Surge Politics: GE Analysis — Download Available Now

The first in occasional series of ‘Strategy in Focus’ publications, Trevor Fisher has compiled this analysis of the 2017 General Election result and  begun to look in depth at the ‘Labour Surge’.

‘Surge Politics’ begins to look at those new voters who came to us at the last General Election. The pamphlet looks at the real data of the electoral stats, brings together comments from political commentators and begins to discuss the implications for the campaigns of the future.

Contributors: Trevor Fisher (Editor), Ravi Subramanian, David Pavett and Andy Howell

Also included is the last similar analysis of a Labour election performance in 1983, produced by the Labour Coordinating Committee.

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The Generation Gap at the June General Election

The 2017 UK election threw up data indicating  that Age is more important than Class in voting in Westminster elections. The big issue was that the older a voter was the more likely to vote Tory*. The youth surge was real, with 2/3 of first time voters voting Labour. Its  not clear if this is a long term shift – in 1979 42% of first time voters went Tory, youth is not always radical. Student debt was a big issue in university towns, but now Labour has clarified it will not automatically wipe it out may not be a motivator. This age  distribution of voters makes appeals on the basis of age the most important factor at elections in England and Wales. How do progressives deal with this?

  The Role of Age and Class in Voting in Britain 

The YouGov poll after the election (fieldwork 9-13th June, sample over 50,000) (TABLE 1) showed that both the turnout to vote and willingness to Vote Tory increased with age, two thirds of first time voters voting Labour in 2017, but only 19% of over seventies. First time voters were least likely to vote, over seventies the most likely to vote – a stable population able to use postal votes which have now become an alternative way to vote.  TABLE 2 emphasises that class is no longer the key determinant of voting. How this is broken down geographically has yet to be established.

Table 1

Age % age per party Turnout
Tory Other Lab
18-19 19 15 66 57
20-24 22 16 62 59
25-29 23 14 63 64
30-39 29 16 55 61
40-49 39 17 44 66
50-59 47 16 37 71
60-69 58 15 27 77
70+ 69 12 19 84

Table 2

Age % age per party Turnout
Tory Other Lab
18-19 19 15 66 57
20-24 22 16 62 59
25-29 23 14 63 64
30-39 29 16 55 61
40-49 39 17 44 66
50-59 47 16 37 71
60-69 58 15 27 77
70+ 69 12 19 84

The Old are voting for the Tories thus there is a bias to the Tories but this has slipped in Labour’s favour in 2017 – the tipping point was age 47 – it had previously been 34 according to YouGove.  A key issue is to maintain and improve the role of youth in future elections which cannot have much to do with the call by Ed Miliband and others for a voting age of 16. There is no reason to think youth will always vote centre left, and the policy agenda is key to this happening. Another key issue is why the over 60s vote Tory.

The Liberals failed to recover from the Coalition, and their future depends in part on whether the Remain position favoured by the young becomes a viable issue. The politics of Brexit was not an issue at the 2017 election but Labour’s de -facto pro Brexit position is likely to become relevant if it becomes better known to the Glastonbury generation.

Who votes – an age related issue – signing up

The voting figures are not the whole picture, as there is a big issue of people not being registered to vote – and this too is age related. With a very mobile young population, many do not register and as we are now being told, students can register twice, though they can only vote once. It is now clear that millions of people do not get to vote – and if some did vote twice, students being the culprit, it is unacceptable and illegal but only part of a bigger problem created by New Labour’s change to individual registration. The figures produced by the pollsters  only show those who were registered. Old people do not move and use postal votes, which can be organised and give a high participation figure. Younger people esp students and renters tend to move.

The Independent  of 22nd May, registration deadline day, said that 7m people had been unregistered, but 2m did so on registrations day leaving 5m unregistered. If there were five million unregistered people and this has to be checked, then the task tracking and registering students and renters, to ensure that they have the chance to vote is crucial to any progressive movement. Assuming that the older people are registered as they are a  more stable population, then there is a built in bias in the system to the Tories (and UKIP which  had an elderly core vote). This is a democratic and political issue. The old appear to be Brexiteers and it was the postal votes that lost the Plebiscite over the EU in 2016.

