Category Archives: Politics

Tim Farron – Political Genius?

Tim Farron seems an unlikely candidate for political genius. Some are born a genius. Some work hard at being a genius. Others may just stumble upon something that makes them look like a genius. Farron may just have stumbled on a formula that will lead to the greatest political comeback since the fifth time that Farage un-resigned. 

As an increasingly enthusiastic Remainer (I was ambivalent towards the EU until I listened to the arguments to Leave) I find the political agenda in the UK most bizarre at the moment. It is as if there is one political truth and that truth is called Brexit. And yet no one is prepared to state clearly their ambitions and goals. Other than no longer being a member of the EU, we have no idea what a politician views as a successful Brexit. All we know is that Brexit is Brexit. And that it is red, white and blue. Although I fear that may be because we are bloodied by the process, left a pale imitation of the influential nation we once were and blue from being left out in the cold…..

Yet support for Brexit is the panacea for all political ills. Politicians are falling over themselves for a bit of the Trump zeitgeist. Everyone wants to appeal to the voter with concerns about immigration. Every party wants to make Britain great again (the process of Brexit somewhat ironically raising the prospect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain actually being diminished by the breakdown of the Union). Every political step is taken to appeal to those outside of the “Westminster Bubble” (where I would much rather see money invested in the North than us just being given the name of Powerhouse, which makes us sound like a cut price electrical retailer). 

So the Conservative Party, what passes for the Labour Party and UKIP are all falling over themselves chasing the Brexit supporting public. And in the process they are not seeking to persuade those that have doubts. They are not building consensus. Their rhetoric is all about delivering what the victors wanted. It is about how opposing Brexit is unpatriotic.

And here is where Tim Farron may have just done some simple maths. The next General Election will see a turnout which is lower than the turnout at the EU referendum. But let’s say the turnout mirrored the June turnout. If it did, UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives are chasing 17,410,742 votes. Farron and the LibDems are chasing 16,141,241 votes. They are the only party currently appealing to that demographic directly on this issue, the biggest single issue in politics in my lifetime. The other three want a share of the 52%. The LibDems have 48% all to themselves. 

Of course there are many who will vote at a General Election contrary to their vote in the Referendum. There will be plenty who do not vote at all. There will be plenty who will vote according to their party affiliations, notwithstanding their own views on Brexit. 

There will be many who will not forgive the LibDems for the coalition and for tuition fees. But that was always going to be the case. The LibDems were on the verge of political armageddon. But right now there is a void in politics where the only show in town is Brexit and many of us don’t want to go. Throw into the mix that there will be many long term Labour voters who will not support a Corbyn led party and suddenly Farron may just be bringing his party back from the brink. 

He is the only one making a play for 16 million votes. He will not get them all. But everyone else is leaving him an open goal. And you don’t have to be a genius to put the ball in the back of the net. 

Trussed Up

“We do not have a written constitution, but that is not to say the Government are not subject to constitutional law. A written constitution provides a degree of certainty but can also produce unintended consequences, such as the right for many Americans to carry assault weapons. As we do not have a written constitution we need the very best legal minds to rule on whether a Government has acted lawfully. Those legal minds are appointed to the judiciary. 

“When the recent litigation in connection to the EU Referendum and the decision to leave the EU began, the Government did not suggest that the matter being brought before the Court was something that was outside the jurisdiction of the Court. Nor did the Government suggest that any of the Judges who heard the matter should have been excluded from hearing the case due to their personal connections to any organisation. 

“The litigation was about the mechanism being utilized by the Government in order to invoke Article 50. It expressly and clearly did not involve the question as to whether we should or should not leave the Union. It was about whether the method that the Government sought to use was constitutional or unconstitutional. Whilst the Government do not agree that the ruling of the Court is correct and intend to appeal it, the Government do not view the decision of the Court as something which has in anyway subverted, negated or reversed the result of the Referendum. No matter what the result in the Supreme Court, the Government still intend to carry out the result of the Referendum. Brexit will still take place. 

