Archive for the 'Labour' Category


LAB plan to give free bus travel to those of 25 and younger

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

But is it more about municipalising buses than helping the young?

It is being reported that Corbyn’s Labour is planning a big measure to help those under 25 if it should win the next election with transport costs. The plan is to offer a free bus pass to those in that age group which can be used on those services which are wholly or partly provided by public bodies.

But there’s a catch. The objective appears to be more about encouraging local authorities to run their own services and the pass won’t apply to private services where there is no public financial support.

    So you can see a lot of confusion as it is not a direct parallel to the existing oldie bus scheme. Most people don’t know whether particular bus gets public support or not.

As an oldie who has been benefiting from the senior travel scheme since I was 60 I think there’s be a lot of merit in this if it was for all buses.

It might be recalled that in the run-up to the general election that never was in October 2007 Gordon Brown introduced a national, England, bus pass scheme for the elderly. There is a standard identification card and a standard set of rules that allow olders to travel on bus services anywhere within England.

Until getting my senior bus pass I hardly ever got on one but now I use them an enormous amount simply because it is so convenient and so much easier because you don’t have to be fiddling into your pockets to find the change to buy a ticket.

It was interesting that the Conservatives have never moved against the very costly Gordon Brown bus pass scheme although the age requirement has been aged up to the mid 60s.

One of the arguments for that scheme was that it provided a revenue stream that helped support many bus services that would otherwise not have existed. Clearly the more traffic there is the more buses there are likely to be.

The YouGov polling featured in the chart above from January shows that those sampled thought doing something about bus fares could be the best way of helping the least well off.

The Tories themselves have recognised how important travel costs are and made a move last year to extend the age range of the young person’s rail pass which knocks 1/3 off ticket costs subject to certain conditions.

I’m in Sussex writing this while riding on a Stagecoach with my bus pass.

Mike Smithson


Why one ex-LAB member has decided to rejoin the party

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

The UK will never get a credible, electable opposition unless the centre-left commits to the Labour party, argues Joff Wild

Has there been a more depressing time to be on the centre-left of British politics than now? The Labour party’s descent into institutionalised anti-Semitism is no huge surprise to those of us who have been watching the far-left for years, but the speed with which it has happened, the extent to which has occurred and the willingness of so many to ignore it have been shocking.

As Saturday’s Guardian makes clear, loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn will buy anti-Semites a free pass from many in leadership positions and elsewhere in Labour today. For a party that was built on anti-racism and solidarity, it does not get more shameful than that.

Of course, one of the main reasons why so many of us on the centre-left have always had a major problem with Corbyn and others on the far-left is their total failure to challenge or condemn the anti-Semitism of people they have shared platforms with for decades. It is not opportunism now that drives us, it is principle – just as it always has been.

The simple fact is that implacable, uncompromising opponents of racism do not stay silent in the face of those who speak of Jewish blood libels, conspiracies and driving Jews into the sea; they do not talk of them as friends or invite them for tea in Parliament. Instead, they say loudly and unequivocally: “Your views are disgusting, you are wrong, and I want nothing to do with you.” Jeremy and the rest of the far-left have never done this.

It is this silence, as well as a proclivity to back any cause or regime, no matter how tyrannical, murderous or cruel – just so long as it is anti-UK, anti-US and/or anti-Israel – that has meant so many on the centre-left have been opposed to the far-left for years – not just since Corbyn became Labour leader. The far-left’s world view is not the world view we have. This is not a life or death struggle about renationalising the railways or tax and spend; it is a deep-seated, long-running philosophical difference firmly rooted in principle.

So what are we to do? I left the Labour party last year as the anti-Semitism I saw and heard became too much to live with. How could I stick with a party that tolerated it? But over the last week or so, I have been thinking again.

The fact is that under the current electoral system, the only alternative to the Conservative party is the Labour party. If this miserable, half-cocked, desperately mediocre, clueless government is to be replaced, it can only be replaced by a Labour one. The problem, though, is that the British electorate is smart enough never to put into power a party led by the far-left. This means a stark choice: either accept permanent Tory rule or try to change the Labour Party. After a lot of soul-searching, I have decided in favour of the latter.

That’s why I have rejoined Labour. I am sickened by its institutional anti-Semitism, I disagree vehemently with the leadership on foreign policy and have major reservations about its economic policies; but, having benefited from it, I also believe passionately in wealth redistribution to deliver equality of opportunity, am convinced the state is a force for good and put great store by solidarity and internationalism. If I want to see a government that shares these values, I need to see Labour become electable again. And that will not happen if I sit on the side lines.