The issues are not merely students, who are always transient but can be tracked through student unions and university processes, but renters.  The Independent on 22nd May – Registration Day –  suggested 30% of students were not listed but this was almost equalled in the rented sector, 28% of renters  not being registered. Those who live in rented accomodation, often live in hot spots for non-registration. In one ward in Leeds where 80%  are renters, the participation rate almost cost Labour the seat – so few people were eligible to vote. So getting people’s details so if they move house they can come back to vote will be crucial to future results.

After the June election the ability of students to vote is likely to be increasingly controversial, with the ability to vote at home or in the university seat clearly becoming one of the unknown factors in outcomes. Long term, changes in the registration system are needed plus how we vote will be essential. If students have two places to vote at, they will have to make a choice and this has to be checkable. But also there has to be  reconsideration of postal voting. There is a strong suggestion one reason for the Tories getting more elderly voters is the use of postal voting. This is OK where this registers a real preference…. but who checks on the valdity of the voting papers? Multiple voting by students is unacceptable, but it is the tip of the iceberg of manipulation.

This will become increasingly important as the row over students voting more than once develops. It is illegal and cannot be defended. But there can be checks on students voting in two places on the same day, and right so. But how can the carers voting for the elderly – or community activists ‘helping’ fill in forms be checked?

Trevor Fisher

August 2017

Brexit Breaking Up

If June was the month of Surge Politics, July was the month when the fragile mantra that Brexit means Brexit (patented by Theresa the Incompetent) finally broke apart. The papering  over the cracks in Labour’s manifesto was torn when Chuka Umuna led a Commons revolt over the single market, and shrivelled when Corbybn said on the Marr Show on July 23rd he would, if PM, take the UK out of the single market. On 24th his Trade Sec Barry Gardiner wrote a bizarre article in the Guardian in which he argued that Brexit meant Brexit and we must not join the EEA as we could negotiate a better deal with the EU when totally outside.

Manuel Cortez of TESSA then wrote on Labour List that this was nonsense and the idea of ” post Brexit Trade Deal which is more advantageous, or the same, as that we enjoy through our current membership belongs in  never never land”.  John McDonnell and  Keir Starmer may agree as they seemed to want to rule Single Market into a Labour negotiation should Jezza become PM, while Diane Abbott seemed to sit on the fence as the Shadow Home Secretary said that ‘all options’ were on the table.

Outside the Shadow Cabinet, Sadiq Khan sensibly said that “For it (Remain) to have credibility with the British Public, there would have to be a manifesto offer… or referendum”.   In fact only a Third Referendum (the first was in 1975- Remain won comfortably – and 2016 – Leave won narrowly) would do. Unless Sadiq thinks the whole thing will run till 2022 as some Tories are now arguing.

Specifically Amber Rudd, Home Sec, and more importantly the Chancellor who looks to transitional arrangements which could last for three years taking us to 2022. Hammond does not want to have Brexit on his watch as the removal of immigrant labour and the single market would produce economic chaos. The Telegraph immediately pointed out that this would mean Brexit became an issue in the election due under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which Jezza voted to keep in place in 2014.  Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman accepted that there might have to be a transitional period but this must be strictly time limited by law to March 2021 maximum”. A new law then? But not if the Trade Secretary Liam Fox has his way, since he ended the week by making it clear that he had not been consulted on transitional arrangements and he was not in favour. So at least there is agreement – across the parties, though not inside the parties.

With the Tories and Labour split on Brexit, and the only national party committed to Remain opting for Labour’s fudge of a Soft Brexit in the election (aka a Brexit for Jobs, or Christmas for Turkeys) under their last leader and seeing their vote share  drop to 7 per cent, even the Lib Dems can’t offer a strong anti Brexit campaign. So as the parliam,,entary pantomime is offering nothing, there has to be a new turn.

