UNCUT: Reality check: a winning party needs to win, you know, seats

14/06/2017, 11:21:42 AM

by Rob Marchant

For some MPs and commentators, suddenly everything has changed about Labour’s situation. But what, exactly? Did we win, as Emily Thornberry thought we did? Has Jeremy Corbyn now become the nation’s best choice for prime minister? Is it just “one more heave”?

Hmm. Not really. In fact, dig a bit deeper and we might observe the opposite: that in fact, very little has changed at all.

Yes, Corbyn confounded expectations of the votes he could poll nationally. As did Theresa May. However, the mere fact that his impressive upswing in vote-share did not actually win him the election should give us pause, for three reasons.

One: an increase in vote-share (in this case, the largest since 1945) is, self-evidently, not just down to the party and its leader in a given moment. Logic dictates that it is down to three other things as well: the opposition, the leader and state of the party last time, and the opposition last time.

In this case we are talking about May, a leader almost universally derided at time of writing, and who may yet turn out to be the shortest-serving prime minister not to resign through ill-health in nearly two centuries; Cameron, who was felt by the public not to be a bad leader (at least at the time of the 2015 election) and increased his vote; and Miliband, who brought Labour’s number of parliamentary seats close to its 1980s post-war nadir.

In this context, Corbyn’s achievement looks somewhat less impressive: he has done better, set against the terrible May, than the terrible Miliband did against the half-decent Cameron. A low bar indeed.

Indeed if, instead of looking at the swing, we look at his vote-share compared with that of other Labour leaders (perhaps a better measure), we can see that he is around the middle of the table. The real news is the confounded expectations, not the absolute result.

Two: the maths. There is also one thing which really stands out about the big upswing in vote-share compared with other general elections: Labour’s abject failure in translating it into seats. In fact, if we map swings against seats for elections since 1945, we can see that it is a marked outlier.

Fig. 1: Swing vs. seats since 1950. Source data: http://www.ukpolitical.info/ConvLab.htm

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Labour should unite around the possibilities offered by a Corbyn government

11/06/2017, 08:00:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Jeremy Corbyn has changed politics. Many – not least at Uncut – doubted whether he could. But he has. And it would be churlish to pretend otherwise.

Corbyn has illuminated a pathway to a transformative Labour government and the salvaging of the UK’s relationship with our European neighbours.

This is a future that everyone in Labour should fight for. Chuka Umunna should be congratulated for making himself available to serve on our frontbench, while the unwillingness of Chris Leslie is disappointing.

Much increased turnout among younger voters has produced a general election result broadly in line with those polls that took people at their word on their intention to vote. The youngsters said they would vote, they did, and Corbyn was key to this. If younger people continue to vote in these numbers, future elections will be different contests from previously.

As encouraging as this change is, the big vote among younger people for Labour was not sufficient to prevent a Tory government. At least for now.

Where coalition with the Liberal Democrats helped modernise the Tory brand, and provided a solid parliamentary majority, working with the DUP – pre-modern in their attitude to women and climate change – deepens the re-toxification of the already UKIP-esque Tories, in exchange for a puny majority.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

GRASSROOTS: Has Corbyn’s elastic stretched as far as it can?

10/06/2017, 04:43:03 PM

by John Wall

Although the dust from the general election is yet to settle and there is much ink still to be spilt it’s clear that, despite the claims of the Corbynistas, Project Corbyn has reached its limit.

Go back a couple of years and Corbyn’s path to Downing Street was essentially predicated on two principles. The first was non-voters, in the hope that they’d support Labour, and the second was attracting fellow travellers on the left, effectively a so-called progressive alliance.

The naysayers countered with analyses contending that these wouldn’t provide sufficient extra support and that a majority could only be secured by attracting Conservative voters.

If we look at the headline figures the two main parties together secured approaching 85% of the vote, a significant increase since the about 67% in 2015 and a massive consequential squeeze on the smaller parties.

Then there was the large increase in turnout by the key, for Corbyn, 18-24 age group.

Notwithstanding the above, and despite a poor campaign, the Conservative vote and percentage share increased, and Labour are still more than sixty seats short of a majority.

It’s clear that, overall, few Conservatives were attracted to Labour and, considering Corbyn’s extremely unsavoury baggage and economic incontinence, this isn’t particularly surprising.