By rejoining Labour I get a vote. The next general election may be four years away, but the next NEC election is in June. When the time comes, I will have a say in who becomes the next Labour leader. I can influence who chairs my constituency party and who fills other local roles. I can help to choose candidates, I can take part in debates. If enough others with similar views to my own do the same, in time we might have an impact. The price is just over £5 a month. For me, the opportunity that gives to join with others in groups like Progress to make a difference somewhere down the line makes it money well spent.
Don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusions here. The far left has a vice-like grip on the Labour party from the top down and is not going to release it any time soon. For as long as Jeremy Corbyn remains leader, it will hold sway. I go into this knowing I will be on the losing side more often than not, perhaps almost always at the start.

As far as I can see, though, the alternative is to do nothing except to howl into the void on Twitter. A new party is a non-starter for as long as we have first-past-the-post. Some will say that by joining I am helping to push Jeremy Corbyn closer to becoming Prime Minister. My response to that is that I am signing up because I do not believe a Labour party controlled by the far-left can ever win power – and I want a Labour government.

The UK needs a strong, credible, electable opposition just as much as it needs a competent, united government. We have neither at the moment. I will leave it to those on the centre-right to drag the Conservative party back to some semblance of sense, but I invite all patriots on the centre-left to join me in trying to build a Labour party that is fit to take office once more. For £5 a month it’s not a vast amount and the obligation is not huge. Out in the real world, there are more of us than there are of them. Together we can – eventually – prevail.

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


The continuing strength of the SNP makes it is harder for Corbyn to become PM

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Scottish turbulence not good for the red team

Today’s YouGov LAB members has one finding that shows the extraordinary optimism of those who backed Corbyn in the last leadership election. 80% of them told the poster that they believed that Mr Corbyn would at sometime become Prime Minister.

Given his age and the current parliamentary situation that essentially means waiting till the next general election and requires two things to happen – Corbyn to retain the leadership and LAB to win most seats or be in position for form coalition. The latter is made much more difficult because of what happened in 2015 when the huge SNP surge in Scotland swept almost all before it and Labour’s seat total drop from 41, north of the border to a single MP.

For decades LAB had been top party north of the border one of the reasons why, alongside the collapse of the LDS, the electoral system appeared to favour them. Their Scottish dominance came was swept away in the general election which took place nine months after the IndyRef

Things changed a bit at the June 2017 election when LAB made a smallish recovery but still found themselves in 3rd place with 7 seats which was well behind the Conservatives in second and of course the SNP still there with 36 of the 59. The red team’s current Scottish total look paltry compared with the heady days of 2010

The most recent Scottish polls have double digit leads for the SNP with LAB still languishing in the 20s.

What sould encourage Labour, though, is that many of the SNP seats are held with very small majorities and a small recovery could bring bigger than expected rewards.

Without a substantial contingent Scottish MPs LAB will need to win more seats in England and Wales if it is to get near to power.

Mike Smithson


Europe won’t split Labour – but it does present a problem for GE2022

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Can it really hold the Remain vote while ignoring the issue?

It’s not true that the Conservatives have been split from top to bottom on the subject of Europe for the last 70 years. Occasionally, peace broke out and something approaching a consensus arose. The first decade of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership was one such, when the Tories were enthusiastic about the EEC and keen to complete the Single Market. Later, under William Hague, the party settled on what amounted to ‘thus far and no further’. But for most of the post-war era, EU enthusiasts have competed with sceptics for ascendency in policy and in the party.

That contest is, of course, still very much on. The great battle of In or Out is over for the time being, but the nature of Out is still up for grabs – or at least, as up for grabs as the scope for doing a deal with the EU allows. As yet, Britain’s engaged in a lot of can-kicking with warm words about the future. Fundamental contradictions remain to be resolved, particularly in Ireland.

For all that, it’s not the Tories who’ve just lost a front-bench spokesman over Europe. Owen Smith’s dismissal has the political feel of suicide-by-cop.

    His was surely a sacking waiting to happen as soon as he called for a second referendum. It also smacks of opportunism. Labour’s voter and activist base remains strongly favourable to the EU and being sacked for voicing their views is unlikely to go down badly.

Not that it will make any difference. This isn’t a repeat of the mass resignations that followed Hilary Benn’s dismissal in 2016. Corbyn enjoys support among more than enough members to make any challenge to him utterly forlorn, and since the last leadership election, he’s gained control over the NEC, will shortly have the top level of Labour’s professional staff appointed on his watch (not by him directly but by an NEC favourable to him). Even the MPs are in the main either supine or supportive. It’s amazing what a good election can do.