Hammond is trying to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ exit as the effects would be disasterous for the Treasury, but has less and less room for manoeuvre. The exit date is March 29th 2019 and this is at the time of   writing – 31st July 2017 – less than 20 months away. As the problems increase, only a sharp NO to Brexit based on winning a Third Referendum will do. It’s not possible for the issue to drag on for 5 years as the cliff edge fundamentalists will hold out for a complete break in 2019. Only stopping this will do, by vetoing Brexit and Sadiq Khan is right to say that a clear option has to be given to the people. How can the Third Referendum be achieved and won?

The lack of an adequate organisation with proper funding is the key problem. There are 3 Westminster pressure groups, perhaps one for each party, and all useless. The Grassroots Another Europe is Possible is under  resourced and has little presence and no media profile. Volunteer initiatives become overstretched and are over-reliant on the parliamentary pantomime. It is time for a  new approach with a clear focus on a Third Referendum capable of taking on a Brexit Means Brexit campaign well resourced and – with Nigel Farage poised to re enter the fray- able to counter all that Brexit can devise. Machiavellian they may be, but invincible they are not. If A Capaign To Vote Again can be brought about. There are less than twenty months to go.

Trevor Fisher

July 2017

Farage and Brexit Rule

Analysis of the 2017 election will take years to complete, but while some issues are being discussed and conclusions drawn, there is a missing factor. May’s disaster is clear, though she gained the vote share of Thatcher, Corbyn’s success is recognised, though Labour lost and is miles away from even a one seat majority, and the Lib Dems did even worse than in the 2015 disasters, dropping from 8% to 7% of the vote.

However the decisive result of the election – the victory of Nigel Farage and his campaign for Brexit, now no longer opposed by any serious political force – is not on the agenda. When the victory of UKIP is pointed out, commentators refer to the drop in votes, down from 4million to next to nothing, and the fact that they do not have any seats at Westminster. Farage and the forces he leads do not need votes or seats – they have set the agenda and can watch the other parties do their work knowing the others exhaust themselves while all UKIP has to do is run a watching brief against backsliders.

Not that Theresa May will allow backsliding – she is well aware of what the Leave Tories did to John Major, sacrificing position in government and 18 years in the wilderness for the chance of a referendum and a no holds barred campaign for victory. UKIP’s success in winning Tory and Labour voters was key to the 2017 election, where no major English party opposed Brexit and as Tory MP Owen Patterson pointed out in response to Vince Cable arguing on Marr that Brexit might happen, his tendency won the General Election. 85% of Voters voting for Brexit. To be precise, 85% voted for Brexit supporting MPs via Tories, Labour and UKIP.

Cable stood for a party which alone in England stood against Brexit…. but then sold the pass by campaigning against Soft Brexit. There is no such thing. Its In or Out. The Lib Dem poor performance in 2017 rested firmly on failure to win Tory and Labour pro- Remain votes. This was mainly because Brexit dropped off the agenda, media and voters both believing the line that the Referendum is decisive even if disasterous – the line taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Lords –  even the local Another Europe is Possible collapsing into this position. There is no future for a political tendency which  is not prepared to challenge the Referendum result, and the Lib Dems have no future because they did not.

Labour survived for the moment by accepting Brexit – albeit a soft Brexit of sorts – and held on in Stoke Central in February with a formula which for the moment unites Leave and Remain voters though the official Party position is firmly Remain. Tories who were mainly Leave anyway held together as the Lib Dems could not make inroads as by elections had suggested they might. The Brexit issue simply dropped off  the agenda of June 8th, and Farron and Co found themselves chasing Shadows.

The same could not be said of UKIP though its performance was dire and its leader Paul Nuttall made so many errors in the Stoke Central by election that as with the Prime Minister they can run a master class in how not to fight an election. However this only enhances the position of the Man Who Matters, Nigel Farage.

