant in the room that advocates of a second vote are ignoring is the chance that not only does Leave win again but it does so on a mandate of No Deal. While the polling has trended towards Remain over the last two years, it’s been slow and having bagged their win, Leavers have been less prominent in making the generic case to leave and keener to debate the details.

Four weeks of “which part of Out didn’t you get?” could swing the polls around (note that in a second referendum, the Conservatives would undoubtedly by on the Leave side, something which would add about £7m to that campaign’s spending limit). Certainly, when the three options were put in opinion polls, No Deal was far more popular than something based on Chequers. And as Mark Carney pointed out this week, such an outcome would be considerably sub-optimal.

On the other hand, there’s the chance of Remain winning. Mainly, presumably, on a basis of nothing better being on offer. It’s notable how despite the opportunities of the last three years and more, keen Remainers are still instinctively drawn to some form of Project Fear rather than promoting the benefits of working together in a Single Market with common rules, consumer protection, mutual recognition of standards (and driving licences) and so on: the opportunities that membership brings, in other words. A win on such terms would be grudging and would do nothing to end the debate.

And of course, we don’t even know if Britain can revoke A50. An extension is possible – though even there, not necessarily an indefinite one – but an outright revocation, even with the agreement of all 27 other members is still something that the CJEU would need to agree. Further, current UK law probably doesn’t give the government the power to revoke A50: the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act only gave the PM the power to invoke the Article, not to withdraw it. Though presumably the legislation enabling the referendum could tidy that up.

The legalities are one thing: the politics another. Brexit has already been damaging to political discourse in the country, normalising extreme language and sharpening divisions (though it is both consequence and contributor there, and nor is it the only factor). Another referendum, whatever the outcome, would re-open all those divisions and pour acid into them. If one of the three options was excluded, one side would unquestionably call foul and claim, with justification, that they’d been denied their voice; on the other hand, if all three are there, Remain or No Deal would almost certainly win, probably not by very much. Either way, there’d be millions of mightily angry people and if it went for No Deal, there’d also be an economic crisis into the bargain. Either way, there’d probably be a new Prime Minister (though no new general election – the Tories and DUP would still hold a majority).

All of which begs the question as to why Labour are keen to go down that road.

The answer is that they’re not. I don’t think that many advocates share this analysis of how badly things would turn out. Labour would, of course, have their own divisions, as last time, but as they’d be nothing compared with the Tories. Perhaps that’s a price seen as worth paying. Of course, the foreknowledge of how torn apart the Tories would be is one reason, beyond the near-certainty of losing her agreement with the EU, that Theresa May will do everything possible to avoid another public vote.

But in truth, as mentioned earlier, there isn’t time without an extension to A50 to run a referendum, nor is there any easy parliamentary means for the opposition parties to force one on the government. It’s all very well Labour coming out in favour but while they sit on the opposition benches, they can’t do anything about it other than shout.

And just shouting is really what would suit Labour best in this case; appearing to be on the side of Remainers will win support – providing they never need to make good on it before the Brexit process is over.

David Herdson



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Further thoughts on Chris Williamson succeeding Jeremy Corbyn

Saturday, September 8th, 2018

Earlier on this week I wrote a piece on Chris Williamson’s odds to succeed Jeremy Corbyn tumbling from 100/1 to 33/1 in a week, I also explained the reasons why I wouldn’t be jumping aboard that betting bandwagon.

The tweets below from Theo Bertram are a response to my initial tweets on the subject. Theo is someone who knows the Labour party very well, he has been an adviser to both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, so I really do pay attention to him as he understands the Labour party better than I do.

Whilst I do still think it is unlikely Williamson succeeds Corbyn because of the size of his majority but if Corbyn lowers the threshold to stand in Labour leadership contests it could happen, especially in light of Theo’s comments.

So going forward, I won’t be laying Chris Williamson in this market, currently his best price is 25/1 with Bet365.

TSE



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How the Labour Party would split – and why it won’t

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

A summer of conspiratorial meetings amongst serial rebels has fuelled talk of a split.

Picture the scene. Lord Mandleson hosts a BBQ where “up to” 20 Labour rebels look at their options for a breakaway party. Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson was amongst the group, uniting the remnant Blairite and Brownite camps against Corbyn.

