Friday, 27 November 2015

Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister "Things will get a whole lot worse than you ever thought they could"

Over the last few days the turmoil inside the Labour Party has been reaching a fevered zenith.

There are repeated stories of Labour MPs briefing against the leadership whilst shadow cabinet ministers are reacting with somewhat righteous anger to what can only be considered a series of astonishing own-goals, gaffes and appalling misjudgements by the present Labour leadership.

As those who follow me on twitter know I am no fan of Jeremy Corbyn and believe he should resign with immediate effect. 

I also believe that he is doing the pragmatic, democratic left incalculable damage with the resulting debacle being that the electorate will never trust anyone who says they are any variety of socialist ever again. 

The trouble with this is that even those on the centre and right of the Labour Party will be toxified by Corbyn, resulting in a possible decades long Conservative Party hegemony in the UK. 

Whilst this has all been going on I’ve privately reached out to various MPs and insiders - here are some of the responses. 

I asked one yesterday how things were in the PLP they responded that “I think it's coming to a head very quickly”. When I suggested that this might lead to some rocky times ahead they continued that, yes, it would but that “we all know we're dead anyway if he [Corbyn] stays put - so nothing to lose. It’s about saving the Labour Party now.”

Another MP, who told me at the time when Corbyn was elected during a discussion about the necessary and difficult compromises any leader has to make, said that they were “looking forward to him having to be that person, after 32 years of self-indulgence.” 

A shadow cabinet minister told me only yesterday when I asked them if Corbyn might be forced to resign that “Things will get a whole lot worse than you ever thought they could before anything changes.” 

A third Labour MP went on to say that they didn't think Corbyn would resign as “He'll just appeal above MPs' heads to the wider membership - who will blame us.”

The shadow cabinet minister also told me that the big showdown is coming this Monday (30th November) and that “they [Corbyn’s clique] are enjoying themselves” too much to step back. The shadow minister also intimated that Corbyn continually tells dissenters within the shadow cabinet that he has a mandate from Labour members with the clear implication being that he believes this means he can overrule them on any decision.  “I don't see any sign that those who backed him in September have turned against him,” the shadow minister added, saying that they also feared rule changes in the leadership election might end the PLP selection process. “So if he's challenged, we have another contest and he wins."

The exchange ended with them saying that “Obviously if the entire shadow cabinet resigned, then it would be “interesting”!"

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Biggest Threat to the British Left? Jeremy Corbyn

The Corbyn-aligned left has no leader right now. It has a figurehead - Corbyn himself - but no leader. 

And this is one important factor when considering why, at the moment, the British left are hurtling lemming-like towards certain doom.

Of course, there’s been much said about Corbyn’s failings in the last weeks. His contortions over shoot to kill - he was clearly clueless about what the police’s existing tactical position was when pressed by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on the matter, astonishing given the present security situation - which eventually ended with a mealy-mouthed equivocation that implied we need to be equally afraid of the police should Da’esh start massacring Britons, was an exemplar of non-leadership.

As a comparison of how poor Corbyn’s leadership has been not this issue, let’s examine another famous socialist’s comments when a similar security situation was in play and an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was mistakenly shot by British police.

This leading figure of the left said that Mr Menezes was a "victim of the terrorist attacks”.” and added that "Consider the choice that faced police officers at Stockwell last Friday - and be glad you did not have to take it.” 

He then went on to give unwavering support to the police officers involved, with the BBC reporting that

Although he accepted the police deserved criticism, he argued officers were not always in a position to interrogate a suspect they believed to be a potential terrorist. 
"I was close to that operation. The pressures people were operating under were unbelievable. 
"There were four men on the loose who tried to do suicide bombing. We knew we had a few days at most to catch them before they did it again and got it right. And under those pressures mistakes will happen." 

Over the last couple of days the man who gave that unflinching support to the police, Ken Livingstone, has quite rightly, found himself under fire for his appalling comments directed at Kevan Jones MP. But, nonetheless, Livingstone’s comments post-7/7 offered leadership and didn’t duck responsibility. Corbin certainly does not come out very well of any comparison with that. 

Then we have Corbyn’s stance on ISIS. Back in June 2014, when ISIS were beheading British citizens, throwing Gay men from rooftops, massacring captured Iraqis and enslaving Yazidi women, Jeremy went on Russia Today and described his solution for dealing with Da'esh. 

"Why not start with a political compromise now."

That's right. Start by looking for a political compromise with ISIS. 

And truth be told Corbyn's position has not really changed. 

In contrast, once again, here’s another socialist, another leading figure of the left, giving their view on what must be done to counter ISIS.

“I have asked the security council to meet in as soon as possible to pass a resolution to common fight against terror. We will pursue airstrikes in the weeks to come. Our enemy in Syria is Daesh: it's not about containing but destroying this organisation.” 

