Donald Brind says: “Thanks Neil – now we need to hear from Gordon”

August 3rd, 2015


Brown is well-placed to deal with the Corbyn surge

Shortly after Tony Blair was elected Labour leader in 1994 I bumped into my political hero Jack Jones at a book launch. What inspired me about Jones was that he understood that making gains for the working people he cared passionately about could only be done through a combination of industrial organisation and winning political power.

So, what I asked did he make of the new leader? He havered. He hadn’t made his mind up. Then a smile and a declaration: “Gordon Brown is a socialist.”This reminiscence was prompted by a reference to Brown on Newsnight by former Blair speech writer and Times columnist Phil Collins.

I had turned on Newsnight with low expectations. A smart young London MP had been booked to go on with Collins. A producer told her what she planned to say was “too reasonable.” Instead they had booked an old warhorse Diane Abbott.

The programme set out to examine the state of Blairism following the claim by CWU leader Dave Ward that Jeremy Corbyn would be an antidote to the Blairite “virus”. He was contradicted in a surefooted interview by Liz Kendall. What Labour really needs, she said, now is an “antidote to the Tories” .Then during the discussion with Abbott Collins said:“Winning power is crucial. Remember that great Gordon Brown speech in which he listed all the things that the Labour government had done… it was a long list. I don’t think any of that is conceivable under a Corbyn-led Labour party.”

It came as a bit of surprise a to hear a positive reference to Brown from someone seen (perhaps unfairly) as an arch Blairite. Collins,  We have become used to seeing Blair and Brown as rivals, even enemies. My hero Jack Jones’ doubts about Blair and his preference for the “socialist” Brown looks prescient.

In fact, I think he was wrong. The Blair Brown partnership was enormously fruitful for Labour and for the country. The 1997 landslide was a victory for team Labour – brilliantly led,  of course, by Blair – but with Brown chairing the key election strategy committee. They campaigned on a programme that drew on contributions from people who were to become the big beast of the Labour government.

    Now is the time, perhaps, for Brown, who made such a decisive intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign to remind Labour party members of the importance of winning power.

Kieran Pedley is surely right to warn that having an unelectable leader in 2020 makes the prospects of victory in 2025 even more distant.

Brown has the example of his old friend Neil Kinnock who last week was urged by Peter Kellner appeal to intervene to save the party from Jeremy Corbyn. . Now Kinnock has come out in support of Andy Burnham. Labour would become a powerless “discussion group” under Corbyn. The party must not settle for angry opposition. We must focus on victory and choose a leader who can win.”

If all else fails it may be the lure of the allotment that saves Labour from getting an unelectable leader. . Corbyn told the People’s veteran political editor Nigel Nelson that if his leadership bid fails he would be happy to go back to growing his vegetables.

Don Brind is one of PB’s regular contributors


Corbyn price getting weaker – Burnham price hardening on Betfair

August 2nd, 2015

At his peak Corbyn was a 48% chance on Betfair – he’s now edged down to 38%.

Mike Smithson


Next Chancellor after Osborne betting

August 2nd, 2015


The next Chancellor of the Exchequer market that Ladbrokes have is a hard market to assess. There’s two major known unknowns, will David Cameron stand down in this parliament (potentially to maximise George Osborne’s chances of succeeding him) or will the result of the next election be the trigger for the Osborne’s successor?

Sajid Javid is quite rightly the favourite to be the next Chancellor whilst Osborne is favourite to be the next Tory leader, however at 16/1 another Osborne ally Matt Hancock might be value. In the last couple of days he’s been praised by David Cameron for his work. Whilst he doesn’t have the back story of Sajid Javid, he does have the advantage of being Osborne’s former Chief of Staff, Osborne has seen at first hand the advantage of a PM and Chancellor working close together for the greater good, who better to help a PM Osborne achieve than his former Chief of Staff as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

With the strong likelihood of both the next Labour leader and their deputy being men, the new Labour leader might want to make their Shadow Chancellor a woman, given the high profile the role enjoys. We must remember the Tories only have to lose 20 seats for a Rainbow alliance to take power in 2020 and for us to have a Labour Chancellor. So Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper at 10/1 and 20/1 might be value, to show Labour don’t have a woman problem, forty years after the Tories first elected a woman leader.

You can access the Ladbrokes market here.



Keiran Pedley: LAB’s making a big mistake to assume that the only way now is up

August 2nd, 2015



As CLP nominations close, with Jeremy Corbyn leading, Labour members must remember that its electoral fortunes can get worse as well as better

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article for the New Statesman in which I argued that Jeremy Corbyn was not the answer to Labour’s problems. Last week I was interviewed about it on the BBC and you can see the clip here. My reasoning is pretty straightforward, Labour can only win if its leader is seen as a credible Prime Minister in ­waiting and the Labour Party regains public trust on the economy. I think a Corbyn ­led Labour solves neither of these problems – in fact I think it would make things worse.