Widely believed to have vanished and to be Yesterday’s Man, when he is not alongside the Brexit supporting Trump he is taking a well earned rest while Cable, May and Corbyn exhaust themselves in the day to day battle at Westminster. The Mail reports he has been botoxed and has a new sun tan and he looks good. Well up to the job of tackling backsliders and challenging the older generation of political leaders who operate at Westminster. As he will do when it suits him to do so, and the media need a new plaything to boost on every channel. The analyses of the election which neglect Brexit and UKIP are off  the scale. To understand how Labour and the Tories both abandoned the Remain positions they went for in 2016, and Labour party policy still supports, the result of the 2016 Europe vote is all that is needed. The Future is Bleak. If the Future continues to be Farage.

Trevor Fisher, July 2017.

Election 2017 – The Boy Done Good, The Girl Done Bad.

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. We have to understand that despite an appalling Tory campaign the Tories still gained more votes and since the election their council by elections have shown their vote holding though May is a leader in trouble. For Labour, two weeks after the election, two things stand out – the shift away from class politics, and Jezza’s personal popularity especially with the young, underlined by his appearance at Glastonbury on June 24th. The first is likely to be a constant, the second cannot be.

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 Libertine’s concert just before the Manchester bombings, reports say the crowd cheered to 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.

The manifesto was a model centre ground document, even on Trident, and placed Labour in a very good position to attack the disasterous Tory document. On the day before the election, the local paper had a front page Labour ad attacking police cuts, and inside were ads from Labour highlighting five popular pledges and four devastating attacks on the Tories – axing fuel winter payments, the dementia tax, cutting public services and…. ‘threatening tax rises’. The latter may be a problem in the long term, but the others hit the Tories where it hurt. The paper carried whole page Labour ads attacking the Tories on police cuts and Tory threats to pensioners. There is no doubt that Labour had the Tories on the run, winning over centre support if not eating into the Tory overall vote. Except in Wales, which needs separate analysis. The Tory upsurge in Wales never happened. 

The opposite is the case for the Tories, on nearly every front save Scotland. In Scotland, the local leadership of Ruth Davidson won back support for the Tories just as they were losing it south of the border. The Tory manifesto was a disaster, and May made this clear by not turning up on TV to defend it. I rarely feel sorry for Tories, but Amber Rudd on TV stonewalling for her leader against the other party leaders was a moment to savour.  From the continuance of Austerity with more cuts – in the context of not being able to balance the budget till 2025, for a supporter of the People’s Assembly like myself clear proof the cuts have no economic rationale – to hitting specific groups of people normally wooed by the Tories, notably pensioners, the Tory campaign was almost designed to drive undecided voters into Labour’s arms. The Tories did succeed in capturing many Brexit voters, and many of these are working class voters from Labour via UKIP. Contrarywise, many middle class voters plumped for Labour including students and swing voters in seats like Canterbury and remarkably Kensington and Chelsea, admittedly with the help of the Lib Dems taking votes off the Tories,. Indeed, analysis has everywhere to look at the results in particular seats, and the way local campaigns and factors made a difference. There is no national swingometer anymore. Paul Mason is wrong to argue the UK is “a divided country looking for a story it can unify around”. It is certainly a divided country. The divisions after the election look more than ever like a two party split, with trimmings.

But while the analysis will be complicated two things stand out without question. Corbyn did well and appealed to the centre ground and youth, with the Tory smear campaign failing to dent the man’s image of decency and willingness to help the disadvantaged. And the Tory campaign was stunningly inept once the contrast between the claimed appeal to the centre was matched against right wing policies. Was there ever an election like this? Perhaps 1945, where Churchill thought he would win by 80 seats after winning the war, and the Tory manifesto refused to back social reform, while Labour did. The comparison can be taken too far. Modest and uncharismatic Clem Attlee had been deputy PM during the war, while Corbyn has never occupied a cabinet position. And the opinion polls were consistently pro Labour from 1942 onward.

