Archive for the 'Labour' Category


A Labour view of the party’s looming electoral disaster

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Don Brind looks at landslides past

I have a soft spot for Lib Dem peer Dick Taverne even though I cut my teeth as a Labour Party press officer trying to end his political career.

His letter to the Guardian this week struck a chord. “Mrs May is riding high, apparently heading for a general election triumph, idolised by the tabloids for defying those beastly Europeans who seek to do Britain down. Today’s winners often end up as tomorrow’s losers,”

Taverne has always been a strong Europhile and fell out with his local party in 1973 when he supported the Tories in voting for entry to the Common Market. His resignation to fight a by election saw me drafted in by Transport House.

I failed to stop him romping to victory in the by election but my contribution to his demise was the suggestion to local party chairman Leo Beckett that they would do better with a woman candidate. I recommended a Transport House colleague Margaret Jackson who went on to defeat Taverne in the second of the 1974 General Elections. Margaret married Leo and as Mrs Beckett ascended briefly to the leadership of the party and Briatin’s first woman Foreign Secretary.

Taverne descended into relative obscurity and waited until 1996 to get his peerage. We are all now on the same side of the Europe argument. I was very taken by his four examples of Prime Ministers whose triumphs turned sour.

• “In 1902 Salisbury delivered a Tory landslide with the Liberal opposition deeply divided in the aftermath of the Boer war. Four years later saw an all-time record anti-Conservative landslide.

• “Chamberlain was a hero when he came back from appeasing Hitler in 1938 and proclaimed “Peace for our time”. The few dissidents led by Churchill were denounced as warmongers. Then Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia.

• “In 1956 Eden launched the Suez war with strong nationalist support. It proved a disaster and soon his reputation lay in tatters.

• “In 2003 the invasion of Iraq led to a widespread outbreak of patriotic fervour – but destroyed public trust in one of Britain’s most successful and popular recent prime ministers.”

Another cautionary example is offered by my old journalist mate Denis McShane, former Labour MP and minister for Europe writing in Prospect  He dubs Theresa May’s philosophy “Rectory Toryism” which he argues looks like a return to the 1960s, “when state control of society and economy was at its apogee.” It was also the era of Harold Wilson who led Labour to a landslide in 1966.

McShane suggest this election “ may turn out to be curiously similar to that of 1966, in which Harold Wilson obtained a large majority. Worryingly for Theresa May, his government only lasted four years and Wilson lost the next election, after becoming not the master of events, but their prisoner.”

Neither Taverne nor McShane mention 1992 but to me there are echoes of John Major’s short-lived triumph. As Tim Montgomerie observed on Conservative Home some years ago,  “John Major presented the party unashamedly as the low tax party. The Tory campaign relentlessly attacked Labour … Major picked a combative party chairman. Chris Patten (who) fought against Labour with rottweiler determination.” Remind you of anyone? Lynton Crosby?

Less than six months after amassing a record 14 million votes Major saw his government implode on Black Wednesday, never to recover.

The obvious point about Taverne McShane and myself is that we all fear the worst – we believe the polls and expect Team Theresa to get their landslide.

That said, I am hoping London may buck the trend. Having done some door knocking at the weekend I am cautiously sanguine about the prospects for the re-election of the charismatic Rosena Allin Khan in Tooting. And according to a friend of the redoubtable Joan Ryan Labour in Enfield North have been buoyed by a recent council by election. Labour matched the Tories in increasing their votes by around 13 per cent as the Green and UKIP voters collapsed.

Green switchers may be less easy to detect than UKIP switchers but they could be important. In 2015 there were a group of seats where the shift of a small number of Green voters would have deprived the Tories of a gain: (Tory majority in bold) Gower 27 1161; Derby N 41 1618; Croydon C 165 1454; Bury N 378 1141; Morley&Outwood 422 1264; Plymouth S&D 523 3401; Brighton Kempton 690 3187; Weaver Vale 806 1183; Telford 730 930

If Labour are to spring any surprises on June 8th they will probably come from this list.

Don Brind


Emily Thornberry lures Sir Michael Fallon into possibly the greatest ambush since the battle of Lake Trasimene

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Note: This video contains language NSFW from Emily Thornberry that maybe offend more delicate PBers.

