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Entries in Labour Party (4)


5 reasons why Jeremy Corbyn has to go

Jeremy Corbyn

During the last Labour leadership election I wanted Jeremy Corbyn to win. Like many Labour supporters across the country I was not keen on Labour's 'austerity-lite' politics; I still felt betrayed by Labour's support for the Iraq War; and I found the other three candidates for the leadership entirely uninspiring.

But after seeing Corbyn's performance as a leader over the past 9-10 months, and particularly given recent events, I've now come to the conclusion that Corbyn has to go - and soon. Here's my reasoning:

1. The EU referendum

By taking such a half-hearted approach to the EU referendum, Corbyn helped an ugly Leave campaign to win. This in turn means that the vulnerable people he has always professed to care the most about are going now to face huge challenges - their jobs, rights at work and (in the case of ethnic minorities) their basic security have all been put at risk. There are times to be equivocal and critical about the EU (and it *does* deserve criticism, not least in how it treated Greece, or where TTIP is concerned), but the referendum campaign was not one of them: the stakes, overall, were too high for that. Much has been been made by Corbyn's followers about the fact that two thirds of Labour supporters voted Remain, but that still means a huge proportion of Labour voters did not support a key Labour Party policy. If even a small percentage of those Labour Leavers could have been persuaded by a more positive and vocal Labour campaign to stick with the EU, then we would not be in the dreadful mess we are in now, with the economy on the brink of a recession and racism being displayed overtly on the streets.

2. The electoral stats

In the recent local elections, Corbyn's share of the vote was down on Miliband's (who was hardly the most electorally successful Labour leader ever), and in Scotland, under his leadership, the Labour Party finished third, behind the Tories. This gives the lie to the idea that Corbyn is uniquely capable of re-energising Labour voters. In both the local elections and the EU referendum he simply could not get the former Labour heartlands to vote for him, or even with him.

3. Corbyn's supporters

The way that many of Corbyn's supporters react to criticism is often very sinister. Anyone who dares criticise the man on social media, even mildly, can expect to be labelled as a 'Red Tory', 'Blairite scum', 'liberal fascist' and so on (regardless of where they actually sit on the political spectrum). At rallies, 'Eradicate Blairite Vermin' t-shirts are worn. His followers direct misogynistic abuse towards female reporters whom they perceive as being biased. MPs who don't toe the Corbyn line are threatened with deselection. I've had personal experience of Corbynistas deleting comments I've made on Facebook which were broadly supportive of the guy's policies but critical of his leadership. All this undermines the idea that the movement behind Corbyn is particularly tolerant and inclusive, and if he's relying on a following that seems to routinely dehumanise, abuse or censor its critics to stay in his position as leader, it might be time to start questioning the 'decent man' description that everybody automatically inserts into a conversation about him.

4. First Past The Post

First Past the Post is an antiquated, unfair voting system that the vast majority of modern democracies do not use, because it rewards single parties who win considerably less than 50% of the vote with majorities in parliament. By attempting to cling onto the leadership despite a colossal loss of support from his MPs, Corbyn is risking a permanent split in the Labour Party - a split which, under First Past the Post, would in all probability deliver majority government to the Conservatives for a generation. Remember what happened when the SDP, Labour and Lib Dems were all simultaneously vying for left-leaning votes in the 80s - we got 18 years of Tory rule, despite 60% of the population consistently voting for other parties throughout that period. Until Labour is in a position to introduce proportional representation (and I've yet to spot much enthusiasm from Corbyn for that), the reality of the situation is that as a party Labour will have to remain a broad church. With the vast majority of the parliamentary party so opposed to his leadership, Corbyn has proved himself incapable of keeping this church together.

5. The mandate of Labour MPs

Yes, Corbyn got a large mandate from Labour party supporters, receiving over 250,000 votes in a leadership election. But over 9 million people voted for the MPs who now want Corbyn to go. Those voters deserve a voice and a say in proceedings - but they are being ignored by Corbyn's decision to fight on.


Why I'm not betting on a Tory win

For quite a while now the media has been doing a good job of convincing us all that the Tories are on their way back to power. Be it in The Guardian or The Daily Mail, David Cameron has for the past year or so been consistently portrayed as the next PM, and the assumption that the Conservatives will win the next election is now firmly embedded in political journalism.

It’s easy to understand why political commentators are taking a ‘Tories-will-win’ line: Brown is a jaded, unpopular prime minister who presides over an uninspiring administration – an administration which has been finding it hard to appeal to Labour supporters, never mind floating voters. And the Tories have been ahead in the polls for ages.

In strictly democratic terms, the Tories will not win the next election. They will get around 36% to 42% of the vote, with the majority of the country voting the way it always does – for centre-left parties (Labour and the Lib Dems). But under the UK’s antiquated and grossly unfair electoral system, first-past-the-post – which rewards parties that win a minority of the vote with a majority of seats in parliament – a 40% chunk of the vote could still result in the Tories getting back into power.

However, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the Tories may not win a majority in parliament. Instead, I think that a lot of indicators are increasingly pointing to a hung parliament (where no party has overall control).

