Tag Archives: owen smith


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.