“Essential to democracy and a free nation is the freedom of the Press. Where the Press disagrees with the ruling of a Court it is vital that the Press have the freedom to do so. But they also have a responsibility to report these matters in a way which assists the public’s understanding of the matter. Headlines that describe Judges as being “Enemies of the People” could not be further from the truth and are irresponsible. The fine, independent Judiciary that serve this nation are part of the machinery which protect each and every one of us. They protect our rights. They are part of the process which means that democracy and liberty continues to flourish in our nation.”

These are my words. Four paragraphs that took me ten minutes to write on a Sunday morning. I have done so to make the job of our Lord Chancellor really easy. She is completely free to borrow some, all or any of the words and sentiments expressed above. It is a really easy thing for her to do, which is unusual, because duties are often onerous to carry out. And this is her duty. Her duty to protect the rule of law. Her duty to inform the public (and many of her ill informed colleagues at Westminster) about the reality of the “Brexit” litigation. 

Her actual statement is breathtaking in its lack of comment on the furore that followed the judgment. The Lord Chancellor has displayed more passion in her promotion of the cheese industry than she manages to invoke in her defence of a vital aspect of our democratic society. 

There is only one judicial officeholder who should lose their job over the “Brexit” litigation. And that is one Mary Elizabeth Truss. 

A Grammar School Boy

In my early days as a barrister I was having a conversation with another, more senior, barrister in the robing room. The conversation turned to schools. He asked me where I went. I told him Kingsway, a comprehensive school in Cheadle. 

“Really,” he said, “what was it like being a grammar school boy at a comp?”

I pointed out to him that I was not a grammar school boy at a comprehensive. I was just a boy at a school. 

That is why the Government’s announcement about grammar schools is just so wrong. At the age of 11 my life should not have been defined by the school that I went to. At the age of 11 children should be equal, with equal opportunity and shared experiences. 

I am not proclaiming that I went to a school where the lessons were in hard knocks and life, albeit I recall vividly the time when one of my teachers knocked a classmate to the floor twice by punching him to the face and then made us all stand behind our chairs for an hour before telling us not to tell our parents. What I would say is that I went to a school that was reflective of society, a broad spectrum of society. And there are aspects of my “education” that have been important in my life that had little to do with books and grades.

I like to think that I would have passed an 11+ examination. In fact I will let you into a secret, I passed the entrance examination for a local private grammar school but failed to secure a scholarship. Had I gone to that school I may well have been someone who believed that life was divided into grammar school boys and comprehensive school boys. Why create that division?

Our Prime Minister had introduced her grammar school plan by saying the future of children are being held back by “dogma and ideology.” I suppose the dogma is that access to education should be on an entirely equal footing, irrespective of social position or wealth. I suppose the ideology is that every child in this country who has the ability should go on to achieve their ambitions.

 A grammar school/non grammar school is defining those likely to go to university at the age of 11. My “Frere Jacques” was spot on at age 11. I only discovered I was really bad at French during my A-Levels. Children develop at very different times and in very different ways. A grammar school system locks children down far too soon. 

If the Government’s plans go through, in thirty years from now will we have a lawyer expressing some surprise that a boy from a comp has managed to qualify? If we do, the country has taken a massive backwards step. 

ABC

I was wandering through social media when I came across a video of what the author describes as a “takedown” of Sadiq Khan. Now whether a commentary takes someone down is probably more for the observer than the commentator. So you can see for yourself as the video is available here

One of the things that struck me was that the gentleman on the video was so exasperated by the fact that some people have the temerity to hold the view that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable. He was particularly aghast that Sadiq Khan would think so. I mean, so the video man says, hello! Jeremy has won every by-election that has happened since he has been leader so it is just, like, so stupid to suggest he is unelectable. 

Taken down. Slam dunk. Game over. 

But hang on a minute. Let’s just look at those four by-elections that Jeremy has won. What do they actually tell us?

