Archive for the 'Labour' Category

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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




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

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018


LabourList

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




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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




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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



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Introducing the new Confident Corbyn

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Two-and-a-half years after being elected, he’s finally acting like a leader

Something has happened to Jeremy Corbyn; something which few would have thought possible, never mind expected a year ago: he has become comfortable doing the job expected of a party leader. Indeed, more than that: he has become confident in the role.

Part of that is, of course, a consequence of the general election – but it’s only a part. Sure, he revelled then in addressing mass rallies, in getting out on the stump and firing up the believers but that was bread-and-butter politics to him: it’s what he’s always done. The bigger change came after polling day, not in the run-up to it.

That change is that he’s finally got serious about being Leader of the Opposition, something best exemplified this week by Labour’s change of policy on the Customs Union. That policy shift wasn’t too difficult for Corbyn – most of his Party want it and it’s not vitally important to him – but the key thing is not that he’s thrown his centrist members some red meat (though that of itself is noteworthy), but that the reason it’s happened – or at least, happened now – is because he wants to cause maximum damage to the government by inflicting a critical defeat in the Commons.

Of course, one reason why he’s able to lead much more confidently, and why he’s able to make greater use of parliament, is because his MPs are following him. Back in 2015-17, he made a virtue of the necessity of his extra-parliamentary campaigning in part because he genuinely believed in direct politics but mainly because four-fifths of the PLP opposed him and so he couldn’t use the Commons effectively. Not that his tactics there helped him but there too, decisions have changed. We’ve not heard questions submitted by Brenda from Barnsley at PMQs recently; Corbyn has recognised that LotO’s past have used their questions as they did for good reason.

Now, however, his backbenchers are quiescent. Some, no doubt, have genuinely given him a second chance (or a first one), while the absence of other critical voices is down to more tactical considerations. All the same, for the first time these last four months, Corbyn has enjoyed the clear support of the membership, the NEC, the PLP and the Shadow Cabinet – and it shows. He speaks and acts like someone who knows he’ll lead his party for years to come (in which he might or might not be right).

Which is not something that can be said for Theresa May. She can’t know if she’ll lead her party to the end of the month, never mind 2022. Trying to find a Brexit solution that satisfies hardline Eurosceptics, keen ex-Remainers, the DUP, Brussels, Dublin and many other players inevitably means that the government isn’t making much progress on the central issue of the day, and that she has little time for anything else. Were he Prime Minister, Corbyn would face a similar problem but he’s not and as such, can advocate his own cake-and-eat-it plans without being called out to anything like the same extent.

In truth, he shouldn’t be quite as confident as he appears, nor should he be given quite such a clear ride. Against a government that’s divided and led by a weak PM, which is still imposing painful spending restraint, and which has presided over a difficult winter in the NHS, Labour should be a lot more than a point or two clear in the polls. In normal circumstances, an opposition fighting a government with those problems could look to make solid local election gains; instead, outside London, the Tories and Labour could well both end up with net gains. Labour’s failure to erode the Tory vote share to below 40 is as good an indicator as any as to the limits of Corbyn’s success.

Even so, the new politically-flexible Corbyn is a significant departure from the old one and all the more formidable for it. If the Tories want to win properly next time, it’s him they’ll have to take on and defeat, not the echo from the 1980s.

David Herdson

p.s. The news that Jon Lansman intends to seek Labour’s General Secretaryship marks both the first breach in Corbyn’s electoral machine and also an intriguing further step in Lansman’s own advance through the movement. In truth, Lansman shouldn’t win and may not see a candidature through. He is unlikely to have anything close to the support needed in Labour’s highest ranks to make his bid stick. However, the fact that he is opposing the preferred candidate of Corbyn and McDonnell shouldn’t be ignored: Momentum and Lansman are breaking out from Corbyn’s shadow – but to whose benefit and to what end?



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Eight months on from GE17 how LAB doing is performing in the polls compared with earlier main opposition parties at the same stage

Friday, February 9th, 2018

David Cowling, the leading election analyst and former head of BBC political research, has produced an excellent paper which asks the question of why Corbyn’s Labour is not doing better in the polls.

The response that is coming from the party to recent surveys is to refer back to the polling what happened on June 8th and the fact that party did better than most, though not all, of the surveys on the day itself.