The reality is that the leadership is in a position to define the parameters of Labour’s Europe policy quite tightly, which means that the question of Brexit itself is not to be asked. There will therefore be no second referendum and no mechanism for Britain to remain. Sometime next Spring – probably on March 29, Britain will leave. Furthermore, for the same reasons, come 2021, the UK will not only have left the EU de jure but will have done so de facto.

That is the point at which the Conservatives are likely to settle down into what passes for peace on Europe. There will be the disenchanted on both sides but the likelihood is that most MPs and members will accept the deal done and the general policy and will be happy to put the European Union behind them.

Not so for Labour. Well over three times as many Labour voters believe that Britain was wrong to leave the EU than believe it was right. A minority – but a vocal and potentially influential one – would have it as a priority to rejoin. Corbyn will no doubt rebuff those calls: he likes the flexibility that being outside the Single Market brings. However, that’s a problem for 2022.

Granted, there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and then, and we may well find ourselves diverted from that destination by the uncertain eddies of parliament and European negotiations. Will the government get its A50 deal this year? Can it sign a final agreement before December 2020 – or an extended deadline before the election? Will May retain her premiership through the process and if not, who will succeed her and what would he or she do? Will Corbyn remain leader of Labour (he looks secure for now but four years is a long time)? How hard a Brexit will ultimately be agreed? Will the DUP stay on board? Will the government even survive to 2022?

Individually, the answer to all the yes-no questions there is probably ‘yes’ but collectively? These are volatile years politically and it would be foolish to ignore the known-unknowns.

However, assume Brexit pans out relatively smoothly and that an acceptable formula is devised for N Ireland. What does Labour promise in its manifesto? Should it apply to rejoin or should it accept the new status quo? The leadership would no doubt like to let matters lie and to focus on domestic issues. It might not be so easy to do so. Conference in particular, which simply by the nature of the sort of people who become delegates is likely to have a disproportionately large number of Euro-enthusiasts compared to Labour’s voter base, could be vocal in calling for renewed membership.

Whatever is decided will have appreciable electoral consequences. Not all the large swing to Labour in London last year was a Brexit vote but a fair bit is likely to have been, despite Corbyn’s studied indifference to the issue. Those votes need to be retained in some way, without that issue and with the challenge – probably – of a new PM to campaign against.

As with the Tories, Europe is a policy which splits Labour and, for some, generates high passions. For all that, it won’t make or break either party: too much is invested elsewhere. What it is likely to do though, for Labour at least, is place a sizable barrier between the party and a fair portion of its potential voters.

David Herdson


LAB MP Wes Streeting hits the nail on the head about Corbyn’s party and antisemitism

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

The ongoing narrative about the Labour and Jewish people could blow up in Corbyn’s face

Mike Smithson


You can’t fault Corbyn’s ambition in going to Trafford to launch Labour local election campaign

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018


Ladbrokes make it 12/1 that they’ll take the council

Expect to hear a lot more than usual about this year’s local elections for the simple fact that the London boroughs are voting and this tends to alert the London based media into realising that elections are actually taking place. The only problem is that they will focus on the London boroughs and perhaps not give the same attention to what’s happening outside.

At the local election briefing on Monday by Conservative peer and elections specialist. Lord Hayward, about threw quarters of all the questioning and discussion from the assembled journalists was about London. Lord Hayward anticipated that by leading off on what’s happening outside the capital. Alas it has ever been thus.

So good on Corbyn for heading north for Labour’s local elections launch a measure the party will hope might help them gain the council. Lord Hayward had it moving to from CON hold to no overall control.

Giving the red team’s performance on June 8th last year there is still a lot of optimism about. Labour has a non-secret weapon which no other party can claim – its half million members. For local elections require activists on the ground knocking on doors and delivering leaflets – areas where the reds have a huge advantage if they can persuade enough within the party that activism is more than sending Tweets.

Ladbrokes, to their credit, have quite range of local election markets up focusing on who will win control of councils which could swing. I cannot recall a bookmaker with so many bets available cthis far out from the local election which gives an indication of how they feel their interest will grow

Hopefully Betfair will take notice and we could have some exchange betting going on.