But if Theresa May is not Churchill, Corbyn has some elements of Attlee in his approach. Above all, Labour won in 1945 with solid working class support and that picture is different today. But Corbyn deserves the comparison, for this was his campaign, he led from the front, and like Attlee the gains were down to his leadership. Whatever happened in the election, this was his triumph and he deserves to be recognised as having come through with honours.

Trevor Fisher         

YouGov — Key Polling Data

The major polling companies are now beginning to produce their analysis of the 2017 General Election vote. He I shall be focussing on the data produced by YouGov (who have kindly agreed to let us reproduce it here). These seem to reflect some significant changes in voting patterns. What we see below is an analysis of voters; the issue of voter registration is not addressed in this analysis.


Age Factors

The tipping point for voting Tory now seems to be 47; it had previously been 34)

 

Age

Tory Other Lab Turnout
         
18-19 19 15 66 57
20-24 22 16 62 59
25-29 23 14 63 64
30-39 29 16 55 61
40-49 39 17 44 66
50-59 47 16 37 71
60-69 58 15 27 77
70+ 69 12 19 84
         
National       69

 

 Class

Prosperity and education are now very significant factors. What we see now is an almost equal split between the top and bottom halves of the income scale.

Class Tory Other Labour
       
AB 46 26 38
C1 41 16 43
C2 47 13 40
DE 44 14 42
       
ABC1 44 16 40
C2DE 44 14 42

It would be interesting to know what proportions on benefits and how many students are counted and in what socio economic group?

 

Education

  Tory Other Lab
       
GSCE & below 55 12 33
Intermediate 45 15 40
Degree & above 32 19 49


Newspaper Readership

This is an interesting and traditional analysis on news media. However, it begs the question about new media in lauding social media channels and alternative broadcast media such as YouTube.  This needs to be linked to circulation and readership to assess impact. The tabloids plus the DT have a bigger circulation than the progressive papers.

 

Paper Tory Other Lab
       
Telegraph 79 9 12
Express 77 8 15
Mail 74 9 17
Sun 59 11 30
Times 58 18 24
FT 40 11 39
Star 38 13 49
MIrror 19 13 68
Indie 15 19 66
Guardian 8 19 73

Triumphalism and the Politics of the Surge

The 2017 election result has led to an upsurge One More Heavism aka triumphalism, on the Labour Left, taking the unexpected but welcome surge in the last month of the election and its results as the basis for a Labour victory at some point soon. The Wish is however Father to the Thought and a different set of factors are likely to apply in the next six months. What is clear is that we are now living in a period of surge politics, as experienced across Europe and the USA, and the Scottish example even more than the rest of the UK shows that winners two years ago are losers today. The Tories gained against both the SNP and UKIP on June 8th but ten days later…. who would bet on them?

Labour is set to gain in the short term, as the opinion polls are showing, but Triumphalism is showing both an over confidence in the Labour Left’s electoral appeal, and a failure to read the signs of the surges – there were more than one – which happened to produce the result on June 8th.  As Christian Wolmar argued on Labour List and ProgPol, Corbyn won the election and it is his prerogative to make the decisions. But only internally for Labour. The Tories decide the election, so the Left Futures Editor James Elliott was premature with his blog of 13th August. After the election Labour had a poll lead – 6% when he wrote, and probably more following the Grenfell fire. This he argued “would give Labour a clear majority were there to be another election”.  Sadly this is in the gift of the Tories, who will have to be forced out by a vote of no confidence or similar. Which means Labour having to form a parliamentary alliance plus the DUP failing to support the Tories if it is to happen.

While it is very unlikely that the Prime Minister can survive five years the Tories don’t need to. The only  show in town is Brexit, and if they can do a deal within two years, then that is the optimum point for an election. Opinion polls at the moment are irrelevant.

