Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’

Weeks after the result, the 2017 general election has left us with many more questions than answers

27/06/2017, 10:56:41 PM

by Trevor Fisher

As life in the Westminster bubble is now obsessed by the date of the next general election, the last one is slipping away without due care and attention, leaving many more questions than answers.  If the 2017 general election was a horse race, there would have been a steward’s inquiry. The bookies would have demanded to know why the favourite lost – but remained in the winners enclosure – the outsider came up strongly on the rails but still remained several lengths off the winning post, and the winners of 2015 were the losers in 2017 as the SNP fell back in its own hurdle race and UKIP lost most of the 4 million votes it gained in 2015.

The only consistent pattern was poor performance by the Greens and the weakness of the Lib Dems who having been destroyed in 2015 could not convert their opposition to Brexit into votes though 48% of those who voted in the 2016 Referendum voted to Remain. Even the one clear trend that was established on June 8th – the return of 2 party politics as the two main parties hoovered up votes from the small parties,  UKIP mainly going to the Tory Party – is not certain to be a long run trend.

The over-riding problem for analysts of political trends is that we are now in a politics of Surge. It has long been true that opinion polls don’t provide an accurate guide, partly because the old national swings rooted in class politics began to collapse with the rise of fringe parties from the 1960s. But this has come full circle recently with fringe parties rising and falling like a yoyo, while the two main parties rise and fall, with Labour rarely breaking 40% – June 8th was unusual – and the Tories normally ahead.

For example, it was predicted (in the Telegraph) that the Tories were heading for a Landslide, based on marginal seats, which backed up an Independent report by Andrew Grice that the Tories were “heading for a 90 strong majority”.

However the dates on these articles are (for the DT) November 28th 2009 and the Independent 10th November 2009, both 6 months before the election of 2010. The actual election was a hung parliament and as we all know, the Lib Dems went into coalition and were destroyed in the 2015 election, a development which no one saw coming.

Paddy Ashdown said he would eat his hat if the exit polls were correct, and later ate a confectionery hat on TV. In 2015 the SNP wiped out Labour in Scotland and the EU referendum in 2016 took Labour voters in numbers into the UKIP camp, with modest gains from both groups of exiles in 2017. Making the move back to two party politics more effective was the poor performance of  the Lib Dems, as on the one issue they can take a lead on, rejection of Brexit, they managed to fail to take a lead at all. Thus while instability has been a core fact of life for some time, the surges in the election as party performance kicked in were sufficient to mean  the early polling was not worth the paper it is printed on.

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This was Corbyn’s campaign. He led from the front. He deserves the credit

16/06/2017, 05:37:19 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The 2017 election rewrote the rules, and though the opinion polls did well in tracking the Corbyn rise and the stagnant Tory vote, the experts largely missed the increasing popularity of Corbyn though by the time Paul Mason wrote in the FT on June 3rd that “the UK is not a left wing country, but it is a fair one that has had enough of austerity” – he captured something of the shifts taking place, and the shifts are not all to Labour. Working class areas were particularly vulnerable and there is a need to analyse almost on a seat by seat basis – especially with small majorities like the Labour gain in Crewe by 48, and holding on to Newcastle Under  Lyme by 30 and Dudley North by 23. In Stoke Central, where Labour was in a minority, the UKIP vote collapsed but Labour increased, no doubt a result of the by-election where at the peak three months ago 500 Labour canvassers were out. Unlike Stoke South, which the Tories gained. Local campaigns played an important part, especially in Wales.

Nevertheless though May had achieved her target of hoovering up the UKIP vote most of us – me included – once the campaign started failed to understand the Corbyn phenomenon. By the last week of the campaign it was clear that a hung parliament was possible and I wrote this on 4th June, though Labour did not achieve largest party status. But it gained votes and support. The question we all have to answer is why. Starting with Corbyn’s remarkable personal success.

The ability of Jeremy Corbyn to appeal to a popular audience was clear from the start of his leadership campaign in 2015 and no one has begun to understand it, though the attraction has more to do with personality than policies, though the manifesto was supremely important. But Corbyn first. Though telephone canvassers reported that voters were turned off by Corbyn, the crowds at his rallies were and are impressive and as Jackie Lukes reported from Hull, this visibly gave Corbyn confidence and improved his credibility.

Not I think in reaction to what he was saying. At Stoke in September I could not hear his speech as the public address was abysmal – and when he spoke at a Libertines concert just before the Manchester bombings, reports say the crowd cheered so you could not hear him speak. It was not important – but the lack of impact of the tabloid smear campaign linking him with terrorists had something to do with his personal image, like Mandela after Robbins Island he was simply a grandfather figure.

He also played the immediate issues very well, so an apology is due for thinking he was wrong to accept the Brexit vote and to vote for Article 50. These moves defused Brexit and May should have realised this was not going to be a crucial issue in a general election, which will  always be about many issues. While I still think Labour was wrong to vote for the election, that is what the Fixed Term Parliament Act forces the opposition parties to do as rejecting the challenge invites the charge of cowardice, but that was not a charge that could be levelled against Labour. The avoidance of Brexit was tactically sound, but strategically stores up a battle yet to be fought.

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Beware. Labour’s grief may well be post-dated

15/06/2017, 04:23:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

As cushions go, the ten seats the Democratic Unionists are likely to put at Theresa May’s disposal still only gives her a working majority of two. It’s a cushion cover, not a cushion.

The obvious threat of potential by-election losses (as well as the awful prospect of ISIS attacking MPs in order to collapse the government), means Theresa May’s control of events is time-limited.

She has weeks to restore equilibrium to her government’s authority and will presumably use the forthcoming Queen’s Speech, the summer recess and the party conference season to get back on the front foot.

But then what? She can’t run the risk of seeing her government collapse due to a defection, a death or because of the duplicity of the DUP. She needs to actively plan for a second general election.

Imagine this scenario.

March 2018. Philip Hammond gets up to deliver the Budget. Austerity is cold in its grave as a political priority. He could kick the whole issue of funding adult social care into the long grass by announcing a Royal Commission. He might put up corporation tax a bit in order to offer a basic rate income tax cut and a reprieve for cash-starved councils and the NHS. He might relent a bit on public sector pay too. And then his big reveal: The Tories are scrapping tuition fees.

‘We recognise,’ he intones gravely ‘that saddling young people with debt at the start of their working lives makes it impossible for them to buy a home. As Conservatives we believe in a home-owning democracy so we want to extend that promise to all young people.’

He might even throw in a big, eye-catching measure like a special ISA to help first-time buyers save for a deposit, with the Government putting in half the cash, or similar.

Then Theresa May calls a general election.

Will that enormous surge in support among young people fall neatly into Labour’s column once more? How many will now break for the Tories? How many, in fact, will turn out at all? Was last Thursday’s surge a blip or a paradigm shift, as political scientists would put it? Did that record number of young voters back Labour for socialism or self-interest?

The jury’s surely out on all counts.

The delirium Labour people felt at 10pm last Thursday was precisely because expectations were so appallingly low. That extends to the leadership, which was as surprised as anyone at how things panned out.

But was it merely a reprieve? Has the party postponed the nutting contest with a wrecking ball until next year – or, perhaps, even sooner?

Labour has not earned the right to breathe easy. You can take it as read the Tories will learn from their mistakes. If it came to it, co-opting the popular parts of Labour’s platform would be, for them, preferable to losing.

The big existential threat may still be in front of Labour.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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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

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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.

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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?

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Three quick points about the Labour manifesto

17/05/2017, 01:51:57 PM

by Kevin Meagher

You campaign in poetry…

Today we’re talking about Labour’s radical plans to scrap tuition fees, nationalise industries deemed to have failed the public, spend more on public services and raise the living wage – while making the dastardly rich pay for it all.

We’re not talking about Brexit and we’re not talking about how Labour wants to scrap nuclear weapons. Or, actually, about Jeremy Corbyn.  This is a tactical victory, of sorts.

Is the manifesto wise or workable? Hmmm. Do the individual measures resonate with voters? Yes. Is Labour credible when it explains how they will be funded? No. But the manifesto peps-up Labour activists who now have meaty, simply-understood things to talk about on the doorstep, other than the merits or demerits of their leader.

The sums don’t add up. Who cares?

Labour has a £57 billion ‘black hole’ in its spending plans, splutter the Conservatives, totting-up Labour’s great Monopoly grab of utilities.

Theresa May and Philip Hammond even called a presser so they could stand there and intone about the Cost of Labour. Stood behind their podiums this morning they looked like the lamest Kraftwerk tribute act ever, or a couple of mismatched contestants on Pointless, with Theresa May fluffing a question about whether she still has confidence in Hammond. (‘Well, we’ve known each other a long time…’)

For weary voters, it boils down to one group of politicians they don’t trust claiming the sums of the other group of politicians they don’t trust don’t add up.

At this stage, nothing matters

Election campaigns don’t fundamentally alter voters’ choices. Nothing that happens is either a dramatic success or failure. You cannot rub out months or years’ worth gradually constructed opinions in a few weeks. Labour famously ‘won’ the 1987 election campaign but lost the election. Ed Miliband had a really good campaign back in 2015. His performance was probably the highpoint of his five year leadership. But, by then, the public had weighed and measured him and found him wanting. Alas, Jeremy Corbyn’s numbers tell the same story.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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The state of Labour: Post-anger, pre-recrimination

08/05/2017, 07:12:10 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Anger towards Jeremy Corbyn – and the blind alley into which he has led Labour – is probably futile at this point. The party was going to lose this general election whenever it was called. It was inevitable the moment Corbyn became leader 20 long months ago. There is a modicum of relief, perhaps, that the process of rebuilding can now begin in 2017 rather than 2020.

After a gruelling week, the scale of the challenge is now agonisingly clear. Glasgow. Tees Valley. Lancashire. The West Midlands. With its heartlands deserting it, there is nowhere in the country where Labour can’t lose at the moment. Much worse is, of course, to come in a few weeks’ time.

Actually, it feels slightly macabre to speculate about Labour’s short term future. So many decent MPs – servants of their community, country and party – are set to have the ground cut from beneath them.

The immediate issue is what do the party’s campaign managers do about Corbyn himself? His penance, such as it is, is to spend the next five weeks campaigning around the country observing the pretence that he is on course to be our next Prime Minister. But where do they take him where he adds any value to Labour’s campaign?

Just wait for the old soldier to accost him on a walkabout. Or the teenager to come up to him and call him a ‘loser’. Or the Jewish granny who gives him a dressing down for soft-pedalling on anti-Semitism.

No party leader who trails amongst every main demographic group is going to win an election. The voters’ basic, crippling assumption that he is not up to the job is not going to change now. In his heart of hearts Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t believe he is winning either. He knows he is squandering the moment.

But here’s the thing. There is little point railing against Corbyn. Better to accept that he is a victim of circumstance. Others created the opening for him and the hard left to make this extraordinary breakthrough. He never wanted this job. It was, infamously, his ‘turn’ to stand for the Labour leadership, as John McDonnell had done before him in 2007 and Diane Abbott did in 2010.

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Theresa May’s dead EU cat shows the fragility of her campaign and paucity of political judgement

03/05/2017, 06:04:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The question is why? Why would Theresa May make that speech on the EU in this election? She’s already guaranteed a huge majority. Reports from all parties make it abundantly clear that the number one doorstep issue for switchers is Jeremy Corbyn.

She also knows that this speech will have a long term impact.

In France, Emmanuel Macron, most likely victor in this week’s second round is sure to be asked about it and will harden his line on Brexit. Merkel, approaching her own campaign, will do similar.

The Tory right will use May’s words to  make any backsliding towards the perfidy of compromise for an interim deal that much harder.

The chances of a Brexit disaster on Theresa May’s watch, in the next two years, just leapt exponentially.

So why do it?

A big part of the reason is that her team have been bounced: criticism of the Tories’ lack of policy, her own sheltered campaign which has studiously avoided contact with the public and the robotic repetition of the same lines, has clearly had an impact.

It’s hard to fill an election grid when the only policy commitment is to not make a commitment, journalists are getting restive and bored of anodyne events and the principal lacks the basic retail skill to deliver her core message without sounding like a ZX Spectrum speech program from the 1980s.

This is why Theresa May has thrown a dead EU cat onto the general election table.

Now, the next 48 hours will all be about May versus Brussels.

A great short term media win for the election campaign, disastrous for the premiership that follows.

That Theresa May would sacrifice her own prospects in office for this transitory triumph when facing Jeremy Corbyn says it all about the fragility of her campaign and her underlying lack of political judgement.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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The Tory taste of death

28/04/2017, 02:20:10 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We’re having so many elections that Lynton Crosby is usurping Kylie Minogue as our most ubiquitous Antipodean. Painting campaigns in primary colours of risk and security, Better the Devil You Know is his favourite Kylie track.

So starkly are risk and security contrasted that it rapidly descends to Eddie Izzard’s cake or death sketch. This time the “security cake” is made of Brexit, Ed Miliband’s energy price cap, and Philip Hammond’s dearth of fiscal plans. If your pallet is trapped in May 2015, this cake will taste of what we were told was deathly risk. Then security supposedly meant EU membership, opposition to the energy price cap, and George Osborne’s austerity justifying fiscal plans.

Crosby now sells a confused security composed of what he recently told us was risk. Unknowable risks at that. We are not being asked to vote for Brexit but for whatever Theresa May, after a highly complex negotiation with the EU and its member states, decides Brexit means. As fiscal prudence has been redefined as whatever Hammond deems it.

Blank cheque Brexit, aligned with carte blanche fiscal policy, is no security at all. Making this understood is now the task of Labour PPCs.

Robert Harris, writing not long before the election was called in the New Statesman, “can’t quite understand how the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party can sit there day after day, month after month, year after year, knowing that they’re simply heading towards a kind of mincing machine at the next election.”

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