The first by-election in his tenure was Oldham West and Royton in December 2015. This was won by Labour with 17,209, which was 62.1% of the turnout and an increase in the vote share. Corbyn had only been in place a couple of months and already he was changing Labour’s electoral fortunes. Except for the fact that Oldham West and Royton was already a Labout held seat. And has been since the constituency was formed in 1997. In fact the magnetic Corbyn factor had drawn 17,209 people out to vote as compared to the 23,630 that had voted Labour at the election in the May. This is a seat so safe that second place has never been within 8,000 votes of Labour. 

The next by-election was Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough in May 2016. Again Jezza swept the board as Gill Furniss romped home with a majority of 9,590. Which was the lowest Labour majority since the constituency was formed in 2010. The previous two majorities had been over 13,000 in this safe Labout seat which had been David Blunkett’s constituency in 2010 and he had been the Labour MP for its forerunner since 1987. In fact it is an area or combination of areas that has returned a Labour MP since 1935. 

Ogmore in South Wales. A Corbyn by-election triumph in May 2016. A glorious majority of 8,575. A magnificent 12,383 people turned out to vote Labour. Which is both the lowest majority and the lowest Labour turnout since the constituency was created….. in 1918. Ogmore has always been Labour, through and through. Just a little less so at the last by-election. 

Corbyn’s latest triumph was in Tooting, the seat vacated by the treacherous Sadiq Khan. And here Labour increased their majority, albeit with something like 7,000 fewer people voting for the Labour candidate than had done in the General Election. And this after Corbyn has spent 8 months in office, drawing in new Labour supporters like moths to a public meeting with well lit banners. In fact the 17,894 people who voted Labour was the lowest number that had ever voted for a Labour candidate in this seat, a seat which has (you guessed it) always been Labout since 1974. 

So in Corbyn’s time as Leader there have been four by-elections that a dog in a Labour rosette should have won. If Boris Johnson had suddenly become Leader of the Labour Party, these four candidates would still have won. Only Tooting falls outside of Labour’s safest 100 seats. There is as much chance of Labour losing these seats at a by-election during a Tory administration as there is of John McDonell winning in Esher. 

Yet time and time again Corbyn’s supporters parrot these by-election results as proof that he is electable in the sense of leading the Labour Party to a win in the General Election. They do no such thing. And it is becoming vaguely embarrassing that they get trotted out to support their man. 

The question of his electability or otherwise is a judgement. It is a judgement that I am entitled to make, it is a judgement Corbyn supporters are entitled to make. It is a judgement that Sadiq Khan is entitled to make. And to help me make my judgement, I want to hear from people like Sadiq Khan. I do not want “takedowns” that try to obscure my concerns about Corbyn with meaningless references to by-elections like I am some idiot for even questioning whether the current Labour Leader can win the next General Election. And I do not want proponents of either side who add to the debate being drowned out by a booing audience. 

This is increasingly the style of debate in the UK. The debate that puts shouting “bollocks” ahead of actual analysis. The use of “evidence” that plays out like the misdirection of a magician rather than the thoughtful discussion of what the evidence shows. And a debate where someone with whom you disagree becomes your enemy, rather than someone to be persuaded. 

“It’s a coup”, “you’re the elite” and “it’s a smear” is not persuading me of Corbyn’s cause. All it is doing is increasingly driving me back to ABC – Anyone But Corbyn. 

Favourability Ownership

ComRes have produced a poll for the Independent and the Sunday Mirror. It is, somewhat ludricously, described as a “Favourability Index”. It asked 2,017 adults their view of a number of politicians. It was Tweeted by ComRes as showing that Theresa May has now overtaken Boris Johnson as the nation’s favorite politician. The full results are below:


It is good news for Theresa May, not just that she has overtaken the ManChild she appointed Foreign Secretary as the most popular politician, but because it shows the depths of Labour’s problems under Corbyn/McDonnell. 

I have no doubt that supporters of Corbyn will highlight the fact that 22% of those asked viewed Corbyn with a favorable opinion, as compared to only 11% prepared to express a favorable opinion of Owen Smith. But that is not the full story. The first part of the story is that the Labour Party’s problems are not about the “coup” or divisions in the PLP. This is about Corbyn and the fact that he personally is trailing the Prime Minister, the ex-Prime Minister and Nigel Farage.