This week, a Labour supporting colleague that had seen my clip cornered me at work and said something that I thought was interesting:

“The thing you have to understand Keiran is that none of them can win anyway, so we might as well vote for Jeremy Corbyn”.

I was taken aback by this view but it turns out that it might be more widespread than I thought. In this week’s New Statesman podcast, Stephen Bush described several conversations he has had with people in Labour that said exactly the same thing. Many members do not think that any of the candidates can win in 2020 so they reason that they might as well ‘vote with their heart’.

This is a really dangerous mindset for the Labour Party to be in. Assuming it is true that Labour simply cannot win in 2020 (I disagree), Labour members have to realise that there are different degrees of defeat. For example, a Conservative majority of 80 has very different implications for Labour’s long term prospects than a minority Conservative Government. Labour cannot assume that because it got 30% of the vote in 2015 that the only way is up. Labour can lose votes too and the leader it chooses will be vital to whether things get better or worse.

In short, 2020 cannot be treated as a ‘free hit’ because Labour won’t win anyway. Things could get worse and Labour would then be further away from government than it is now.

My view is that if Labour puts forward a hard­left platform to the country it will do little to solve its problems in Scotland – as BES data has shown this week – but it will further alienate English voters and mean that the Conservatives increase their majority in 2020. Labour’s ‘Scotland problem’ is a difficult one to solve but I am sceptical simply promising to ‘oppose austerity’ and scrap Trident will solve it. Meanwhile, such a platform will give the new Conservative leader a very easy General Election campaign to fight in England. He or she can present ‘Conservative security’ versus ‘Labour risk’ again – just as the Conservatives did with such success in 2015.

To win again Labour needs to form a new electoral coalition large enough to win 35­-40% of the popular vote. It cannot realistically do so without winning over some Conservative voters – many of whom will have voted Labour in the past. Of course, winning over non­voters, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and UKIP supporters will help too but it is a fantasy to think victory can be achieved with this group alone. Once you accept this reality, it is very hard to make an argument that Jeremy Corbyn is the man for the job.

But whatever you think about the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party – and I have made my thoughts pretty clear – the one thing Labour members must always remember is that there is no guarantee of things getting better from here. If they do get worse, suddenly 2025 will not be winnable either and people will question if Labour can ever win again. Labour members have a serious choice to make when choosing the next leader and win or lose in 2020 that choice has significant long term implications for the party. If you are voting in the contest, whoever you plan on supporting, it is worth keeping that in mind.

Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and presenter of the podcast ‘Polling Matters’. He tweets about polls and politics at @keiranpedley


Biden said to be considering a bid for the presidency

August 1st, 2015

This could really shake up the WH2016 betting

As I posted ten days ago a bet at 4/1 that someone other than Hillary would get the nomination was great value and I have a big position.

Potential contenders have until now been overawed by the Hillary factor. But if one big player like Biden enters the fray then others could follow.

Maybe Hillary will have a fight on her hands after all.

Mike Smithson


Remember the Saturday when the Telegraph and Sky News both declared that Alan Johnson had won the deputy leader election

August 1st, 2015

With AV LAB elections don’t always go to plan

Remember June 2007? So many Labour MPs had chickened out of doing other than nominate Brown for leader that there weren’t enough left for another candidate to go on the ballot. The result – the party got what the polling indicated was a leader who was an electoral liability – not someone who could lead them into a fourth successive general election victory.

Instead there was a hard-fought deputy race which on the day, even before the offical announcement SkyNews and the Telegraph had published that Alan Johnson had won.

As it turned out the victor, by a whisker with a margin of less than 1%, was Harriet Harman who has remained in the post since. She got it because of the way the lower preferences of the third place, John Cruddas split.

It’s reckoned in the current election is that Yvette will pick up the lion’s share of Liz Kendall’s second pref assuming she comes last. The question will then be whether this is enough to beat Burnham in the second round.

Mike Smithson


David Herdson asks: Where are UKIP’s 34 peers?

July 31st, 2015

An unreformed Lords shouldn’t be a closed shop for the old parties

Sex, money and people in high places all make for a good scandal, as Lord Sewel found out to his cost this last week. And as usually happens when a member of the Lords gets into trouble, the opponents of the institution cite it as an example of the need for reform of it, or even its outright abolition.