This morning Sir Michael Fallon managed to achieve something that I thought was very unlikely, he managed to come off worse in a discussion about defence/security with a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, The Telegraph report

Emily Thornberry has accused Sir Michael Fallon of talking “bollocks” after he claimed she wanted to renegotiate the future of the Falkland Islands.

The pair clashed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show as the Defence Secretary said the shadow foreign secretary had left the door open to a Labour government negotiating with Argentina over the sovereignty of the islands.

Sir Michael also said that Jeremy Corbyn had shown “quite open support for the IRA” as he hit back after being accused by Ms Thorberry of having visited Syria to “celebrate” the re-election of Bashar al-Assad in the 2000s.

To make the Tories look bad and hypocritical on security and defence the day The Sunday Times ran an article which said ‘Jeremy Corbyn was arrested in 1986 taking part in a protest by IRA sympathisers to “show solidarity” with accused terrorists including the Brighton bomber’ is one hell of an achievement by Emily Thornberry, I’m not sure many others in the shadow cabinet could have managed it, it is remarkable what Labour can achieve with a bit of research and a credible messenger, something the Corbynistas should remember.

It should be remembered Sir Michael Fallon isn’t some naïve popinjay, he’s the man who at the last general election managed to deliver an effective message that Ed Miliband was a risk to national security because ‘Ed Miliband will stab UK in the back just as he did to his brother David.’ Whilst this an undoubtedly a great victory for Emily Thornberry, like the battle of Lake Trasimene the winning side won the battle but not the war.

Bet365 have Emily Thornberry at 28/1 to be next Labour leader, if you’re not already on her on at higher odds, this might make a decent trading bet, because I suspect if Labour are well and truly shellacked next month, the nominations threshold will reduce in absolute numbers, and Corbyn might well stand down and back someone who is loyal to him, Emily Thornberry might just be that candidate. Labour members might also be keen on electing their first female leader whilst the Tories are on their second female Prime Minister.



Backing Labour to win the popular vote on June 8th

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

A 5% return in less than four weeks?

William Hill have a market up on who will win the popular vote without the Tories. With the SNP standing in only Scotland, then finishing second  in the popular vote is impossible unless turnout somehow craters in the rest of the United Kindgom, so that’s not an option. UKIP winning this bet is very unlikely given they are standing 254 fewer candidates than Labour and in some polls are down to 3%. Others such as the Greens, Plaid, or the other parties are also very unlikely given the lack of candidates they have standing.

If you think the Lib Dems think are going to win this bet you might find better value in the constituency markets, but given the  state of the national polling, where in some Labour are polling four times the Lib Dems share, and Tim Farron’s lacklustre performances, epitomised by the farrago over gay sex being a sin, I’m not keen on backing the Lib Dems winning here.

You might be able to find better odds by backing Labour in safe seats, for example Leeds East where Labour has a majority of 12,533,  is a 1/9 return were Labour to win it on June 8th. But then in the past week it has been said the Tories have been targeting Leeds East, which is Labour’s 77th safest seat.

My two predictions for this election will render UNS redundant, and the definition of a safe Labour seat will be radically redefined after June the 8th, so that’s why I’m backing this William Hill bet rather than going down the individual constituency markets, but I will understand if others go for the opposite approach to me, or why they will swerve this bet entirely, as this effectively a bet on Jeremy Corbyn not being as dire as some fear he might be.



The tide is high. How many Labour MPs will be holding on after 8 June?

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Everyone seems to agree: Labour are in for a pummelling at the upcoming general election.  The opinion polls, the local election results and the anonymous comments from politicians of all parties on the campaign trail all point in the same direction. Even the newspaper pundits, constantly looking for a new angle, are unanimously predicting a Conservative landslide.  Few, however, have tried to put numbers on the eventual outcome.

This fool is going to rush in.  I’ve been looking at the Labour defence and trying to work out what will be left after the general election.  Settle down; this is complicated.

Polling consistently shows that the Conservatives are doing especially well among Leave voters, gaining a much greater swing among them than among Remain voters.  You can argue which is cause and which is effect but for our purposes it doesn’t matter.  Wherever you find more Leave voters we can expect to find more swing to the Conservatives.

So we shouldn’t try to interpret the polls through uniform national swing without first considering how Leaveworthy the current Labour seats are.  Chris Hanretty has produced estimates of Leave percentages in each constituency and while these are not going to be perfect, they should be near enough for present purposes.