There are four main reasons why I think the Tories are unlikely to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons at the next election:

1) The Tories have a seriously big hill to climb to reach a majority
The Conservatives need to win 117 seats in the next election to gain an overall majority of one, and 140 seats to win a 'working majority'. This will require at least a swing of 6.9% to the Tories – the biggest swing in 60 years, according to BBC journalist Michael Crick. And I’m not sure that Cameron (a multi-millionaire ex-member of the Bullingdon Club) has sufficient populist appeal to pull that kind of swing off.

2) It’s harder than ever before to secure an overall majority in the House of Commons
As Michael Crick also points out, the number of MPs elected who are not Tory or Labour but “others” (Lib Dems, Democratic Unionists, Respect etc.) has grown massively over the years – from 7 MPs in 1959 to 100 MPs in 2005. The main effect of this has been to create a ‘balance of power’ block in parliament and make it harder for any party (and particularly for the Tories) to win an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons.

3) Constituency boundaries favour Labour over the Tories
According to the UK Polling Report, the way that constituency boundaries are currently defined means that there is an “in-built bias” for Labour in the electoral system that will frustrate the Tories’ attempts to secure a majority in the House of Commons. A combination of out-of-date boundaries, over-representation of Wales and other oddities means that Labour will automatically win “more seats per votes cast” than the Conservatives.

4) The polls are narrowing, and the economy may be improving
Largely because of the above factors, in order to win an overall majority, the Tories need to poll significantly higher than Labour in an election – 12% more, according to Professor Michael Thrasher from Plymouth University. Six months ago, opinion polls suggested that this was not an implausible scenario – many polls had Labour 20% behind the Tories. But today’s Observer poll has Labour on 31% and the Tories only 6 points ahead at 37%. And Labour’s decent bye-election win in Glasgow North East also points to a possible shoring up of their support.

This improvement in Labour's electoral fortunes and its standing in the polls may be to do with perceived improvements in economic circumstances; and if the state of the economy does improve significantly before the election (as many are now suggesting will happen), it may give Brown a boost which further narrows the Tories' lead to a point where they cannot achieve an overall majority.

The next election could be the most fascinating in years. But what happens after it could be even more interesting: a hung parliament might finally lead to the introduction of a fair voting system - Proportional Representation - if the Lib Dems end up being kingmakers and demand it as part of a deal for propping up Labour or the Tories.

My betting career only goes as far as putting £2 on a horse that didn't win the Grand National - but next May or June I might throw a few bob after a hung parliament. And I'll definitely be staying up all night to watch the election.

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Ah come on now Gordon...

Alright Gordon, fairly decent speech today but no cigar.

Here are some ways you can get my vote back (not that it was going to the Tories, I'm probably going to abstain at the next election, in protest at all the parties offering more or less the right-wing fare).

1. Introduce a fair voting system -- PR. That'll stop the Tories winning 60% of the seats when only 40% of the electorate votes for them. Yes, that's right fellas, somewhat unbelievably Britain is, and traditionally has been, a left-leaning's just that the voting system is rigged to reward right-wingers with an incredibly disproportionate number of seats.

2. Bring the railways back into public ownership. I'm tired of paying daft money to travel for 45 minutes on a train. Paid £43 for a return trip from London to Oxford recently - nearly 50p a minute. Seriously. And while you're at it, please do something about the use of the word 'customer' on the railways. I am a P-A-S-S-E-N-G-E-R.

3. Stop privatising the Health Service. In Ireland, that little country to the west of Wales where I originate from, they rely on private operators to a silly degree for healthcare and the natives have to pay 60 Euros every time they see a GP. That is more painful than whatever they went to the doctor with in the first instance.

4. Stop foreigners buying British newspapers and slagging off, er, foreigners on the front page.

5. Ban Carol Vorderman (although admittedly Countdown kinda did that recently).

6. Buy my album.

7. Make Geoff Hoon do a humorous dance.

8. Make love not war.

9. Stop grumpy musicians from making lists (D'oh).

10. See point 6.

Etc., etc...just give us some decent Labour policies. While you still can, because you'll be out on your ear one way or the other soon. Feel faintly sorry for you, but I haven't forgiven you for Metronet and for letting First Great Western run anything. Particularly a train to Oxford.

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David and David

David Miliband's article in today's Guardian seems to have provoked a lot of speculation about whether or not he'll take a shot at the Labour leadership.

Whilst battling a horrendous hangover this morning, I read said article. It wasn't much of a hangover cure (and certainly not as effective as the bacon sandwich which was also being consumed at the time).

Despite the media fuss, basically what Miliband is offering is exactly what Brown is currently providing - Blairite "reform" of public services (read creeping privatisation). The 'platform for change' that his article refers to is more of the same, albeit maybe at a faster pace.

What David Miliband might be able to provide which Gordon seemingly cannot is a bit more personality. He's definitely more likeable and seems more at ease with the media. I could see him having a reasonable chance of improving Labour's situation should he become leader (then again, it couldn't get much worse).

If Miliband does lead Labour into the next election, it will amount to a personality contest between two rather well-to-do Davids. This is because Miliband's New Labour politics are so close to Tory positions that there will be little for voters to choose from except the likeability of the respective Davids. Once again, voters will be denied a proper choice, and will have to elect a right-wing government or a er, right-wing government.

In other words, it would be like voting for David...or David.