Not that there’s a chance of serious reform any time soon. It suits both Conservative and Labour governments to keep a second chamber that doesn’t pose too much of a threat to the first and into which they can parachute placemen and -women. It suits the Lib Dems too to keep their hundred peers in place while their representation in the Commons lies in single figures; a point which may have to the forefront of their thinking when they folded so easily on the subject in the last parliament.

Because the fact is that even more than the Commons, the Lords is a club for the established parties: the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems have 539 peers between them; all other parties, just twelve. There are of course more than two hundred non-party peers – crossbenchers, unaligned and bishops – but while that provides diversity in one sense, it does little to reflect changing voting patterns.

The last government in its coalition agreement pledged itself to appoint new peers with the intention of reflecting the previous election. It never quite got there and it was always a bit of a silly objective: were it to be followed rigorously, the see-saw effect of electoral swing combined with the length of peers’ service would see numbers in the Lords expand out of all control. To have been pushing Lib Dem membership up to 23% when their opinion poll rating was marooned in single figures would have looked unjustifiable.

However, that objection can be navigated if we take not the last election as the baseline but an average of the last three, both to mitigate the see-saw effect and on the basis that 15 years is closer (though probably still short) of the average length of a peer’s service. If, to avoid the introduction of flash-in-the-pan parties, we also introduce a 3% UK-wide threshold, or a 10% threshold for the regional parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, then on the basis of 550 party peers there’d be the following numbers:

Con 202 (actual 226)
Lab 181 (actual 212)
LD 101 (actual 101)
UKIP 34 (actual 3)
SNP 15 (actual 0 on principle)
DUP 4 (actual 4)
Plaid 3 (actual 2)
Sinn Fein 3 (actual 0 on principle)
SDLP 2 (actual 0)
UUP 2 (actual 2)

The Greens fall below the threshold (the three Green parties within the UK averaged just 1.9% between them over the 2005-15 period) but do have one member of the Lords at present.

Various things stand out on that list: the existing bias to the Tories and Labour (soon to be increased, apparently), the Lib Dems being spot on their ‘quota’, and the near-fair representation of those regional parties which allow their members to participate in the Lords. But by far the most striking is the scale of UKIP’s under-representation.

There may be some justification for this. On the criteria above, UKIP wouldn’t have crossed the qualifying threshold until this last election (their average from 2001-10 was only 2.3%) but even if they were expected to work up to their full allocation over three parliaments, they’d still be entitled to eleven or twelve in this one: four times what they actually have.

The House of Lords has never justified itself on democratic legitimacy but on grounds of effectiveness. Which is all very well but the fact is that democratic arguments are put forward when it suits one politician or another to do so. So would it really hurt to give a voice to the one in eight at the last election who voted for Farage’s party? Who knows – they might even brighten the place up.

David Herdson


Tim Farron’s LDs the main gainers, leaderless LAB the main losers in the July Local By-Election + overnight results

July 31st, 2015

The overnight results

Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill (SNP defence) and Kincorth, Nigg and Cove (SNP defence) on City of Aberdeen

Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill
Result: Scottish National Party 1,690 (55% +19%), Labour 771 (25% -20%), Conservative 350 (11%, no candidate in 2012), Green Party 130 (4% +1%), Liberal Democrats 125 (4% unchanged)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the first count with a majority of 919 (30%) on a swing of 19.5% from Labour to SNP

Kincorth, Nigg and Cove
Result: Scottish National Party 1,939 (61% +27%), Labour 606 (19% -19%), Conservatives 313 (10% +5%), Liberal Democrats 207 (7% -1%), Green Party 114 (4%, no candidate in 2012)
Scottish National Party HOLD on the first count with a majority of 1,333 (42%) on a swing of 23% from Labour to SNP

North Hykeham Mill on North Kesteven (Lincolnshire Independent defence)
Result: Conservatives 286 (40% -19%), Independent 180 (25%, no candidate in 2015), Labour 161 (23%, no candidate in 2015), Green Party 64 (9%, no candidate in 2015), Liberal Democrat 22 (3%, no candidate in 2015)
Conservative GAIN from Lincolnshire Independent with a majority of 106 (15%), no swing calculable

College on Northumberland (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 508 (69% -22%), United Kingdom Independence Party 102 (14%, no candidate in 2013), Liberal Democrats 83 (11%, no candidate in 2013), Conservative 39 (5% -4%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 406 (55%) on a notional swing of 18% from Labour to UKIP

Droitwich East on Wychavon (Con defence)
Result: Conservative 495 (52% +8%), Labour 175 (18% -3%), United Kingdom Independence Party 171 (18% -2%), Liberal Democrats 108 (11% -4%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 320 (34%) on a swing of 5.5% from Labour to Conservative

Harry Hayfield