The concluding part of the Cowling analysis looks at how other main opposition parties have been doing in the polls eight compared to the election outcome. He concludes:

“… one is left to wonder at the under-performance of Labour, post-2017, especially given the state of the Conservative party that they are facing. Mrs May still has higher ratings as the best candidate for Prime Minister than Mr Corbyn. The Labour leader has never once achieved a positive rating in the Ipsos MORI time series on satisfaction/dissatisfaction with party leaders, unlike every other Labour Opposition leader since the 1970s. The Conservatives are still better regarded than Labour in terms of managing the economy. And, despite the fact that a clear majority of voters believe the Conservatives are handling the Brexit negotiations badly, they are still preferred over Labour as the party most likely to secure the best outcome.

Labour can justifiably point to a number of issues where they are preferred to the Conservatives, including the NHS, Housing, Education and Unemployment; and they are seen as the party most on the side of ‘ordinary’ people. But why does this not translate into increased political support? It is not as if Labour is currently struggling against other strong contenders for Conservative votes: UKIP has totally collapsed and the Lib Dems have only reached double figures in one opinion poll (out of 68) since the 2017 election.

The Westminster graveyard is littered with the corpses of party leaders who claimed it would be “alright on election night”. As increasing numbers of people are observing, if Labour cannot put the Conservatives on the canvas when Mrs May is leading them, then what chance will they have against another Conservative leader? Labour has been lucky that everyone’s attention has been on Conservative woes. That luck will not last forever.”

Mike Smithson




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Jon Trickett – Labour’s man to sort out the outsourcing mess?

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Don Brind on the politics of the post-Carrilion world

When Jon Trickett was leader of the Leeds City Council in the early 90s he had a regular Friday date with finance department officials. He got them to bring along every bill the council had paid that week. He then pulled out at random a number of bills to prompt a discussion on whether the ratepayers had got value for money from suppliers.

“I hate waste” declares Trickett and his hands-on approach to public procurement was designed to inculcate a tight-fisted culture of amongst councillors and officials. He says they indentified lots of savings that were reinvested in council services.

He took that mindset to Westminster when he was elected at the Hemsworth by-election in 1996. And it informs his thinking now as the member of Team Corbyn tackling what he describes as the “rigged system” of outsourcing and privatisation.

He is leading the charge over the collapse of Carillion and the troubles at Capita but Trickett has been on the case for the best part of five years. Under Ed Miliband’s leadership he drew up radical plans to ensure that social as well as financial criteria were used in public procurement. The near £200 billion a year of national and local government spending on private contractors would be used to drive policies like the Living Wage, apprenticeships, equal pay and to fight tax fraud.

In the Commons  the junior Cabinet Officer minister Oliver Dowden trotted out the standard defence for privatisation and outsourcing. These companies “have a specialty in delivering such services, so they can deliver them more efficiently. That means there are savings for the taxpayer.”

Not so, says Professor Colin Crouch of Warwick Business School. He argues firms win contracts in fields where they have no track record or professional knowledge because “their core business” is “knowing how to win government contracts: how to bid and how to develop contacts with officials and politicians.”

It is, of course, true that the private sector was widely used to deliver services by the last Labour government and Tories have a favourite quote from Gordon Brown that “It simply would not have been possible to build or refurbish such a number of schools and hospitals without using the PFI model.”

The implication is that Labour is divided and that Trickett is speaking for only the Left of the party. The contributions in the Commons by John Spellar, Luciana Berger and Rachael Reeves,– none of them Corbynistas — put the lie to that.

Spellar said there there are “two separate but linked problems: the business model and the performance of these companies? Like Carillion, Capita seems to be part of the over-concentrated, over-leveraged, dividend-and-bonus-exploiting culture that relies on the state to bail out failure. Capita incompetence is only too clear from its lamentable performance on the recruitment contract for the armed services.”

Berger said Capita’s £1 billion contract for the delivery of NHS England’s primary care support services was beset with serious problems including “patient safety, GP workload and an effect on GP finance …The service falls far short of what is acceptable”.