Any dividing line is going to be arbitrary.  A seat that divided for Leave 51:49 is unlikely to behave very differently from a seat that just came up short 49:51.  So initially I divided the Labour seats into three groups: those that were clearly Remain (which I defined as under 46%); those that were fairly evenly divided (which I defined as between 46% and 54%); and those that were clearly Leave (which I defined as over 54%).  You can argue with my definitions and no doubt some will.

And immediately we see a major problem for Labour.  130 of their seats won at the last election were clearly won by Leave.  We can expect the Conservatives to do better than usual in these.

But there’s a more subtle problem. 33 of the 63 Labour seats that were clearly won by Remain form part of the 100 safest Labour seats, while a further 11 are among the 25 most marginal Labour seats.  Very few seats clearly won by Remain are in the zone where Remain voters’ resistance to Conservative charms is likely to make a difference.

I then looked at the seats that were at one extreme or another.  And just seven of the 32 Labour seats where Leave scored under 35% of the vote fall outside the 25 most marginal Labour seats and the 100 safest Labour seats.  Four of those seven seats have the Lib Dems or the Greens in second place.  As chance would have it, the type of seat where Labour is best placed to hold off the Conservatives looks as though it isn’t going to be that relevant in this election.

At the other extreme, there are 75 Labour seats where Leave won more than 60% of the vote (yes, that’s asymmetric with the “extreme Remain” banding).  That’s more than all the Labour seats where Leave scored under 46%.  20 of the seats in the 51st to 100th most vulnerable Labour seats are in this category.  Another 10 seats in this category are in the 101st to the 125th most vulnerable Labour seats.

Anecdote, the tenth wave of the British Election Study (as analysed by Chris Hanretty) and ICM subsamples all suggest that the Conservatives are doing particularly well in Labour-held seats.  The distribution of the Labour Leave-leaning and Remain-leaving seats might well explain that.

What does that mean in terms of seat losses?  First, we need to work out what the likely swing from Labour to the Conservatives is likely to be and then adjust.  Working on the basis that often the polling at the beginning of the election campaign is what the final result ends up as, I’m assuming a swing of roughly 7.5%.

Then we need to decide how this will differ in different bands of seats.  I’m working on the basis that the swing will be 4% lower in extreme Remain seats, 2% lower in less extreme but clearly Remain seats, 2% higher in clearly Leave seats and 3.5% higher in extreme Leave seats.  This would result in 79 seat losses to the Conservatives.  On this model, Labour would hold Exeter and lose Don Valley. Allowing for other losses to the Lib Dems and other parties, this would leave Labour with just under 150 seats. 

Of course, this is all pretty arbitrary, with assumptions galore.  The polling might be a lot tighter (if the swing is only 5%, Labour would end up with somewhere around the 170 mark).  Or Labour might collapse much further (if the swing is 10%, Labour would end up with somewhere around 130).  I may have radically underestimated or overestimated the swing differential in different types of seats.  But I expect the result to be in this ballpark.

I note that Bet 365 offers odds of 9/4 on Labour getting 126 to 150 seats and 5/2 on them getting 151 to 175 seats, implying they will get in this band roughly 60% of the time.  I think the chances are more like 85%.  Or if you want to back just a single band, Betfair Sportsbook’s and Paddy Power’s 7/4 on 120-159 seats looks generous to me.  I’m on.

Alastair Meeks


For LAB the onjective is to avert a Tory landslide – but how

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Don Brind explores the options

For many years Theresa May’s main claim to fame was her bravery in telling the Tories they’re the Nasty Party.

If you doubt that nastiness lives on in Toryland despite the election of the vicar’s daughter look no further than the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. He is the attack dog whistled up by Lynton Crosby to spread a bit of ugliness.

There is no one on the Labour side who specialises in Fallonic thuggery and nor am I suggesting there should be. But defining your opponent is a key part of political campaigning  I suggested to Yvette Cooper she was ideally suited to challenging and exposing Theresa May’s shortcoming.
“As long as you don’t cast me as a Michael Fallon. He’s appalling.”

Cooper is already on the case. She rocked Theresa May with a zinger of a question at the last Prime Minister’s Questions of the Parliament.  She pointed out that the reasons for calling a snap general election were untrue, adding “we can’t believe a word you say.”