This calculation has so far escaped both hard and  soft left. Figures close to Corbyn – Joshua Simon on the New Statesman website on 16th June, and Cat Smith MP on Labour List on 15th June, both thought the Party was on the brink of government. Simon thought “a host of seats across Britain have become marginals that Labour can target” especially with UKIP voters returning to Labour, which was helped by “Labour’s opaque stance on Brexit”. UKIP voters largely voted Tory, while Labour’s Brexit evasions are unlikely to be a basis for anything.

Cat Smith, however, endorsed a reliance on Tory Marginals.  “When the next General Election is called, a 1.6% swing will do. 34 seats are needed”. But this is only for a majority of one. And its not simply a matter of winning more seats, since in places like Newcastle Under Lyme (30 majority) and Crewe (48 majority) the election put Labour M Ps on a knife edge.

The message of winning marginals is the key was also put by Jade Azim of Open Labour on the Labour List site on 16th June, arguing like Cat Smith that “the spectacular election has opened up a lot of key marginals for us that were previously safe Tory seats.” She cites Chipping Barnet with a Tory majority of 353, Chingford at 2438, and – looking at the Progressive Alliance territory – seats like Caborne and Redruth with second place only 1577 behind, with 2979 Liberal and 1052 Green votes to woo. No doubt Compass will be telling us more about these seats.

However Jade then talks about having a huge opportunity to win back UKIP voters “and liberal Tories in the south….” However this is starting to enter the realms of how to win the National Lottery. Liberal Tories mostly favour Remain. UKIP voters want Leave. They are not in the same ball park.  It is welcome, and true, that voters in a seat like Stoke Central were prepared to vote UKIP but not Tory, but in the next constituency of Stoke South they did just that. While the Labour vote went up in Stoke South as the Lib Dems, Greens and TUSC votes moved to Labour, the vast majority of the 8298 UKIP votes – UKIP did not stand – went Tory to make 12,780 in 2015 into 20, 451 Tory votes in 2017. While the Labour vote went up, the Tories won. In Stoke Central, the by election momentum carried on and while UKIP, who did stand, dropped 3625 votes and the Tories rose 8032, Labour had an increase of 9230 partly with the Lib Dems dropping 1400 votes. The working class in this wholly working class seat came back to Labour in numbers to build on the majority secured in the by election.

I am encouraged by this, for a strategy of relying on Tory liberals is not good enough. In 1945 Labour had a working class and middle class vote with the workers being the key to the next three or four decades. This was basis for the Attlee Government and was replicated in 1997 and more dubiously in 2001, but not since. I don’t believe Labour can win unless this alliance is reconstructed. Today the workers are the ones Labour is losing unlike the 1950s when Labour lost the middle class voters of 1945. The big question is going to be – What About the Workers?

Trevor Fisher

17 6 17

A Strategy for a Hung Parliament?

With the opinion polls all over the place nothing is clear in the last week of campaigning, 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.

While it is  very unlikely that the Tories could produce a coalition, and the SNP and others are likely to put pressure on Labour to stay in office with some kind of arrangement, the idea of any ad hoc arrangement lasting 5 years is nonsense. The elephant in the room becomes the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) which though invoked to get the early election, is still on the statute book as the Tories expected to win and survive without challenge for 5 years. But as the Act can be by passed by a two thirds majority (unlikely) or a vote of no confidence (possible) then it becomes central to what happens next.

If Labour lost its Queens Speech and Budget – the Queens Speech alone would trigger a crisis if rejected – then the Tories and minority parties might well then want to trigger a vote of no confidence, and if won, Labour would be out in the cold and suffer irreparable damage. The thinking of leadership amounts to Labour putting its future in the hands of its opponents.

Is there a way out? Yes – the first thing to do is to propose that the FTPA be repealed. If repealed, then Labour has the whip hand and can call an election if the Queen’s Speech and-or Budget is rejected. If not repealed then the consequences fall on the opposition parties and Labour is off the hook. It has always been clear that a crisis which cannot be resolved by a General Election, as happened in 1974 and 1910 (two elections in both years) has been implicit in the FTPA.