Reeves, the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee said there were striking similarities between Capita and Carillion – “both have debts of more than £1 billion and pensions deficits in the hundreds of millions; both paid out dividends of more than £1 billion in the past five years; both rely on the public purse for half of their contracts; both were audited by KPMG; and both grew through acquisition and not through organic growth.

“Jobs, pensions, small businesses and vital public services now depend on these outsourcing companies, but it is time we rethought the whole strategy for public service provision. How many more warning signs do the Government need?”

Although Trickett has been working in this area for several years Labour’s policies are still work in progress. The party holds an important conference in Glasgow this week on Alternative models of ownership . A background paper for the conference says “The predominance of private property ownership has led to a lack of long-term investment and declining rates of productivity, undermined democracy, left regions of the country economically forgotten, and contributed to increasing levels inequality and financial insecurity. Alternative forms of ownership can fundamentally address these problems.”

Although old-style nationalisation will be part of the menu, as I have argued here previously it will be a relatively small part of Labour’s economic programme.
Under a Corbyn government the state will continue to be a purchase of goods and services on a massive scale. As the veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman “there is nothing wrong with a public-private partnership: what is important is getting the contract and the relationship right. What went wrong in many PFIs was rotten contracts that still bedevil local hospitals and local schools.”

That’s the task facing John Trickett. I think he’s the right man for the job.

Don Brind



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Why Tony Blair should be Diane Abbott’s role model

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Don Brind on the shadow HomeSec

There was something churlish about Diane Abbott’s attempt to put down Tony Blair recently — “no one can now remember that they supported Tony Blair.”

She surely can’t have forgotten how the then Labour leader came to her defence in one of the most uncomfortable phases of her career when she sent son to a fee paying school.

She is now Shadow Home Secretary the job in which Blair made his name. If she could shed her ideological antipathy she would acknowledge that Blair did an outstanding job for Labour in that role. In a 1993 New Statesman article he first offered to pledge to be “tough on crime and tough on the underlying causes of crime”.

Law and order had been an issue that played well for the Tories but with flair and persistence Blair invaded their territory. It was a vital strand in Labour’s campaigning through to 1997 and played a part in getting Blair the leadership in 1994.

Criticising Abbott doesn’t come easy for anyone in the Labour Party because of the fear of finding yourself in some unsavoury company. She has, without doubt, been the target of some deeply unpleasant racist and misogynist abuse. She explained to the Guardian how she tries to avoid allowing it to interfere with her work.

It’s also true that she was not the only campaigner to be involved in a “car crash” interview during the General Election  Boris Johnston and Jeremy Corbyn also got maulings from interviewers.

But when all the alibis are in, the judgement must be that as a Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott is not a patch on Tony Blair.

Other Labour MPs are making the running in this key area, notably backbenchers Sarah Jones and Vicky Foxcroft on the issue of knife crime 
and junior frontbenchers Gloria De Piero and Louise Haigh, the shadow justice and policing ministers. They argue it’s time for Labour to reclaim its position as the party of law and order.

De Piero and Haigh are unafraid to celebrate the record of the Blair-Brown governments. “Under the last Labour government we invested more in our police and criminal justice system than any other country in the OECD and slashed crime rates by over a third. It took a Labour government to pass the Race Relations Act and tough laws on LGBT and disability hate crime. It was Labour who first introduced legal aid to ensure everyone had the right to obtain justice whether rich or poor.”

They declare “The Tories have vacated the ground on law and order, it’s time for Labour to occupy it as our natural territory once again.

As I found last June Labour’s key policy of recruiting 10,000 police officers played well on the doorstep but as Mike Smithson argues Labour must be ready for the long haul.

Policing and crime needs to be in the forefront of Labour campaigning. As De Piero and Haigh point out “deprived communities suffer most” when police are cuts lead to rising crime. Half of the communities with the highest crime rates are found in the top 20 per cent of areas with the highest levels of chronic health problems.

Suggesting that the Labour leader should get himself a new Shadow Home Secretary would be a waste of breathe. Jeremy and Diane go back a long way –during a romantic period in early 80s he took her on a first date to Highgate cemetery. The mutual affection and loyalty persists.

So perhaps the best we can hope for is that the Labour leader says to his old friend “If you want me to be Prime Minister you have got to raise your game.”

Don Brind