Archive for the 'Labour' Category


Independents’ day. The implications for Jeremy Corbyn

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Let us now praise obscure women. With the launch of the Independent Group, much attention has been given to the more visible members of the seven MPs. Chuka Umunna briefly stood to be leader of the Labour party. Chris Leslie was shadow Chancellor. Luciana Berger has had the most public of battles with anti-Semitic opponents. I suggest, however, that the most significant of the defecting MPs is the least commented-upon: Ann Coffey.

I hope that Ms Coffey will not be upset if I suggest that she is not particularly well-known. She has been in Parliament for over quarter of a century, rising no higher than Parliamentary Private Secretary in all that time. I expect that she will look back at her extensive efforts made towards the protection of children as her political work that she is proudest of.

What she is not, however, is a rentagob. Media outlets have not found it difficult to find Labour MPs who have been willing to say exactly what they think of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Ms Coffey is not one of those. With Margaret Hodge, she jointly tabled the motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the original Brexit vote in 2016. Otherwise, she has largely kept her own counsel.

Until Monday, when she jumped ship.  Ms Coffey is 72. She will no doubt be standing down at the next election. She could easily have served out her time quietly, slipping away without fuss. She chose not to. Yes, in a sense it was cost-free. In another sense, however, in a party which still regards Ramsay MacDonald as its greatest villain, the price was enormous.

    She explained her decision to the Manchester Evening News in simple clear words. Of course antisemitism is an issue, of course the leadership is an issue and the line on Brexit. We are seeing a party that used to be a broad church in which there was a possibility to have discussions turned into a party in which any criticism of the leader or any different voice is responded to by being called a traitor. There comes a time when I have got to do something about it.

These words should terrify the Labour leadership. Instinctively paranoid, they will now be wondering how many other MPs are quietly weighing similar calculations. Some, such as Ian Murray, have not been quiet on the subject.

So far, however, the tone of the inner circle has been woefully misjudged. Jeremy Corbyn’s response, given above, was not far off “don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out”. His outriders on social media have been predictably less restrained, demanding loyalty pledges from those perceived to be unreliable, branding the group the Blair Rich Project and posting the lyrics from the Red Flag about cowards flinching and traitors sneering. The pièce de resistance was the news emerging the same day that Derek Hatton had been readmitted to the Labour party. Quite how any of this is supposed to reassure the doubters is wholly unclear.

The move has demonstrated the depth of the party divide. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, was notably much more sympathetic to those leaving, setting out his views in a soul-searching video. Yvette Cooper approvingly quoted his message in a tweet.

In a sense, it does not matter now whether other MPs also head for the exit. Whether dissident MPs remain onboard or jump into a lifeboat, they have to decide whether they can back Jeremy Corbyn as next Prime Minister. There now seems to be ample evidence that considerably more than these seven feel that they cannot.

This has two consequences, one for this Parliament and one for the next.  The consequence for this Parliament is that it looks extraordinarily hard for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister in any circumstances without a general election. Even if the DUP were to abandon the Conservatives for Labour, these new independents would presumably not back him in a vote of confidence (and it must now be very doubtful whether all of the MPs who remain in the Labour party would do so if it came to the crunch). And that assumes that the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru etc could all be corralled into supporting him: given that they have already said that they will not support another vote of no confidence in the government, that looks a brave assumption.

Theresa May has already indicated that she intends to step down before the next election. So his chances of becoming the next Prime Minister look slim.

Let’s assume, however, that somehow the next general election is fought between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn again. Stranger things have happened. Nothing in the polling currently suggests that Labour are going to get an overall majority. The single best chance Labour have at present to take power is in a hung Parliament.

With Labour’s leader so widely distrusted, he is going to struggle to put together a minority government with himself as Prime Minister, especially when he can place no reliance on his own Parliamentary party’s support of him. The price of Labour taking power might well be someone different as leader, just as the Lib Dems’ price for talking about a coalition with Labour in 2010 was Gordon Brown’s head. Many Labour MPs would be privately delighted.

All this points one way. It is much much harder than currently appreciated for Jeremy Corbyn to become next Prime Minister. Yet you can still lay him on Betfair at 7. (This looks like a clearcut bet to me if your market position is such that placing this bet would not be tying up money, and given Theresa May’s job security is arguably a clearcut bet anyway.) These seven MPs may well crash and burn as independents, but they may well have put the nail in the coffin of the ambitions that Jeremy Corbyn has to be Prime Minister.