I am no fan of the Fixed Term Parliament Act for precisely this reason. Now Labour should call time on the Act and give itself the wriggle room to call an election, which Jezza in Number 10 could do once the Act was gone, if the other parties then proved obstructive. With the chance that Labour could win a majority in the second election, it gains credibility and puts the ball in the court of the other parties – on its own terms. It is time to make the repeal of the Act the first item on the agenda if Labour is called on to form a government.

Tackling The Bias In The Election System

On 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.

The fact that 30% of under 24s don’t register led to speculation in the Indie on the 22nd whether getting them registered would stop May. An interesting article by James Tilley argued not, stating that while the young don’t vote – he said in 2015 47% voted against 73% of over 24s, broadly correctly – thus as in the 2011 census they made up less than 12% of the electorate, an increase of 30% of 12% being c3.6%, getting them to vote would make little difference – around 1% overall. Ben Bowman agreed, stating that the most marginalised school leavers – 25% – many BAME – have fallen away since the rules were changed again in 2014, by the Coalition, and that a reversal would need “a groundbreaking social movement, but it would bring along  older voters as well” and thus was not worth doing.

The focus is however too narrow. Important though school leavers and 18-24s are, the problem is actually 18- 40 year olds- a much bigger group. 40% of this group are certain to vote, 64% of the older cohort, and this was the pic in the EU referendum. There never was a majority of the UK voting for Leave, and the wafer thin majority of those voting has now been decimated by the grim reaper. Remainers are in the majority at this point in time, and we Remainers must start to take demography seriously. Unpleasant though it is to say it, the older age cohort are a wasting asset for the Tories. Not that we should rely on the grim reaper, silence from Labour on pensions is disasterous.

But the crucial issue is the young. There has been a big shift since Thatchers’ time, when in 1979 42% of 18-24s backed her, according to IPSOS MORI at the time. Then they saw what she produced. On the current picture, house ownership is the biggest factor in Tory voting. And the young cannot buy houses. The Yougov poll which produced these results, 2-20 April involved 12,746 adults deliberately to increase accuracy. It is of course only a snapshot, but it shows the importance of seeing voter registration and aiming at the 16-40 year olds as key. And they stay around longer. The future is young voters, and a relentless focus on them is now the key to the future.

Its not going to be easy. The young are social media oriented, personally I never do it. And they are ghettoised through their phones. Did I ever tell you I may have taught Jony Ive? If only I had known what he was going to do….. But we are where we are. When Jezza spoke to a rock concert earlier this week the kids cheered him so much they could not hear what he was saying. Whatever, its too late to affect this election and get the young voting, though we do what we can. But for the future, the bias in the system has to be tackled. For the future, its Voter Registration, Stupid.

Trevor Fisher,

23rd May 2017

The Stolen Election & the Accomplices

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 loop hole in the Act which allowed an early election – if two thirds of M Ps 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.

The debate on 19th April, provided a sharp insight into why politicians are unpopular and seen as shifty and unreliable. The government claimed they needed a Brexit mandate, baloney as parliament had given them the mandate voting for Article 50, and the Deal would be open to scrutiny by voters in 2019. Allowing an election this year means that a Tory victory on June 8th would allow them to ignore the voters after 2019 for three years. The Labour decision to let her off the hook and support her cut and run proposal puts May in charge of the agenda. Labour again failed to be an effective opposition.

It is worth noting that Corbyn and Abbott voted against repealing the Fixed Term Parliament Act on a Commons motion of 23rd October 2014, so would have been consistent in denying May her repeal and demanding she honour her promises of an election in 2020. This was not what  Labour did, and their votes on the Early Election Bill condemned them again to following a Tory Policy. As did the Lib Dems, the BBC report on May calling the election stating that ‘the main opposition parties have said they will support it’. Not apparently the SNP though, which abstained, but the Lib Dems did not and one important result of the April 19th deabte is to cast doubt on whether the Lib Dems are an opposition party.