Whether plotting to adopt the IHRA definition against the NEC, or plotting to deliberately lose to spite Corbyn (Stephen Kinnock not being very good at this), there is a clear sense of an internal battle for supremacy coming to a head. MPs vs Members. Let’s consider the options discussed at the Mandy BBQ:

1) Do Nothing. Jeremy Corbyn is an old man. His support claims to be “the membership” yet in practice the majority of members are silent. They do not participate in anything other than leadership elections, do not participate locally in any shape or form, and are already drifting away.

Jeremy Corbyn will retire, and a sizeable chunk of the membership will leave when he goes. When he does the party can change shape, organisation, message. Nothing that has been done – despite shrieking headlines of takeovers at local and NEC levels – cannot be undone.

2) A breakaway group of Labour MPs. Various options are open to them – an independent parliamentary group, the creation of SDP2, leaving to join the Greens, the LibDems, even a takeover of the Co-op was floated. None of these are particularly appealing to Labour rebels. SDP2 means starting from scratch in terms of organising and funding, the Greens and LibDems offer their own aims not the fulment of the rebel’s dreams.

3) A wholesale split in the party. Tom Watson has form plotting to remove unwanted leaders, and his physical shedding of weight has been accompanied by him clearly shedding any pretence at agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn or the Momentum cabal. A Watsonite Labour Party carrying the majority of MPs could try and claim legal title to the party machine, effectively de-merging the hard left into Momentum (“as you already have your own membership structure, branches, executive”)

4) A realignment in British politics. A similar piece could be written about both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, and Brexit has all the potential to create a big enough bang to fracture the fragile coalitions that make up our parties. Vince Cable went AWOL for a key Brexit vote supposedly attending a dinner party discussing the creation of a new centre party.

Emmanuel Macron broke away from the socialists, founded a new centre party and led it to power. A failed Brexit fracturing Labour and the Tories at the same time could make a new party born out of the wreckage look like the sane option. Especially if the alternatives are a Boris-led Tory Party fighting off a Farage UKIP resurgence or a Corbyn-led Labour Party busy denouncing the Momentum traitors.

The only rule in politics is that everything is possible – look at the 2017 General Election campaign. But from a betting perspective where does my money go? I am a Labour councillor, activist and member of nearly 25 years so I am personally caught up in this. I’m also a Co-op Party member.

My expectation is that “do nothing” is most likely. People like me sick to the back teeth of Corbyn and the dross that surround him will wait him out, as happened with Michael Foot. The split will be the hard left slouching off again post-Corbyn to join scab groups aimed at keeping the evil Labour Party out of power. Until that happens, I would be gobsmacked to see anything more than the odd MP aping James “Who” Purnell.

Unless of course Brexit really does fracture the political parties beyond repair. At which point literally anything is possible. Anna Turley and Anna Soubry as colleagues?

Rochdale Pioneers

Rochdale Pioneers is a member of the Labour Party and a long standing contributor to PB.



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A Labour split would have one chance to succeed – but succeed it could

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

FPTP is not an insuperable barrier in the right conditions

Anyone remember the Pro Euro Conservatives? The Party was formed by two former Tory MEPs opposed to the direction that William Hague was taking the party on Europe. After a good deal more media interest than was due for a tiny splinter party – mainly, presumably, because it allowed a new angle on the never-ending internal Tory conflict on Europe – they polled 1.3% at the 1999 European elections, lost their deposit at the Kensington & Chelsea by-election later that year and was disbanded two years later having failed to break the mould of British politics.

The reason for this trip down a justifiably neglected memory lane is to illustrate the usual fate of splinter parties: they form, they fail, they die or merge. There are several overlapping reasons for this but we can narrow it down to money and organisation, retail offer, and voting inertia. As a rule, the new party will lack a sufficiently distinctive policy stance to attract many voters, will not have the professionalism or campaign machine to take on the established parties, and struggle to overcome the ‘wasted vote’ argument under FPTP, which then proves a self-fulfilling prophesy – and even if they can overcome all those obstacles, the electoral system still provides such a high barrier as to be almost insurmountable, as the SDP found.

