Category: Labour Party

The Labour Party

Maybe Icarus can land with a glide

“The Liberal Democrats misread the political mood. Yet perhaps not all is lost”, writes Martin Kettle.

Three conclusions follow. The first is that Brexit has not reshaped the electoral battle as comprehensively as some believe. That is not to belittle the fact that Brexit has done much to recast British electoral politics. This is still a Brexit election, because its results could mark a point of no return on this most all pervasive of current issues. But it is not year zero. The idea that the Lib Dems, by being clear on the biggest issue of the day, will automatically attract all remain voters en masse to their cause is being proved false. It’s as false as Labour’s equivalent fantasy that, by being clear on the need for a radical post-austerity political economy, it will automatically attract all the votes of those who agree with that policy. In both cases, belief in practicality and trust in the leader are crucial to making the sale.

I would add to that final point about trust something that Martin Kettle almost certainly would not. It is a line from an article published yesterday by Mr Kettle’s Guardian colleague John Harris: “Labour’s ‘red wall’ is looking shaky. But the problems started decades ago”.

Mr Harris writes,

Running through a great deal of what I heard was a point voiced time and again by all kinds of people: in the absence of Brexit being delivered, why should they trust politicians to do anything else?

Goodbye secure Tory poll lead, I hardly knew ye

A couple of days ago YouGov published the first set of results of their massive Multilevel Regression with Poststratification poll. This was big news, as the equivalent from the last election in 2017 was one of only two polls that came close to the final result. (The other was a conventional poll by Survation.) The YouGov MRP results showed the responses of the hundred thousand strong panel as of 27th November. If this election were a game of The Weakest Link, that would have been the point at which the Tories said “Bank”. The results suggested a sea of red seats turning blue. (Note for American readers: your colour conventions for parties are wrong. Wrong like the spelling “color”.) As ever, though, a poll is a snapshot not a prediction.

There is no bank. Today’s poll from BMG showed the steepest absolute rise for Labour – five percentage points compared to BMG’s last poll – that I have seen so far in this election, and add to that a decline of two percentage points for the Conservatives. Net change -7, giving Con 39%, Lab 33%. One might argue – Tories might pray – that it ain’t as bad as it looks because it was quite a while since the last BMG poll. Or perhaps it is just one of those spasms that all polls are subject to, poor lambs. But however you spin it, a Conservative lead in vote share as small as six points almost certainly means no Tory majority, which means a coalition between Labour and one or more of the other parties, which means a second referendum, which means, given Labour’s plan to allow foreigners the vote, no Brexit.

When the YouGov MRP came out some Conservative campaigners had been saying that they wished it had been tighter, as such a thumping great lead would make their side complacent. They have their wish now.

I assume from Labour being up five and the Lib Dems down five that we are seeing a straight tactical transfer of voting intention from the latter to the former. The Remain vote is consolidating just as the Leave vote did before it.

Doom and gloom

Fraser Nelson in today’s Telegraph:

Let’s not pretend that the Corbyn agenda is dismissed nationwide as a socialist calamity-in-waiting. His plans to nationalise water, railways, electricity and gas are supported by about half of all voters; his idea for British Broadband Corporation is backed by a margin of three to one.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is interviewed by the Spectator.

I remember having conversations with colleagues in the government that came in in 2010 saying I thought austerity was just not the right way forward for the UK.

Anyone wanting to reduce the size of the state has a lot of work in front of them.

Making doubly sure Leave cannot win

It was always clear that the “credible Leave option” that the Labour party proposes to pit against Remain in a second referendum is a fake. The plan is for Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry to get together with their EU opposite numbers and, after the least arduous negotiations imaginable, to emerge beaming with a “deal” deliberately designed to be as unattractive as possible.

But if that wasn’t enough, the Labour manifesto plans to make assurance doubly sure, as Macbeth said when deciding to murder Macduff. I quote:

We will oversee the largest extension of the franchise in generations, reducing the voting age to 16, giving full voting rights to all UK residents, making sure everyone who is entitled to vote can do so by introducing a system of automatic voter registration, and abandoning plans to introduce voter ID which has been shown to harm democratic rights.

“It’s time for real change – The Labour Party Manifesto 2019”

The innocuous phrase “all UK residents” includes non-UK citizens from any country. As it says elsewhere in the manifesto, there are three million EU residents in the UK. They will get to vote on whether the UK remains in the EU. The majority by which Leave won the 2016 referendum was 1.3 million.