It may, of course, be possible to squeeze the minor parties a little more, but the share of the two main parties is at its highest since about 1970, and perhaps some more 18-24 year olds can be enticed by giveaways, but Lord Ashcroft reckons that two thirds voted for Labour, so these avenues must now be subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Whenever the next election is the Conservatives will have learned the lessons of 2017, simple things like a few devil’s advocates involved in writing the manifesto. There might even be a new leader, it’s a party that is only interested in winning and winners, with no place for sentiment.

Everything went Corbyn’s way but he still fell a long way short. His position is secure, and Labour will now probably be refashioned in his likeness, but that will not attract Conservative voters and will keep them as far from power as ever.

John Wall is a former member of the Conservatives

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: I was wrong about Corbyn. Now, after this result, Labour has the space to make the case for investment

09/06/2017, 10:48:19 PM

by Ian Moss

I was wrong, Corbyn did not drive Labour off a cliff, he won seats and he dramatically increased vote share. He comes out of the election stronger but that is partially because expectations were so low. His leadership was a galvanising force for youth and his language a refreshing change from wooden managerialism; authentic and without the timid terror of trained lines to take.

The challenge is still enormous for Labour. It has lost three elections in a row and is in no better a position, in seats, than it was in 2010 and the Conservatives no worse. Yes vote share has surged, but so too has it for the Conservative party. It’s possible we are back to the two player game for good. However, for the first time in a decade there is an obvious path, one which can galvanise Labour’s coalition of support and put an offer to the country that can bind older voters with the young.

Labour’s moderates can start to be much more confident on the economy and on public spending and move on from the paralysis they have faced since 1992 on it. The Conservatives have absented themselves from the issue of fiscal credibility, as the deficit still looms large, and the public are beginning to see the cracks in their local services. Labour can make the case for investment again, in return for modest increases on the taxes of those that can bear it most and a continuing commitment on efficiency and reform.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: I phone banked for four weeks but picked up no Labour surge. And then, on polling day, there it was

09/06/2017, 06:00:53 PM

by Andy Howell

Early Thursday morning, election day. I made my way into Birmingham Labour’s phone bank with long time, fellow traveller, Bill Lees. As we approached that final push we wondered whether this might be the last time we could run a simple and conventional Get Out The Vote Operation (GOTV). Despite all of the computers and the clever pieces of software GOTV remains based on brute strength. It worked in Stoke on Trent with the backup of hundreds and thousands of volunteers. But could it still work in basic elections?

Bill and I seemed to have been locked in that phone bank for most of the previous four weeks. Bill — who was running the operation — seemed to have moved into the Birmingham office for the duration of the campaign. We survived on a poor diet of caffeine, sandwiches and very bad jokes.

For a month and more a dedicated team spoke to literally thousands of voters, initially to all and then latterly to those who had more closely identified with Labour over the last few years. It was hard going. We experienced little of the Labour ‘surge’. The last few days were positively depressing. In all honesty, we didn’t see Labour’s 40% vote coming, even as we ran wave after wave of phone knock-ups on polling day. Maybe our work did help? Maybe our work had made a difference? Maybe it didn’t? But our input into Labour’s Contact Creator seemingly hadn’t lied. The polls seemed to be right. We missed Labour’s rise completely. So, what were we missing?

Turnout was up significantly in our target seats. In some parts of Jack Dromey’s Erdington seat we were shocked at past voting records. We used Labour’s software to do some fundamental analysis. In one key area — Castle Vale — 42% of voters had not voted once in eight years. Two-thirds of voters had only voted twice across an eight year period and that voting pattern was heavily weighted to the beginning of that eight year period. It seemed these were elder voters simply getting too old to vote.

Voting turnout on ‘The Vale’ is dismally poor and yet residents came out in their droves for the EU referendum, to vote Brexit of course. Anecdotes from Party workers and polling officials suggested that in the referendum many had voted for the first time. These voters had no voting record. Phone numbers and accounts are regularly switched. From our phone banks we had no way of properly engaging with many of these voters; maybe if we had have been we would have not been caught so unaware.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: If Jeremy Corbyn forms a minority government on Friday, he needs to scrap the Fixed Term Parliament Act

07/06/2017, 10:42:33 PM

by Trevor Fisher

With the opinion polls all over the place nothing is clear, but the possibility of a hung parliament has to be considered. One poll with a week to go put the Tories having a 3% lead, another a 12% lead, and the latter is more likely. But the prospect of a hung parliament and Labour having to fess up to challenging May is now worth thinking about. Paul Mason (in the Financial Times of 3rd June) called for Labour to ‘pledge his willingness to govern from the centre… should signal he would form a government with cross party support in parliament, at the very least from the Greens and the progressive nationalist parties’. That raises more questions than answers, but is not what the Front Bench is stating is political stance is going to be anyway.