The message — You can’t trust Theresa May” is step one in averting a landside.
Although she outscores Jeremy Corbyn in favourability polls, May is no superstar, as her pedestrian performances on Marr and Peston showed. It’s why she’s being kept out of debates and away from contact with real voters.

I have no doubt May is vulnerable to a forensic exposure of her duplicity and her defective moral compass. This is not a job for Corbyn himself or those close to him — not the least because her apparent popularity comes largely from being compared to him.

Understandably Team Corbyn don’t accept at this stage that a landslide is on the cards. They hope that an blizzard of polices will narrow the gap.

Nonetheless, I think they should encourage Cooper and other senior figures such as Hilary Benn and Lord David Blunkett to challenge the Prime Minister’s trustworthiness and the gap between her rhetoric and reality. Let’s call them the Labour Truth Team.

We should not assume that May is unassailable and that voters won’t be worried about her dishonesty shown in calling an election after repeated denials. And there is lots of other evidence Theresa May can’t be trusted and that any promises she makes are there to be broken. I examined the gap between May’s rhetoric and reality in a recent post.

Her slippery morals are likely to come into focus shortly when the Crown Prosecution Service announce what action they are taking over some 30 Tory agents and candidates caught up in the expenses allegations exposed by Channel Four’s Michael Crick.

At Prime Minister’s Questions May signalled she was ready to turn a blind eye to any misdemeanours and endorse them as candidates.  Lib Dem campaigner Mark Pack reckons the CPS decision, which is expected before nominations close is “a once-in-a-century type dramatic event to stop the Conservatives winning.”
The ground war will decide whether there’s a landslide

Nobody will, of course, be able to vote for or against a landslide. Whether it happens will depend on the ground war in the 50 or so Labour seats which on current polling projections could be in play. 
The Labour Truth Team can do vital work in helping the many brilliant hardworking Labour MPs whose seats are in jeopardy. Tory candidates will try to ride on the PM’s coat tails, using her heavily in their campaign material. Exposing her duplicity and dishonesty Labour’s defence of these key seats.

Fears of a Tory Tyranny – the phrase was coined by Jack Dromey, who defending a 5,129 majority in Birmingham Erdington – have prompted a call for electoral pacts with the Greens. 
One of those leading the calls for Labour to stand down is rising star and former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis whose fate in Norwich South hangs on attracting Greens and Lib Dems. He had majority of 7,654 over the Tories with the two other “progressive” parties each polling more than 6,500 votes.

In general I am in favour of tactical – or as I prefer to call it intelligent voting – but I am cautious about whether the Greens can deliver.

In 2015 I discovered that Green voters are some of the most bigoted and blinkered people (outside the ranks of Momentum). On doorsteps in Battersea and Croydon I would regularly say — “Vote Green and you’ll get Blue”. This line was vindicated in a group of nine seats the Tories won with tiny majorities. Across those seats there were more than 15,000 Green voters. If a quarter of them had voted Labour David Cameron would have struggled to get his overall majority.

The seats — with the Tory majority in bold — are Gower 27 1161; Derby N 41 1618; Croydon C 165 1454; Bury N 378 1141; Morley&Outwood 422 1264; Plymouth S&D 523 3401; Brighton Kempton 690 3187; Weaver Vale 806 1183; Telford 730 930.

Interestingly, four of the MPs, Gavin Barwell Croydon Central, Oliver Colville Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, David Nuttall Bury North, Graham Evans Weaver Vale are among those reported to be under investigation by the police.

I don’t always agree with Tim Farron but the Lib Dem leader is spot on when he tells voters “a Conservative landslide means they will take you for granted wherever you live.”


Corbyn to quit or not to quit on June 9th, that is the question

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.  – Hamlet Act V, Scene II

William Hill have a market up on whether Jeremy Corbyn will announce his resignation before 11pm on June 9th. Whilst it might sound like the epitome of hubris and arrogance to assume that a Tory majority is nailed on, it isn’t hubristic and arrogant when you remember the Labour leader is Jeremy Corbyn, a man who is setting all sorts of polling records for the wrong reasons.

In recent years the  standard operating procedure is for the party leader of Labour or the Tories that doesn’t win the general election resigns as party Leader, however I feel Corbyn will break this recent precedent. For the following reasons.