 Now I appreciate that Smith is behind them all, but Corbyn has been in place now since September 2015. He is the man who packs out public meetings. He is the man who is going to change the face of politics in this country. And yet his appeal is so limited. 

Is Owen Smith the answer? Take a look at the “Neither” or “Don’t Know” columns. Corbyn has a combined total of 28% that have not expressed a view about him. Smith has a total of 64%. That provides Smith with a much wider pool of people on whom he can make a favourable impression. 50% of the respondents already profess an unfavourable view of Corbyn, a figure only beaten by Farage and Trump. 

Corbyn has a higher percentage of unfavourable views than Cameron. Let that sink in for a moment. Corbyn is less popular than Cameron, the man who lost the Referendum. 

That does not make Smith the answer of course, but it provides him with a better prospect of success than Corbyn. 

The second part of the story comes with another poll. This one is a YouGov with another ridiculous title of “Issue Ownership” – basically which Party is trusted over key issues. 


Everyone knows that the economy is one of the key battlegrounds for an election. The numbers are bad for Labour. 36 plays 18. That is a huge gap for Corbyn and McDonnell to make up. Will they manage it? Will the nation learn to trust a prospective Chancellor who produces Mao quotes in his Budget response?

Let’s go back to the “Favourablity Index”. No one, not a single figure in the table, is doing worse than McDonnell. Donald Trump manages more favourable responses. That is the man with the hair, the gaffes and the racism. He is more popular. 

Polls can be wrong. These polls reflect my own views. I was favourable towards Corbyn and McDonnell. They have lost me and are losing many others. They are an unelectable ticket. 

If you want the Labour Party to change, to represent a more socialist and left voice then so be it. Argue for it and be honest about it. But don’t proclaim the politicians currently viewed as those who can deliver it are showing any signs of being an electable alternative to the Tories. They are not. 

Polls Apart

A Twitter account, @JeremyCorbyn4PM, published a Tweet which has been widely circulated. I have reproduced the screenshot below. The thrust of the Tweet is to defend recent poor polling results of the Labour Party, to suggest it is the fault of the “Coup” rather than a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s failures. It states in terms “We were polling level with the Tories before the coup: anyone who sets any store by these things should place the blame at the door of the plotters.”

Here is their statement in full (as an interesting aside the Twitter account makes it plain they don’t speak on behalf of the official Jeremy Corbyn camp or the Labour Party, and that in itself may reveal part of the problem with the Labour Party at the moment….)

Is this a fair point made on behalf of Corbyn? His supporters have certainly run with it, Re-Tweeting it far and wide with the glib abandon of children in a playground singing about people sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. 

A group called “bloc” made a similar point on Facebook on 27th July when they published this graph with their accompanying commentary blaming the plotters and extolling Corbyn’s success. Here is another pretty screenshot for you

So there we have it. Pretty conclusive. Jeremy was totally smashing it and it is only those pesky Establishment types in the PLP that have ruined the crest of success the Labour Party were going to ride all the way to General Election glory in 2020. 

Save for the fact that it does not show this at all. In polls from 18th April 2016 to 10th July by ICM, Opinium, YouGov, Ipsos and BMG the mode result for the Labour (the one that occurs most frequently) is 30%. The mean polling result (the average of all the polls) is 32%. The range is between 29% and 35%. For the Conservatives the mode is 34% and the mean is 37.8%. In 25 polls in that time there has been one tie and one poll, on 26th April, which put Labout ahead. 

My analysis pretty much matches bloc’s pretty graph above. The Conservatives have, by and large, been ahead in the polls. Now the polls do not tell the whole story, and this is where it gets bad for Corbyn. 

More recent polls put the Conservatives way ahead. Of course the discord in the Labour Party and the apparent inability to organize an election in a democractic body is not helping that situation. The Conservatives are also benefiting, however, from the new manager bounce that even teams facing relegation suffer from. The public like a new leader because they have not had time to mess it up yet. So it is undoubtedly the case that Theresa May is having a good time in the polls. 