Alastair Meeks


On the Betfair exchange LAB’s chances of winning most seats next time drop to a 41% chance

Monday, February 18th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

On what is quite a momentous day in British politics it is quite hard to single out a specific market that has seen change. The one I’ve chosen is the next general election where punters who only last month rated LAB as a 50-50 chance to win most seats now put it at 41%.

A lot depends on reaction to the move and whether the development gets traction in the media. For the individuals concerned these are massive personal decisions but they have made their choices.

For Corbyn’s LAB this isn’t good news and, as David Herdson was pointing out on Twitter, means that with other MP losses this parliament we have seen the equivalent of getting on for half the LAB gains from GE2017 are now wiped out. The smaller LAB is at Westminster the less powerful it is to influence events.

In many way this was always on the cards. In 2016 Corbyn, as I pointed out on the previous thread, only managed to win support of 20% of the parliamentary party in a confidence vote.

Clearly there’ll be lots of speculation about where the group of seven end up. Could we see an enhanced centre party emerging taking in the independents, the LDs and Caroline Lucas? Clearly there will be closer working together.

I also wonder whether Corbyn’s tenure might not be as long as is widely perceived. How will the unions view the weakened party? How will John McDonnell react.

Mike Smithson


In terms of influence on major policy developments Corbyn today is surely the most powerful opposition leader in decades

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

It’s possible the UK could end up with a Labour Brexit

To me the biggest development of the day was the response by Donald Tusk to the Labour proposal for Brexit. The details envisage a softer brexit then Theresa May’s plan but because of the numbers in the Commons there’s a good chance that this is what could actually be agreed.

If so that will be remarkable and something and it’s almost without precedent. Labour could claim that this was their plan and seek to get the political kudos from it.

Because this appears to be a viable alternative then surely it is going to make the hardliners of Moggsy’s ERG more reluctant to go on opposing Theresa May. They are not going to get their hard brexit and the deal that the Prime Minister has on the table could be seen as the best that’s available in the circumstances.

The question for Labour, which has had to deal with huge demands within the party for a second referendum, is whether what’s in their proposal will be enough to satisfy the party’s largely remainer voters, party members and MPs.

My sense is that it is becoming more likely that the UK will leave on March 29th making the odds of 27% on Betfair good value.

Mike Smithson


“Being seen to back Brexit worse for LAB than invading Iraq”

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Tonight ITV News is carrying a report that a private poll that has been seen by Momentum suggests that LAB seen to be backing Brexit would be worse for the party than the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It is reported that it was commissioned by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) trade union. An analysis based on the polling has been shown to Momentum and the conclusions are worrying for red team. The ITV News report notes:

“A briefing paper based on the polling has been shared with leading members of the shadow cabinet, including John McDonnell, to increase pressure on Labour’s leader Corbyn to come out in favour of a referendum.

The most powerful conclusion of the research is: “There can be no disguising the sense of disappointment and disillusionment with Labour if it fails to oppose Brexit and there is every indication that it will be far more damaging to the party’s electoral fortunes than the Iraq war.

“Labour would especially lose the support of people below the age of 35, which could make this issue comparable to to impact the tuition fees and involvement in coalition had on Lib Dem support.”

The polling itself was carried out by YouGov.

That the party should be coming under pressure from the trade union movement is no real surprise and this could have been expected earlier.

It is hard to see the circumstances, though, where Corbyn changes his mind.

Mike Smithson


Leading Corbynista calls for Labour to introduce US-style primaries to select candidates

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Will party members and the unions be happy about giving up their selection powers?

In a Tweet last night one of Labour’s most prominent and leading Corbyn backers, Aaron Bastani, called for what would be a radical change in the way the party selects candidates for Parliament and other elected offices. Instead of the current system which puts just about all the power with Trade Unions and members he wants US style primaries.

In the US there are different systems for determining who primary electors are. In some states it can be all voters whilst in others it is restricted to those who register as Democrats or Republicans. In many states you can turn up at the polling on the day and register as a party supporter.

Bastani’s plan is a radical departure which was tried by the Tories in a few seats ahead of GE2010 but which hasn’t featured much, if at all, since. For the Totnes seat ahead of that election a full postal primary took place involving all those registered on he electoral roll. It cost the party £40k+.

It proved to be extremely popular with 24.6% of voters taking part in the election choosing a local GP Sarah Wollaston.

    As was widely pointed out at the time having a personal mandate like this meant that Sarah was less in hoc to the party machine and she has proved to be one of the most independent minded Tory MPs ready to fight on the NHS and against Brexit.

In other seats ahead of GE2010 the Tories made selections at open meetings at which any voter could attend and cast their ballots. It wasn’t just restricted to Tory voters. I, myself, attended and voted at such a primary meeting to select The Tory candidate for Bedford’s elected Mayor.