The Guardian on 1st June reported that Corbyn and Thornberry at a rally in the odd venue of Basildon, considered the options if Labour were the largest party but had no majority. Corbyn echoed Tim Farron in rejecting coalitions, the two leaders clearly aware the coalitions are not popular, stating “We’re not doing deals, we are not doing coalitions, we are not doing any of these things. We are fighting to win this election”. Which is all well and good, but McCluskey of Unite said two weeks earlier that Labour would do well if it did not lose many seats, and to win the election would need Labour holding all its marginals and taking seats off its opponents, especially in Scotland.

However the comment by Emily Thornberry was more important.

She said “We are fighting to win and we are fighting to win a majority. If we end up in a position where we are in a minority, then we will go ahead and put forward a Queen’s speech and a budget, and if people want to vote for it, then good, but if people don’t want to vote for it, then they going to have to go back and speak to their constituents and explain it to them, why we have a Tory government instead. Those are the conversations we have had. No Deals.”

This needs teasing out. If Labour is the largest party, and Corbyn is called to the Palace and becomes PM with no majority, this comment means the front bench are planning to put their plans to the Commons and risking being defeated. If that happened, the Tories would then be the next in line and Corbyn could be the PM with the shortest time in office on record. Blaming the other parties would not be much consolation if the Tories stitched up a deal, as they unlike the Lib Dems and Labour, have said nothing about ruling out coalitions so far.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Polls: Labour’s surging. Non-London doorstep: It’s a “nuclear winter for Labour.” Party braces for worst

05/06/2017, 10:51:57 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Just over two weeks ago I posted a projection of huge losses for Labour – over 90 seats – based on dozens of conversations with activists, candidates and officials who cumulatively had sight of tens of thousands of canvass returns.

Since then, I’ve continued those conversations as Labour has apparently surged in the polls.

The result is a marked improvement in London but precious little to cheer about outside the capital.

The last few weeks have seen a strong rise in Labour promises in key seats across London, although constituencies such as Dagenham and Eltham remain very difficult.

But in the West Midlands, Yorkshire, North West and the North East, any improvement has been nugatory.

One campaigner from London who spent time in the North East last week described it as a “nuclear winter for Labour.”

The doorstep returns outside of London are saying that Labour is still running substantially below its 2015 vote, that Ukip votes are transferring in huge numbers to the Tories with losses in prospect of the mid-60s to mid-90s and a lingering possibility that the situation could be even worse come Thursday.

What on earth is happening? Are the doorstep results wrong? Or is it the polls?

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Whatever happened to the good old election poster?

03/06/2017, 02:32:56 PM

by Lucy Ashton

Once upon a time our streets would have been ablaze with colourful orange triangles, lurid yellow and red squares and true blue garden stakes. But now, while people are quick to add a twibbon to their twitter profile or a flag to their Facebook picture, the humble election poster has fallen out of fashion.

When I was a kid in the 1980s, I used to help out in election campaigns and we would order posters by the boxful. They were probably one of the biggest election expenses and people very often wanted two or three for their garden, bedroom window and car as they proudly declared their allegiance.

By the 1990s, I was working as a journalist and posters were still popular. I remember writing photo stories where whole streets were decked out in one colour, or married couples had rival stakes in the garden.

Even a few years ago, I could name streets in Sheffield where you could find a swathe of Labour posters in a row or a clutch of Lib Dem triangles.

And then, quite suddenly, election posters seemed to fall out of fashion. It seems normal to lambast friends on Facebook over Brexit and for complete strangers to hurl abuse on Twitter, but admit how you’re voting in an election? That’s a step too far.

People have mixed feelings about them.

Conservative supporter Mike Love stopped putting up posters after a spate of vandalism. “I displayed a Tory poster in my garden in 1987 and someone set fire to it. I’ve tended not to display them since.”