It is actually the polls from before the infighting that tell the depressing tale. Through April, May and into June the Conservatives were at their weakest. They were divided with Cameron and Osbourne pitted against Johnson and Gove. They had infighting galore. The Prime Minister was a lame duck PM. Then the country and the economy was thrown into turmoil by the Referendum Result and the Prme Minister resigned. Was Corbyn able to take advantage of the chaos, infighting and instability in the Goverment to take a clear lead? Did he woo the swinging voter? 

The answer is, without doubt, no he was not able to. The Labour Party poll figures remain, by and large, fairly level. A Government that the public should dislike because of where we are in the cycle of politics, whom should be damaged by the severity of austerity and who were a wounded dog in the pre and post referendum period barely had a glove landed on them by Corbyn. 

That was before plotters. That was before the coup. 

That is why Labour would not win a General Election under Corbyn. Rallies and popularity in sections of social media do not win General Elections. Being popular amongst your core voters will not win a General Election, if it did then we have more to fear from Britain First than just their hateful ideology. 

Polls are wrong, of course they are. They have statistical anomalies and weaknesses. Nonetheless I am more than happy that they tell me more about the reaction to Corbyn than they do about the “coup”, particularly when you stop to think for a minute about the fact this was the time when making gains was going to be at its easiest. 

Get this wrong and we will have 8 years wishing that we had got it right. 

The Left Needs to Get This Right

I joined the Labour Party when I was at university in the days of Neil Kinnock. I even, briefly, flirted with student politics proper and stood for election to the Student Union Executive (my political career being short lived, involving addressing a hustings to which only one person came and coming a distant third in the actual election). I attended a few CLP meetings in the 90s and stopped being a member in the late 90s when I became appalled at what Blair, Straw, Irvine and others were doing to the criminal justice system and legal aid. 

Since my university days I have voted, and continue to vote, almost exclusively for Labour. I say almost exclusively because I cannot rule out having voted for an independent in a council election here or there but every time I am faced with a ballot paper my eye goes immediately to Labour. In doing so my eye is only following what my heart and my head tells me is the right thing. Since my university days I am simply unable to vote Conservative. I cannot imagine ever voting Conservative in the future. 

Why am I telling you this potted history of my political and voting life? I hope to establish that I am not a “Red Tory” or a Blairite. I hope that this tells the reader that I believe in a social democracy where we assist those who need it. I am on the Left. Firmly. I am not a Marxist, a communist or a member of the Socialist Worker Party. But I am on the Left nevertheless and I believe that the nation is better off being run by people with the same inherent tendencies that I have. The tendencies that make me “of the Left”. 

And that is why I do not support Jeremy Corbyn. 

I wanted him to do well, because his succeeding would see the Labour Party succeeding. But it isn’t. It is failing. It is failing not because there has been a coup of MPs but because Jeremy Corbyn has not worked out. 

There has not been a singe moment since he was elected when I have thought to myself “Jeremy aced that”. Not one. There is not one policy, not one announcement, not one proposal that has made me think he is going to speak to the nation with sufficient appeal that he will play his vital role in a General Election success. 

I liked some of his ideas. I liked the idea of a gentler way of doing politics. I just have not noticed much evidence of him making a success of this ideal. I liked the idea of asking for the concerns of the public for the purpose of Prime Minister’s Questions. But my toes curl at the execution of his plan. 

He is undoubtedly sincere with his anti-austerity agenda but he is a master at preaching to the converted rather than converting the ideal into policies and a vision which brings people to him. 

It is undoubtedly the case that the mainstream media have been against him from the outset. He has managed to do nothing to turn that tide and gives the appearance (often sartorially) of being someone who simply does not learn from his mistakes.  

I am not a Red Tory. I am not a Blairite. But I am afraid I am not a Corbynista. I cannot see him leading the Party to a General Election victory. And that is what counts. That is why I registered to have my vote in the Leadership contest. If Jeremy Corbyn wins again we are looking at 8 more years of Tory rule. Tory rule at a time when the need for compassion, social democracy and tolerance is going to be at its highest.