The Labour Party’s turmoil

Labour Leadership2 2015

CandidateMembersRegistered SupportersAffiliated SupportersTotal% of Valid Vote
BURNHAM, Andy55,6986,16018,60480,46219.04%
COOPER, Yvette54,4708,4159,04371,92817.02%
CORBYN, Jeremy121,75188,44941,217251,41759.48%
KENDALL, Liz13,6012,5742,68218,8574.46%
ABC (Anyone But Corbyn)123,76917,14930,329171,24740.52%

The 2015 Labour leadership election was not nearly close. The only aspect in which it was close was between existing members and the anyone-but-Corbyn combination of candidates (ABC), a lead of ~2000 members that was wiped out by even just the affiliated supporters (trade unions and other member-based Labour-supporting organisations), before the massive advantage within registered supporters was considered. The turnout was given at 76%, with a  total electorate of 554,272 voters. That suggests that 130,000 did not vote, and even if they were all members (which is unlikely), the party has grown further under Corbyn’s leadership to over 388,000 registered members at the end of 2015. The number must not have exceeded 400,000 yet, the big milestone achieved in 1997, but the Labour website claims membership is still over 380,000. Assuming a significant proportion of those who joined after Corbyn’s election to leader, that suggests he would have comfortable support within the Labour membership.

Of course, there are suggestions that the Corbynistas who joined are fair-weather politicos, and that they will leave when their membership lapses. This is probably the case for some, but what proportion will not be clear, and a leadership challenge may well encourage them back to defend Corbyn unless a credible alternative is proposed.

And that, for me, is the key point. Numbers matter to the politicians, but they are the result of arguments won for individuals support, and the only way a significant number of Corbynistas and supporters will be won over to ABC is by a credible alternative, not for the centre of the Labour party, but for the left of it. The PLP is distinctly lacking in credible left-wing leadership material, and any who oppose Corbyn may well be signing their death-warrant.

Which leads me to the logical conclusion of this sorry affair for the Labour party: it must split. The ABC MPs (I love my acronyms!) have wanted this from the moment “their” party got “hijacked” by Corbynistas joining in their hundreds of thousands. This is the ABC MP’s problem – their party is no longer theirs by right, and the odds are probably stacked against them. The two possible split scenarios are obvious – either Corbyn’s supporters start a new Momentum-based party, or the ABC MPs start a new SDP-like party. Neither side wants to be the group to start a new party as they have seen how hard it is for new parties to break through our intransigent FPTP system, even as incumbents in the case of many SDP MPs in the 1980s.

As a Corbyn supporter I may be biased, but my support is based on the following observations: centrist policies which basically kowtow to big business are no longer popular. Inequality has grown at a tremendous rate, and the precariat is growing into the traditional middle-class. English wealth is strongly based on house price rises, and the unfairness of this system, as well as some of the unpredictability over the past 10 years, is beginning to bite regionally, not to mention through crazy private rental costs.

I think Corbyn will not lose whatever happens, unless he gives up. He is unfailingly decent and honest in how he conducts himself. He is unfailingly loyal to the Labour party, despite what his detractors claim. He may have rebelled against the whip over 500 times, but he, again unfailingly, did this on conscience grounds. His supporters are aware of this, and once he has a party behind him, rather than constantly sniping or just standing quietly and unsupportive whilst unfair accusations are hurled at him, then the public will become aware of this and he will be the credible left-wing alternative that the SNP have seized in Scotland. Who knows, Labour may even fight back in Scotland if the SNP are too scared to formally call for another independence referendum.

Whether I am right or wrong, the most important thing is that the party split happens asap. Corbyn is not going to give up on Labour, so to avoid a leadership election we must hope that private polling amongst the 172 MPs who have voted against Corbyn suggests that they have no chance and that they choose to start the new party before any leadership challenge. This seems unlikely though, so we may be set for another 3 or 4 months of turmoil before any dust gets any opportunity of settling…

Wow – what a result

Devastating and amazing in equal measure. All the betting odds and financial people were counting on a remain vote. After the initial shock, I am also excited about the next phase of new politics change in the UK. The result was close, and unsurprisingly pro-leave in Coventry (~55.5vs 44.5%).

From a Scottish perspective, I ended up erring on the side of independence, and so understand that protest sentiment, but I also felt very engaged with the Scottish independence movement. As many of my family were pro-union, and quite a few pro-UK supporters were warned out of independence by the fear of leaving the EU, I’ve no doubt that there will be a lot of betrayed Scots today, feeling that England has knowingly voted to split up the union after they voted to stay in the UK. Scotland may well be an independent country by 2020. Who could have believed that in November 2014?!

From an English perspective, my view has not changed that the pre-dominant factor in this vote was Frankie Boyle’s “Britain is racist to the core”. It was a joke, but a satirical, scaringly true view of much of Britain, and mostly of England.