Chris Shaw, a floating voter, says he did once display a Green Party parish council one. But would he display one now? “No way. I’ve traditionally been a shy Tory. I’m considering switching from May but would be embarrassed by a Labour poster.”

For Linda Lefevre, it wouldn’t be a proper election without a few posters. She said: “I display one on our front window as it’s traditional and adds excitement. I hope it will encourage neighbours to get involved and vote.”

Linda does need to impress a certain neighbour though: “We live opposite Ed Miliband, who also has a poster, as do our two next door neighbours.”

I remember my dad strategically placing one of our election poster by the back wall so it looked as though it was in our neighbour’s garden. Scott Barton – who took the photo with this blog – spotted this house in Sheffield. “This was the same back garden so I guess they’ll have to agree to disagree,” he said.

So if the poster has fallen by the wayside, along with loud hailers on cars and giant rosettes, elections will seem that bit more drab compared to the colourful campaigns of the past.

Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former regional newspaper Political Editor

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: Why Catholics like Corbyn

01/06/2017, 11:41:25 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Support among Britain’s Jews for Jeremy Corbyn may be flat-lining – with just 13 per cent planning to vote Labour according to a poll in the Jewish Chronicle – but Britain’s Catholics are set to ride to Labour’s rescue.

In all probability, Labour’s most important demographic, many of Britain’s five million Catholics are habitually loyal to the party, supporting it through thick in thin for generations. This peaked with a 60-19 per cent gap over the Conservatives back in 2001.

Even in 2015, 41 per cent of Catholics voted Labour – 11 per cent higher than the population at large, according to figures from the British Religion in Numbers project at Manchester University. While Muslims also vote Labour is very large numbers, I suspect the wider distribution of Catholic voters across the country has more strategic impact on Labour’s fortunes.

Indeed, much of the party’s meltdown in Scotland at the last general election (where it lost forty seats) was down to Catholics abandoning Labour in droves. Between 2010 and 2015, Labour’s share of the Catholic vote fell from 63 per cent to just 36 per cent. Any way back for Labour in Scotland means retrieving Catholic support that went to the SNP.

Catholic support for Labour is perhaps most pronounced in general political attitudes. After the 2005 election, IpsosMori found that while fewer than a quarter (22 per cent) of the public generally described themselves as ‘Old Labour’, over a third (34 per cent) of Catholics said that description best suited their political outlook.

On questions of distributional justice, many Catholics are reliably left-wing. Perhaps Corbyn’s genuine moral outrage about poverty connects deeply with the Faithful? As does his commitment to peace and dialogue. Even his embroilment in Northern Ireland is potentially a positive here.

Quite apart from his support for Irish republicanism, Corbyn was also involved in campaigns to overturn the miscarriages of justice concerning the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and has been active on Irish community concerns, from fighting racism to supporting Travellers’ rights throughout his career.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

UNCUT: The final straight of two terrible campaigns

01/06/2017, 05:21:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

A week left of campaigning, and Britain’s political race to the bottom is in full flight. Polls all over the shop; but narrowing at the end, as they invariably do.

In different ways, the Tory and Labour campaigns are spectacularly failing to enthuse the electorate.

The Tories, for whom the election has always been theirs to lose, seem intent on torpedoing their own campaign. Uncosted pledges – almost unheard of for usually-meticulous Tories – and their fiasco on the “dementia tax”, resulting in a mid-campaign U-turn by May.

Then there is the air campaign. First she is front and centre: then the party panics and sees her wooden, unengaging and largely absent. John Prescott reports a senior Tory viewing the campaign as “a disaster”, and that opinion is surely not a one-off among the grandees, let alone the commentariat.

To round off her dismal campaign, she has made an awful blunder, not so much in boycotting the televised debates, but worse: sending a substitute and saying she is too busy “thinking about Brexit negotiations”. The optics, as they say, of such a high-handed approach are awful, and the natural response uncomplicated. “I’m sorry? Who was it actually called the election?”

The one ray of light on the horizon for the self-sabotaging May must surely be that the poll-narrowing currently taking place will probably be enough to animate her base to come to the polling station, rather than stay at home. Meaning she will win comfortably where she does not deserve to. But, then again, neither does her opposite number.

Ah yes, Labour. Where to start?

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon