Posts Tagged ‘Trevor Fisher’

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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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.

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Whatever the result in this election, voter registration must be a big part of Labour’s future

28/05/2017, 10:39:31 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Last Monday, 22nd May, my inbox was full of messages about the election – the big news being the Tory manifesto or rather the May manifesto, building on the lead May has in the opinion polls with her running ahead of her party – while Corbyn runs behind his. The latest polling before the manifesto row the previous week showed Tories 47%, Labour 32%, LD 8% and UKIP 5%, but on the leaders May was 24 points ahead, with just 23% believing Corbyn would make a good Prime Minister.

However the 22nd was an inbox of reminders that the deadline for registration, with some 7m people not registered. On the day in fact some 2m registered, leaving 5 million out of the system. This is bad news for Labur as 30% of under 24s and 28% of people who moved in the last year were unregistered. The old, pensioners without jobs but with no plans for moving are the stable basis of the Tory vote, with much more likelihood to cast a ballot. Indeed, the news prompted a brief flurry in the Independent which deserves to be more than an eve of deadline chatter fest. Corbyn will go at some point. But the problems of a Tory bias in voting will remain. And the individual voter registration system may be the most serious of all New Labour mistakes, and another you can’t blame Corbyn for. Not that he understands the problem.

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The real defeat for Corbyn and Farron was when Theresa May suckered them into voting for an early election

08/05/2017, 11:37:41 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The June 8th election will set a new low for political manipulation in British politics. It is run only for the short term advantage of the Conservative party being a classic cut and run while you are ahead move which the Fixed Term Parliament Act was designed to prevent from happening. Historically May scored her biggest victory over the Lib Dems and Labour when they failed to defend the Act. The Tory gamble came off, as neither party had the political courage to call Theresa May’s bluff and vote against the election. The failures of Tim Corbyn and Jeremy Farron will be lasting.

This is the stolen election and a historical turning point. Unless Theresa May had stitched up the vote on the Early Election bill, unlikely as Tim and Jeremy are not going to do a deal openly with the Tories, she was gambling when she called the election, calculating she could get away with it despite the Fixed Term Parliament bill requiring 5 years before a general election – and promising the date would be May 2020.

Theresa May lulled the other parties into planning long term, and they were  caught out by the loophole in the Act which allowed an early election – if two thirds of MPs voted for an early election Bill, which needed 434 M Ps voting for it to pass. As the Tories did not have a two thirds majority only if Labour voted for the bill could this happen. Labour voted for the Bill, thus triggering an election which could only help the Tories. All the problems which were gathering around the Tory party notably election fraud allegations, the economy and major policy areas including prisons, May’s former job as Home Secretary making her responsible, were removed at a stroke.

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Labour’s problems didn’t start with Corbyn but New Labour’s arrogance in power

22/04/2017, 07:29:42 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The failure of the New Labour project, measured in its ability to blow the victory of 1997 by 2010 at the latest, has an eerie similarity to the failure of Trump to know that pride goes before a fall. Not the current President of the USA, but Judd Trump, the snooker player. As someone who plays the game but very badly, I am in awe of Trump who was the youngest player ever to make a maximum 147 break an will one day win the world championship. But not this year.

He was knocked out by an unknown 46 year old qualifier last week, Rory McLeod, in the first round on April 19th. He came into the Championships as world ranked Number 2 and joint champion, and made the fatal error of saying the rating did not worry him. He should have been worried. Like many super talented people, he underestimated his opponent and suffers from the pride of arrogance. Like some politicians I can think of. David Cameron thought the Brexiteers were ‘swivel eyed loons’ and lost the 2016 referendum. The 1945 general election result led to some Labour people saying “We are the masters now”. But while Judd Trump was so upset he could not make his post-match TV interview, he should look at the current Labour Party and think he got away lightly.

While the Labour Party recovered after losing in 1951, and Cameron’s party looks like it is doing well, whether the arrogance of New Labour will see a recovery will be in the lap of the gods. And no one should blame Corbyn for the current crisis, which he makes worse but did not create. Blair destroyed his own credibility with the working class core voter even before the Iraq war. While the 2001 seats tally was much the same as the 1997 landslide, in key areas like Stoke the working class voter had already started to slip away. By 2005 Blair could only muster 37% of the vote, enough to win, but also to give Michael Howard’s Tories the scent of a failing project. It is a matter of history that Brown and Miliband could get nowhere near even the 2005 election result.

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Labour’s pro-Brexit front bench is more of a problem than Corbyn

10/04/2017, 10:22:54 PM

by Trevor Fisher

For any blog site commenting on current developments, the latest headlines define the agenda. The opening days of April provided many, but if the Livingstone saga is ignored as driven by one person’s private attempt to stay in the headlines, there are two underlying themes that make Labour’s future increasingly grim. The first is the Party leadership abandoning Party policy to appease right wing interests, and the second is the short sighted belief that the battle for Party dominance is what defines party politics. Both major factions, Old Left and Modernised New Labour are paddling these canoes with no sense that the public is moving elsewhere. The first of these two problems is now coming to a head.

The major political issue of our time is Brexit, and the dominant forces in the PLP have abandoned defence of the EU for acceptance of the hard right agenda on splitting from Europe. The party policy passed by the 2016 conference, still  holds that while it “noted” the TUC decision to accept the majority vote, it would reserve its position including not triggering Article 50 and stated that “The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum”, which remains feasible, most crucially through another referendum.