The handful of Lib Dem M Ps could not stop the Bill, only Labour could do that, but a vote against would be symbolic and challenge May’s claim to have broad support for seeking a mandate to rule the country. She did not need a mandate on Brexit, and making this a single issue campaign was machiavellian. The argument that an election a year after the Brexit deal would be destabilising is laughable, May is simply avoiding being held to account and the Lib Dems could have embarrassed both Labour and the Conservatives, by voting to uphold the FTPA. But Tim Farron’s group of nonentities decided to to abandon their principles and one of the few things they achieved in the Con Dem Coalition. It is a sign of the times that the man who claimed credit for the FTPA, Nick Clegg, did not manage to vote at the end of the debate.

Moreover Farron steadfastly refused to make a commitment not to go into coalition with the Tories.* Compass and  others who want a progressive alliance should take note. The SNP hammered Farron in the House of Commons debate, as their strategy requires them to destroy Labour and the Lib Dems to produce a Tory – SNP fight north of the border. Had Farron committed not to line up with the Tories and abandoned the Orange Liberal line that took them into Coalition with the Tories in 2010 that would have enabled him to build a presence in Scotland. That he did not do so gave the Nationalists exactly what they wanted.

What happens to the Lib Dems is only a side show, but ensures that this election will be the worst for the progressive movement since 1931. Labour is hamstrung and failed to reject the poisoned chalice of an election which John McDonnell said the Party would take two years to prepare for. It has compromised as in the New Labour years but this time leaving the Blairites to its left over Europe, not a situation the party can benefit from. Meanwhile Farron’s ambiguity on a Tory coalition demonstrates he at least is not going to offer a challenge to Labour as a progressive force whatever his position on Europe.

Theresa May is clearly a limited Prime Minister, but as a party leader she is the Lewis Hamilton of political operators facing the dodgem car twins of Corbyn and Farron as they demonstrate that tacking to the right is the only option in town. For progressives, there is nothing to ally with however desirable the Compass strategy of holding back the Tory tide might be. As the Early Election debate on April 19th showed, there is now a dominant Tory Party as there was in the Thatcher years. Bringing it down will require more than a Progressive Alliance which has no basis in reality, and no parliamentary ability to stop Theresa May when marching into the Division Lobbies against her is what is required.

Since writing the original article, the Lib Dems have issued a call for raising a 1p rate of income tax so a future Liberal government can fund the NHS. This was the central claim in 2010, dropped in 2015 and pure electioneering as there is no chance the Lib Dems can win an election. But an indication that they are playing a parliamentary game of pretending to be interested in the NHS, which they failed to do when in government. The record of the Coalition is now being air brushed from history. More pertinently, they are aiming to take Labour votes by issuing a misleading but plausible attack on Corbyn’s record on Brexit. However there is no attempt to address why the Lib Dems voted for the election, when they could have shown themselves completely anti tory by doing so. In the debate Farron refused to say whether he would go into coalition with the Tories. The debate on 19th April avoided most of the big issues. But on this issue, Farron’s refusal to answer the question was a telling one. Especially as he used the unlikelihood that the Tories would need their help to avoid the question.

However the Guardian carried an interview on April 22nd in which Farron stated the Lib Dems would not go into coalition with either party, ie after the Party voted for the election. The reasons he refused to answer SNP M Ps on the 19th was because a hung parliament was not on the cards and so he did not have to speculate what he would do in that case. The Party has consistently refused to apologise for the Coalition and its deeply reactionary politics, and should  parliament become hung – and only if the Tory Party splits can Brexit be denied without a referendum – then a tactical alliance between the Lib Dems and Tory Remainers and others would be sensible. Indeed if a progressive alliance is ever going to happen then to work with the Tories over Remain would be acceptable. However if the Tory strategy of wooing UKIP voters and getting a massive majority for 5 years works, then all the bets are off. And we will have to return to the issue of why Labour voted with May saving her from a humiliating defeat – and triggering an election most experts think it will lose badly.

Trevor Fisher

14th May 2017