Mike Smithson


The bad news for LAB from Prof John Curtice – Corbyn has NOT solved its turnout problem

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Relying on previous non-voters not a viable winning strategy

The conclusion from John Curtice’s new analysis:

After the collapse in turnout in the 2001 election (and, indeed, in local elections held at the same time) considerable concern was expressed about the apparent disengagement of voters from the electoral process. A particular source of worry for some was the marked decline in turnout amongst the latest generation of new voters who, it was feared, might now never adopt the habit of voting, thereby depressing turnout in the longer term. Much of the increased turnout amongst the youngest cohort of voters was in evidence in the 2015 election, and indeed the 2016 referendum. The 2017 election seems to have witnessed little more than the continuation of that pattern

A decade later, it appears that the picture is not as bleak as it sometimes was painted. Turnout has recovered considerably amongst the electorate as a whole, albeit not as yet back to above the 70% mark. Voters’ motivation to vote seems to have strengthened, while the increased polarisation of political debate (most likely about Brexit as well as the differences between the parties about domestic policy, see Curtice, 2017) seems to have created a greater incentive to vote than was in place when New Labour moved to the centre and came to dominate the political scene. Meanwhile, although still relatively less likely to vote, the latest generation of young voters have not aped their predecessors in shunning the ballot box in unprecedented numbers.

What, however, this development seems to have had relatively little to do with was the particular appeal of Labour’s campaign in the 2017 election. Much of the increased turnout amongst the youngest cohort of voters was in evidence in the 2015 election, and indeed the 2016 referendum. The 2017 election seems to have witnessed little more than the continuation of that pattern. Meanwhile, there is little evidence that Labour particularly benefitted from the increased turnout that did occur. In the event, Jeremy Corbyn struggled just as much as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to persuade those who sympathised with the party to turn out to vote.

The Labour leader would be unwise to presume that winning over the previously disengaged will prove a likely route to securing the keys to 10 Downing St. next time around.

The full paper can be found here.

Mike Smithson


Labour candidates fear doorstep questions about Corbyn and the Kremlin

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Labour members on the front line are worried about how voters will react to Jeremy Corbyn’s equivocal response to the attempted assassination in Salisbury of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.

The front line in this case is the May local elections, including polls in the 32 London boroughs where the Tories fear they are in for a drubbing.

But at a training session last week for new candidates in one of those boroughs the very first question was about how to respond on the doorstep to perceptions that the Labour leader is soft on the Kremlin.

The candidates were advised to focus on the fact despite his apparent scepticism Corbyn had backed Theresa May’s expulsion of Russian diplomats. Furthermore, a host of Labour figures including their local MP and Shadow Ministers Nia Griffiths, Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer had firmly laid the blame on the Kremlin.

Worried local campaigners will also have noted that the Shadow Chancellor, John Mc Donnell strongly condemned President Putin. He told Robert Peston 
“We support exactly what the Prime Minister said and we condemn Russia for this. Whichever way you look at it (Vladimir Putin) is responsible … All the evidence points to him”.

McDonnell denied that he was contradicting his leader who he said had given what he described as a “constructive critique” which had been “misread” by others.

In my view McDonnell’s description is valid when applied to Corbyn’s Guardian article  in which he said “the use of military nerve agents on the streets of Britain is barbaric and beyond reckless” and attacked the Putin regime for “its conservative authoritarianism, abuse of human rights or political and economic corruption.”

But the damage had been done by his inept presentation of his case in the Commons on Wednesday which dismayed Labour MPs on the front and back benches and, of course, delighted Tories and their media allies who plan to make Corbyn’s alleged lack of patriotism an election weapon.

There are obvious dangers for Labour that this could work in a General Election. The question of whether Corbyn measures up as a Prime Minister could be a bigger issue than it was in 2017.

But will it be a lifeline for the Tories on May 3rd — Will the fears of the Labour candidates I was with last week be realised?

To an extent that will depend on the effectivenesss of Labour’s counter attack. They will highlight the Tories’ fondness for Russian cash. Boris Johnson confirmed to Andrew Marr  that he did take tennis match with David Cameron for which the wife of a former Putin minister had paid £160k at a Tory fundraiser.

Laboiur will also seek to show that they have been making the running on tackling dirty foreign money while the Tories have been dragging their feet. McDonnell told Peston that his proposed levy on properties owned by foreign companies would didn’t just apply to Russian oligarchs, but Russians made up “at least a quarter” of those who would be affected.

Perhaps Labour’s best hope is that the elections are genuinely local and that health, education and housing will be at the top of voters’ minds.

I’m still optimistic that on May 4th it will be the Tories looking for alibis for bad results, especially in London.

Don Brind