From an analytical perspective, I think David C has made the right move if he wants to do what he can to undermine and ultimately prevent genuine leaving of the EU. I cannot envisage any scenario other than a general election after a Conservative leadership election, which will basically be another EU referendum by proxy…

My personal views… well, I was dead against Brexit, and will support efforts to resist it as far as possible. However, I do think ensuring devolution happens adequately in England and Wales (and symmetrically) is vital for future satisfaction in politics, and that a local approach is vital at this point of European isolationism. The one thing to keep in mind is that anti-EU views are not unique to the UK, and that the EU has been experiencing a whole range of problems recently. Re-setting the institutions may not be a bad thing, but as I have previously said, I don’t think the UK is going to benefit from this process by leading the way. There is also a risk that the EU economy picks up, and other anti-EU sentiments settle down, and the UK is left on the outside. That is a good outlook for the global economy, but will be devastating for the UK.

Negative risks and uncertainty clearly outweigh benefits at the moment, and our economy is clearly going to take a hit. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to transform things for the better. Let’s drown out the anti-immigration talk, and emphasise local economy boosts. The one positive to leaving the EU is the possibility to put up trade tariffs on food to increase local food prices, encourage seasonal eating, and reduce wastage overall. Unfortunately this will be a bit of a shock to some people, and will take a while to equalise out. Silver linings! Scottish independence is the big possible positive in my view though…

Should we leave or should we go?

The referendum… tomorrow!

This title comes from the Radio 4 Show, PM, and its title for the section on the referendum. I think it somes up a lot about teh referendum, as it really has nto been nearly as intensively debated in an engaged way as the scottish referendum on independence. It really feels like a snap decision, and in many ways that is because most people feel general apathy towards the EU, and probably aren’t too bothered whether we leave it or not. A few people have had long-standing dislike for the EU project, and they are a significant few within the Conservative party. Even more have had a hatred for the EU stirred up, that they didn’t even know they possessed, by recent anti-EU and anti-immigration rhetoric; when I say recent, I mean a sustained campaign of over a decade or so by newspapers led by the Express, but backed up very ably by the Daily Mail, the Sun and even the Telegraph at times.

To sum up my view, this is the worst type of referendum, an exercise in direct democracy in which a ridiculously complex and expensive question has been dummed down to a single question. How can anyone be expected to make this decision based on a rational thought, and when it comes to emotions, it feels like too few of us actually care about the EU, other than a few extreme anti- and pro- EU people (yes there are extreme europhiles – I definitely used to fall within the extreme EU-aphile camp). The main anti-EU sentiment is actually anti-immigrant, or xenophobic anti-foreigner sentiments, based on the poor economic circumstances which lots of people find themselves in.

So, I am digging no deeper than this, and saying that most of the anti-EU sentiment is for the wrong reason. Xenophobia is not a good reason for anything, but on top of that, the main argument for being against anti-immigrant is thin at best. I feel that England is over-crowded, for my ideal, but economically the argument against the current rates of immigration is not strong, and ethically I think it is completely wrong, and misundertands the nature of our stable globalised world we now live in – closing the draw-bridge is not going to make us safer, and probably just reduce our standing and regard in the eyes of the rest of the world.

So, unsurprisingly, I am strongly in favour of staying in the EU. I also feel that anti-EU sentiment is not string enough to win tomorrow, and even if it does win, I suspect the pro-EU sentiment will bubble to the surface and stir up europhiles in the UK, preventing an easy path to separation from the EU. Let’s see what happens tomorrow…

Finham Parish Council election post-mortum

So, I failed miserably in my bid to become an elected representative on the Finham Parish Council, coming last, but with a respectable 400 votes (thank you to those who did vote for me). A friendly man with views that I found slightly objectionable, but aren’t uncommon, chatted to me afterwards whilst I was filling up a skip outside my house the week after the vote. Firstly, he recognised me from the pamphlet I put out (famous of a sort!), and wondered how much skips costs in this day-and-age, but that is beside the point.

This friendly father, doing up his childs house, pointed out that it was obviously “because of the university”. I was unsure what the university had to do with me coming last in the vote (I had a sneaking suspicision it was to with age primarily, as there seemed to be a strong correlation between age and votes, not even dented by proportion of lifesomeone had lived in the area), but he enlightened me that it was because “everyone hates how the university is taking over the city”. This quote may not be 100% accurate, but he was indeed sweeping in his statements, and although it is clearly not true that everyone hates the growth of the university in Coventry, a brief glance at the letters page of the Coventry Telegraph will show you (before the referendum took hold at least!) that there are plenty of people who do get annoyed at the way the university is transforming the city centre. Some think it is for the best, but many are worried by the continual increase in student numbers, as am I in fact.

I also though that I’d messed up by missing Finham off my address, but I am happy to concede that mentioning I am a university lecturer may have been a  mistake in the election to the Finham Parish Council.

Anyway, I should have some exposure locally now, and have learnt how the process works which may help in the future…