  1. One of the things we’ve learned about Corbyn a leader, no matter how bad the polling, no matter how bad the local council election results, no matter the record breaking by election loss in Copeland, he’s quite impervious to the criticism. He genuinely believes in his project to transform for Labour and the country, and won’t let something like a general election defeat get in the way of that.
  2. Corbyn can argue, with some justification, because of Theresa May’s nefariousness in becoming another liar politician and calling an early election in stark contrast to her promises not to do so, he would be justified in being allowed to stay on as leader after a general election defeat. Corbynism is a five year project, you really can’t judge him after fewer than two years of him being leader.

Earlier on this week it was reported that ‘Staff at Labour’s headquarters could go on to strike if Jeremy Corbyn tries to cling on as party leader if he suffers a major defeat on June 8. Sources told The Times workers fear the hapless leftie will refuse to step down even if Theresa May romps to victory next month.’

On that basis I’m taking the 5/6 on him not announcing his resignation before 11pm on June 9th. He’s one stubborn bugger, he kept calm and carried on even after 172 of his 232 MPs declared no confidence in his leadership. Corbyn, I expect, won’t be channelling his inner Hamlet from Act V, Scene II and go quietly after the mother of all electoral shellackings.

Although the way Mrs May is blowing huge Tory leads in this campaign so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if William Hill introduce very shortly a similar market on whether she’ll announce her resignation before 11pm on June 9th as the Tory party will prove once again it is an absolute monarchy moderated by regicide if she fails to win (a majority) against Corbyn.



Momentum’s cunning plan to change the narrative about LAB’s chances

Thursday, April 20th, 2017


Len McCluskey thinks LAB could be in government after GE2020 – a pipe dream or a possibility?

Monday, April 10th, 2017


Don Brind on where the UNITE boss is right and where wrong

Len McCluskey is right. Labour could be back in government as a result of the 2020 General Election. I agree with the Unite leader that while there’s little chance of Labour winning the election there’s a decent chance that the Tories will lose it.
McCluskey is rather more emphatic than me: “ I don’t think the Tories will win the next election. They might be the largest party but I don’t think they will be able to form a government,” he told the Observer  What he foresees is a minority government supported by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

With Labour languishing in the mid 20s in the polls and trailing the Tories by up to 18 points that many will think Len and I have taken leave of our senses.Theresa May looks impregnable.

But then so did Sir John Major in 1992. BBC Parliament is giving us Labour masochists the chance to relive the trauma of that defeat when Major he garnered a record 14 million votes to see of the challenge from Neil Kinnock. . Perhaps the channel should now think about re-running coverage for September 16th 1992 — “Black Wednesday. Less than six months after his victory Major’s government imploded – and Europe was the issue.”The UK was forced out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism damaged the Major government’s economic credibility beyond repair.

And like Len McCluskey I suspect the Theresa May’s is much more fragile than it looks. I aired my hostility to her policies in my last post here.

Her current popularity could be tested by underfunding of the NHS and schools as well as the continuing sharp squeeze on living standards and, of course, Brexit.

Then there the signs of a Lib Dem recovery, which according to the New Statesman’s political editor George Eaton is worrying Tory MPs. He says,
“The MPs’ fears, I can reveal, were later reinforced by private Conservative polling. According to multiple sources, a survey conducted by Crosby Textor showed the party would lose most of the 27 gains they made from the Lib Dems in 2015, including all those in south London, all those in Cornwall and most of those in Devon.”

Those gains were crucial to May’s Commons majority of 16 – which is, of course, smaller than Major’s in 1992.

This is where I part company with the Unite leader. If it’s governments that lose elections the Opposition has to be ready to profit. McCluskey thinks Jeremy Corbyn should be given more time to prove he can win over the voters. I believe this is impossible. Voters in general, and workers class voters in particular, have made up their minds. They don’t see him as a Prime Minister.

Electing a new leader is the ultimate game changer. Look at Germany where, as the Guardian reports, the advent of Martin Schultz, “has already seen the SPD, after nearly two decades in which it has haemorrhaged support, boosting the number of its card-carrying members by thousands, while polls have shown voter support has risen by about 10 points.”

The sooner Labour gets the chance to find its Martin Schultz the better.

Don Brind