The real issue with the Bastani plan for Labour is that it is hard to see those with the power already, the unions and the members, being ready to give it up. Without any special selection process benefit it would make membership less attractive.

What makes this interesting is that it comes from Bastani who is very close to Corbyn. My guess though is that Labour’s machine will not allow this to happen.

Mike Smithson


Even if Labour secures an early election it is hard to see how the party wins It

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Corbyn needs CON converts which isn’t happening

The main objective of Labour, we are told, during this period of extreme uncertainty over Brexit is to secure an early General Election. To do that it will need to win enough backing for a confidence motion that defeats the government that is not rescinded within two weeks.

The MP totals for each party make that very difficult except if some means can be created for the DUP’s 10 MPs to back Labour on the confidence vote.

My guess is that the long-standing antagonism of the DUP towards Corbyn’s approach to Northern Ireland is going to make it very hard for them to join a move that causes an election and a possible Corbyn government.

One interesting theory that was going round over the weekend was that LAB MPs would abstain when Theresa May’s EU deal finally gets put to the Commons thus ensuring that the UK leaves the EU on March 29th. Those developing the theory hope that this would encourage the DUP to back an early election move.

Even assuming we get to the point where the country is going to vote in a 2019 general election there is not a lot to suggest that LAB is in a position to gain enough seats to come out as top party. The party’s gains in 2017 were down to non-voters actually turning out and anti-Brexit tactical voting.

    What we didn’t see then and are unlikely to see now is evidence of many CON voters switching to LAB. However split on Brexit the Tories might be that is not causing blue to red voting moves.

Also there’s be zero sign of any LAB recovery in Scotland and some recent projections have them losing to the SNP almost all of the seats gained at GE2017. There’s another factor that hasn’t been discussed – oldie turnout numbers returning to GE2015 levels which will very much reinforce the CON vote.

So GE2019, if it happens, is not going to be a piece of cake for Labour.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s LAB goes into 2019 with six fewer MPs than it had at GE2017

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

This could impact on upcoming key votes

The past 24 hours have been bad for LAB’s seat numbers in the House of Commons. First of all there was the conviction of the Peterborough MP for conspiring to pervert the course of justice and today we have the resignation from the Party of Ivan Lewis.

In his resignation letter Lewis cited some of the anti-semitism rhetoric that has been coming from the leadership.

    Given the crucial Brexit votes that we are likely to see in the next month or so then a LAB party that is smaller by even half a dozen MPs could actually influence those outcomes. The parliamentary arithmetic is very tight.

It not just LAB that’s suffered from parliamentary shrinkage. Last week the Eastbourne LD MP quit the party over it’s Brexit stance and the Tories have been down two for a few months.

There’s nothing to stop MPs voting with their former parties in spite of not currently having the whip but it does mean that they are more difficult to organise and could impact on the numbers. This makes the whole whipping operation that much more challenging.

We don’t know yet whether the Peterborough MP is going to remain in The Commons. She seems determined to hang on even though she is now been booted out of the party. Everything depends now on her sentence and provided she is not given a jail term, suspended or not, of a year or more than she should be able to stay.

Mike Smithson


Why Jezza should beware of Nicola bearing gifts

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

SNP General Election target seats

Election Polling

LAB’s going to struggle to win the next GE unless there’s a rapid improvement in Scotland

Last night Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would back a Commons no confidence motion against the government if one was tabled by Labour.

I’d suggest that Nicola Sturgeon and her team would not be asking for another election now unless it was pretty confident that it would do as well or even better than the 35 Scottish seats that it won in 2017 and the main prospect for gains, as the table above shows, is from Scottish Labour.

    Currently four of the seven Scottish LAB seats are held with majorities requiring swings of less than 1% and targets five and six have very narrow majorities. Only one Scottish LAB seat, Edinburgh South, with a 16.2% swing required looks safe.

A massive challenge for Labour in a new general election is its failure to recover in Scotland where Gordon Brown’s party won 41 of the 59 seats at GE2010. It is hard to see the party winning unless there’s a dramatic turnaround and the polling suggests that Labour in continuing to struggle. As this table of latest Scotland only polls show Labour is polling north of the border worse than it did at GE2017 and the chances are that it would go into a new general election on the defensive.

Latest Westminster Scottish voting intention polls


That post Scottish 2014 IndyRef surge by the SNP was almost totally at the expensive of Labour and there’s almost no sign of a recovery. In August Corbyn visited Scotland with the express intention if trying to turn things round. The polling points to that having zero impact.

Mike Smithson