But the PLP leadership, from Corbyn to Mandleson, abandoned this with classic short term thinking. The principled reasons for defending Europe were abandoned once the vote came in, but it was not only Corbyn who demanded total obedience to Brexit.  Miliband’s speech to the Open Labour conference was that a soft Brexit was acceptable and Labour would get this, with no reference to the actual results of this policy. As I have already argued, there is no soft Brexit and to accept the Tory agenda as Corbyn did by putting a three line whip on Article 50 was folly. However  the electoral argument is currently top priority. The Corbynistas still claim that they can win the next election, arguing it will take two years to turn the party round.

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Soft Brexit is an illusion. Either Labour opposes or backs a hard Tory Brexit by default

03/04/2017, 09:37:59 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The weekly dance at Westminster of the Parliamentary Labour Party over Brexit reached a new stage in the final week of March with Keir Starmer’s 6 tests of what Labour would accept to back Brexit.  It is not worth discussing them. They will be voted down and unless the Tories can be induced to split, then Labour faces a bleak future where it continually fails to set the agenda while the SNP (north of the border) and the Lib Dems (South of the border) collect the Remain votes.

While Ed Miliband’s speech at Open Labour was sad, possibly even sadder was Tom Watson’s weekly bulletin (1st April but not alas an April Fool’s joke)  in which he claimed “Labour won’t support a final deal which does not pass all these tests”, referring to Keir Starmer’s 6 tests earlier in the week. The PLP has lost every vote where it has voted against the Tory Brexit plans, and this will continue. Theresa May’s game plan is a hard Brexit to win the UKIP voter and destroy Labour in its northern seats, and it is formidable. However the belief that there is a soft Brexit – and not a clear choice to oppose Brexit, without playing a game that would split the party and the Northern MPs who are terrified for their seats – is no response for Labour.

Watson’s blog calls on May to honour her “strong commitments”  – she is doing so: she promised to deliver a an uncompromising Brexit –  and the relevant section ends “She needs to stand up to those in her party whose vision of Britain’s future is very different from that of most of the people who voted to leave the EU. And she needs to deliver a deal which meets her commitments. Labour’s tests and the aspirations of all British people, whether they voted Leave or Remain”. This is ungrammatical, fantasy politics.  There is no evidence Hard Brexit is not what Leavers voted for, though this can change, but arguing that the Leave and Remain voters have the same aspirations is to reinvent reality.

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Indyref2 adds another twist to Brexit that Labour cannot handle

21/03/2017, 11:30:33 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Harold Wilson rightly said that a week is a long time in politics. Philip Hammond would agree, but the real shift in emphasis post budget was the SNP decision to go for a second independence referendum if they don’t like the Brexit deal. Or rather before the Brexit deal, as they want a vote before we know what the deal actually is. This adds another twist to the Brexit saga that the Labour leadership cannot handle.

As I noted in my post after the Open Labour meeting on March 11th, Miliband dampened hopes by backing the Corbyn- Starmer line. This is an acceptance of Britexit – without the escape clauses of referring a deal to the electorate agreed by Party conference last year – and an attempt to get a few concessions which they can sell publically as a Soft and so acceptable Brexit. The Tories will not allow this to happen.

May’s strategy is to win over the UKIP vote which if successful in leave constituencies – like Copeland –  would make the Tories invincible. Labour loses two ways backing soft Brexit. Labour can lose to the Lib Dems or SNP in Remain seats, and to Tories in Leave seats. UKIP don’t seem a serious challenge unless they can resist the Tory surge, and this remains possible. But what is clear is that Labour’s strategy cannot work, and the last week provided depressing evidence that this was the case.

The debate and vote on the Article 50 bill (European Union, Notification of Withdrawal) Bill came up for a derisory two hour debate on March 13th. Poor in content and almost contemptuously handed by David Davis, its only notable feature was the defeat of the two Lords amendments which would have provided some safeguards. Given the Tory majority, these could only be passed if Tory MPs rebelled. The significantly titled shadow minister for Brexit, Keir Starmer MP, pointed out these were Labour proposals accepted by the Lords.

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At Open Labour, Ed Miliband backed the Corbyn-Starmer line on Brexit. A line that leaves Theresa May calling the shots

13/03/2017, 10:40:48 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The first Open Labour conference on March 11th was a successful launch of the project. In a school hall, 230 attendees took part for an afternoon of discussion.  Not all were members, but when a tight vote on an amendment led to tellers counting, 104 members had voted. This was a respectable number. I had sympathy with the colleague who asked “have we not decided this?”, not so as this was a first event, but OL was understandably treading a familiar path at this early stage. It will be for the perspectives conference in June to decide what the Unique Selling Point of OL will be.

The attendees seemed to be drawn from the Miliband cadre who had come to hear their leader. The age profile was around half over 50, about the same under 30. Anyone in their 30s or 40s and joined during the New Labour years seem not to warm to Open Labour so both the pre- New Labour and post New Labour cohorts seem to be the people attracted to Open Labour. However whether Open Labour can confront the failures of the Miliband era as well as those of earlier years is an open question – and very much open after Ed Miliband spoke to end the conference,

Miliband rightly focused almost entirely on Brexit in his 15 minute contribution, correctly as this is the defining issue of the current period, and supported the current Corbyn-Starmer line. This is to accept Brexit and the 2016 referendum but to seek a soft Brexit with concessions, none of which are on offer – certainly not EU citizens’ rights and access to the single market, currently dominating the debate. It is a fact that none of the amendments Labour put to the Article 50 bill were accepted, and the Tories did not accept any of the Lords amendments.  Labour is not likely to propose a constitutional crisis by using the Lords to overturn the rights of the Commons as the last thing an unpopular Labour Party can do is use the unelected Lords to block the decisions of the elected chamber. Certainly not to challenge the referendum result, which gave the government the mandate to trigger Article 50.

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