Three and a half shower thoughts

1) I am beginning to think that the best strategy for the Leave side would be for the Brexit Party and the Conservatives to make no official pact, and to continue to denounce each other vigorously, but to make a de facto pact in terms of which seats receive money and campaign volunteers from the two parties.

(EDIT 12:30, 11 Nov 2019: Whether or not that would have been the best strategy, it is now off the cards. Guido Fawkes reports, Brexit Party will Stand Down in 317 Seats the Tories Won in 2017)

2) In an effort to correct for the errors of their disastrous 2017 campaign, the Conservatives are deliberately holding back their main effort until later. This may be an overcorrection, but we’ll see. Expect the fireworks to start after the launch of the Labour manifesto. (The Conservatives’ own manifesto will be as short and uncontroversial – for which read fiscally incontinent – as possible.)

3) Talking of which, the line over which the campaign will be fought will be the words from the 2017 Labour manifesto that may or may not appear in the 2019 Labour manifesto: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” If these guys were to get their way the election result would be a Tory landslide. But Labour’s instinct to fudge will probably prevail.

3.5) It is sad to note that if I am right, both (2) and (3) require the Conservatives to move in an anti-Libertarian direction in order to win.

Workington Agonistes

“Workington” sounds like a name made up for a novel. But it is a real place, a small town in Cumbria that used to have a coal mine and now has the questionable fortune to have become for the 2019 election what Basildon was in 1992 or Nuneaton was in 2015.

Damian Lyons Lowe of the polling company Survation tweets,

On behalf of Simon Walters at Daily Mail, we have polled the seat many in the media have described as a “must win” in this election as an indicator for Conservative fortunes in parts of the north of England – Workington in Cumbria.

The results were: Conservatives 45% (+3), Labour 34% (-17), Brexit Party 13% (+13), Liberal Democrats 5% (-2), Green Party 2% (+2). The figures in brackets are changes since the 2017 general election.

It is only one poll, but the results indicate that, as suggested in the previous post, the Brexit party running in most or all seats may not harm the Conservatives as much as it would seem at first sight. In fact the presence of the Brexit Party in the contest could indirectly benefit the Conservatives by taking more votes from Labour than from them.

Interesting as the electoral horse race always is, let us not forget that this (potential) change in voting patterns is also a change in how people see themselves.

The Daily Mail produced this graphic of some of the questions asked in the Survation poll. Take a look at the answers to Q5:

Regardless of your current voting intention, if you change your mind before Dec 12, which other party would you consider voting for?

We see the old certitudes dissolve before our eyes.

Or maybe we don’t. Never forget that for the first few days after Theresa May called the election in 2017 that ended with her losing her majority, her already high polling figures rose yet further. Nor did the Tory vote share ever drop very far during the entire campaign – the trouble was, Labour’s rose sharply.

If I were Dominic Cummings, this is one line I would push

My past self rebukes my present self for saying this, but there is one thing that Labour let slip over the last few days that the Tories would do well to seize upon.

On October 28th Labour submitted “wrecking amendments” to the bill that authorised the election that would have extended the franchise to sixteen and seventeen year olds, and also to EU citizens.

Nothing came of it. The two amendments were not selected for debate by the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, on the grounds that they were not relevant to the motion. In normal times one would have assumed that of course amendments proposing major constitutional changes would not be permitted to be tacked on to another bill as an afterthought, but in the last days of the era of John Bercow there is no “of course” about it. He might well have seen votes for sixteen year olds and foreigners as his last gift to the nation. Fortunately his deputy was in the Speaker’s chair on this occasion.

The proposal to give the vote to 16-17 year olds was an obvious ploy to gather the votes of da yoof while they still know little of the world beyond what their teachers have told them. I would imagine that the sight of Labour advocating this arouses more weariness than outrage. Votes for foreigners is a different matter. Although the mainstream media lost interest as soon as it was clear that the Deputy Speaker would not allow the amendments, my subjective impression is that to many ordinary people the news that Labour apparently wants to add around three million non-citizens to the electoral roll almost eclipsed the news about the date of the election.

I may be wrong about this. I was abroad for the last week and did not spend much time on the internet. Thus what I did see might have been too small a sample from which to draw conclusions. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that I was only skim-reading allowed me to see the spike in anger more clearly. I was not in a position to collect hyperlinks, but, trust me, a lot of people saw this in terms of Labour wanting to replace its former voters.