Such is received wisdom, except it’s not entirely true. There are examples of parties which have made that breakthrough, either as splinters or as rivals in the same part of the political spectrum, and displaced an incumbent as one of the two main government-forming parties (and under FPTP, there will generally only be two such parties). To take a few examples:

– Most obviously, Labour replaced the Liberals in the early part of the 20th century. This was only marginally down to the expanding franchise. In normal circumstances, the Liberals would have moved left to occupy the new ground and under Lloyd George, they’d have been ideally placed in 1918 to do so. After all, the Tories weren’t harmed by the influx of new working-class voters. Instead, the split in the Liberal ranks let Labour in.
– In Scotland, the SNP barged in to create a new settlement which is still working itself out but where they are without question the major party. True, Holyrood and PR played a part in their rise but it came about all the same.
– In Canada, the Progressive Conservatives never recovered from their disastrous election of 1993 and was supplanted on the right by Reform, before the two later merged.
– In the US, the newly-formed Republicans displaced the catastrophically-split Whigs in the 1850s within five years.

These are, of course, exceptions, and all come with special circumstances though the common theme is the exceptional weakness of the party (or parties) they replaced. Indeed, the oft-cited example of the SDP is not quite so firm as is often made out and their failure was a consequence of contingencies outside their control as much as the oppressive structure they operated in. During the winter of 1981-2, they were regularly polling in the forties; polls backed up by by-election gains. Although those ratings were already slightly on the decline by the time the Falklands War broke out, had Galtieri opted not to invade, the Conservative recovery would have been much slower; had Britain lost the war, the magnitude of that shock could have made anything possible. Alternatively, had Benn defeated Healey for Labour’s deputy leadership, that could have been the trigger to prompt a new wave of defections, which might have proven the tipping point on the left (Peter Mandelson identified Healey’s win as the point at which he and others decided it was worth sticking). Whatever, the meagre Alliance total of 22 MPs in 1983 could have been many more; potentially enough to.

These sort of calculations must now be going through Labour MPs’ minds. Stephen Bush has written for the New Statesman that he believes that a split within is now inevitable. That probably puts it too strongly: the pull of party, friends and history is formidable, and events can intervene to ensure that ‘now’ is always not the right time. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that some – not many perhaps but some – MPs feel strongly alienated by the current leadership and how the party has transformed in the last three years. That they haven’t already left Labour, despite some very vocal criticism, could possibly be indicative of future combined action rather than as of an intention to stay, hunker down and fight (though Bush identifies the ongoing Brexit debate as critical).

If there is to be a split, then realistically, the new party or alliance will only get one shot at breaking through. As history demonstrates, most challenger parties fail and those that succeed tend to break through quickly. Further, the unions will almost certainly stay loyal to Corbyn’s Labour for 2022, which leaves an unresolved tension. Ideally, the social democrats would like the unions back on their side – not least because it would symbolize them as the legitimate inheritor of Labour’s traditions. To get them would have to involve defeating Corbyn at the election and turning Labour into the sort of wreck that the Liberals were after 1918.

Some may say that those thinking of splitting are so determined that for them, it’s primarily about principle and policy, and electoral success is secondary. I very much doubt that. Politicians are rarely inclined to make heavy sacrifices (in reputation as much as in money and office – Labour abhors unsolidarity, however defined by the person abhorring it), unless there is at least some prospect of return on that sacrifice. To give it all up for a gesture is surely asking too much.

Which is why if a split does come, it will need to be sudden and sizable; big enough to regain third place in parliament from the SNP, I’d have thought. Bush puts their number at about a dozen. That, frankly, is nothing like enough. There is the possibility of a drip-drip strategy but I’m sceptical: a damp squib of a launch is more likely to put off those wavering than encourage them.

To all this though we also need to add deselections and the boundary review. So far, Labour’s left has made no organized effort to secure parliamentary nominations or to deselect errant MPs. If that looks like changing, the incentive to jump before being pushed (so that the act looks like one of principle rather than sour grapes), increases dramatically – and that is something which could produce dozens rather than a handful of splitters.

Will it happen? My guess would be not without a lot more provocation. As things stand, MPs opposed to Corbyn have already endured a great deal but each new defeat has tended to be incremental rather than seismic, and that’s not an adequate trigger on which to jump from a movement in which they’ve invested a great deal of time and emotion. You might think that opposition to Brexit and support for a second referendum would provide the opportunity but apparently not: were it so, they’d have already gone – the time to apply pressure to the government is now.

One last point. It’s the Tories who might be at risk as much as Labour from an SDP2. The Con share is almost certainly propped up by a fear of what a Corbyn government might do. If the opposition is from a rather less threatening left-of-centre figure, or if the split on the left makes a Corbyn government much less likely, that could well cause a meltdown in Con support as well as Lab’s as the ties keeping May’s coalition together unravel.

David Herdson