Francois Hollande, the man who led the kind of leftwing platform into power in France that the British left could only dream of, is obviously unequivocal. He sees Da’esh/ISIS for what they are - fascists, opposed on every single conceivable level to the kind of socialism he represents. There’s no hint of wavering, no thought of seeking accommodation with ISIS. 

With these statements and actions Hollande also completely outflanked the French rightwing, occupying the territory on national security they sought to make political capital from, and thereby helping to underpin a tolerant, social democratic, left-leaning hegemony. 

By contrast, in the UK, the left has no discernible leadership. The space on national security is now firmly being occupied by the right, with the extreme right very quick to take as much succour as they can from the appalling events in Paris, citing immigration, the EU and “multiculturalism” as the causes of terrorism.

This failure of leadership will have other easily predictable consequences for the British left - voters simply won’t listen to anything even the most committed, fair-minded and decent Corbyn supporter has to say if they don’t believe Corbyn cares about their security. The Tories could cut welfare much further, completely destroy the NHS and shrink the economy, but if voters feel safer with them, Labour won’t get a hearing. 

If I was a Corbyn supporter, someone who’d worked tirelessly to get him elected as Labour leader and believed he would take the party towards power and the country towards a better future, I’d be seriously disappointed right now. More than anything Corbyn has failed this part of the left and seems intent on dooming them to complete irrelevance for generations. 

 It’s my view - for the sake of those who believe in the kind of pragmatic left that seeks to create a country where we are unequivocal about genocidal fascism wherever it rears its head, where British citizens feel they can trust their government to protect them from fanatical terrorists, where the poor don’t queue up at food banks, where disabled people aren’t committing suicide due to welfare cuts and where there is opportunity for all to prosper - that Corbyn must go. 

And if Corbyn doesn’t want to go willingly, he must be pushed.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Are UKIP supporters calling for use of force against the left?

UPDATE: It seems as though the twitter account of the UKIP member @lawrenceVB who issued the sinister threat to "deal with" the "scum" has been at least temporarily suspended. This might be have done voluntarily - nonetheless I screengrabbed it below.

A worrying tweet from somebody who seems to be a UKIP member appeared in response to a tweet posted by Nigel Farage, UKIP's leader. Farage's tweet commented on today's anti-UKIP protest in Edinburgh and the ensuing fracas which caused him to flee in a police van.

 The sinister tweet suggested that Farage could draw on the support of trained former-forces personel in UKIP's ranks "to deal with this".

The tweeter, known as BHAFCPatriot ‏@lawrenceVB, went on to repeatedly call UKIP opponents "scum" and "fascists". 

Will UKIP now be creating a threatening wing of the party, made up of ex-forces to deal with the "scum"? Let's hope Farage distances himself from these sort of extremists as soon as possible.

UKIP's 'national breakthrough' fantasy turns to ashes as police rescue Farage from Scottish protesters

Over the last couple of weeks I've maintained that UKIP's "national breakthrough" is a media-led fantasy that collapses when the numbers are crunched.

When the BBC stated after the May 2nd elections that UKIP were on 23%, I blogged that even in that election, they'd do well to reach 20%.

 In the days following the May 2nd election I blogged for the Fabians and came up with a best-case scenario figure of 14% for UKIP.

 Then when the Guardian released ICM figures that showed UKIP on 18% I countered again on Left Foot Forward and argued that UKIP's likely polling numbers would have to work very hard to reach that number.

YouGov then went with 14% and last night numbers released by Ipsos MORI have UKIP back down to 13% - a full 10% below the BBC's bogus 23% number from only two weeks ago - a staggering collapse.

Then today, we have Farage visiting Scotland. It didn't go well.

ITV reported that
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been locked in an Edinburgh pub for "his own safety" as police escorted him through angry protests which had sprung up as he tried to launch his party's Scottish campaign.
So much for the "national breakthrough", eh?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The BBC - increasingly unaccountable

Around the time of Margaret Thatcher's funeral I made two fairly innocuous Freedom of Information Act requests to the BBC.

The first request asked

1) The total number of times the BBC has broadcast the song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" either as part of the Wizard of Oz film or as a stand-alone item.
2) The total number of times the BBC has broadcast the 1939 version of the Wizard of Oz

The second asked

The full cost to the BBC for the production and broadcast of Baroness Thatcher's funeral.

Both these fairly innocent requests were refused as, according to the BBC

The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities. 

The BBC also refused my right to internal review stating

The BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the Act.

I think it is quite clear that the BBC now view themselves as no longer having any accountability to the general public despite securing their funding being secured via a form of enforceable taxation.

But given that they allowed sexual predators like Jimmy Savile a free hand for decades is it any wonder that the BBC is nervous about the public scrutinising their affairs?

Monday, 13 May 2013

UKIP on 18%? I don't buy this hype either - here's why

This piece originally appeared on Left Foot Forward.

Today YouGov released poll data that UKIP are on 14% - something that wasn't news to me as this is exactly the same as the calculations I made last week here.

YouGov's poll comes after data published by ICM in the Guardian which claims an 18% vote share.

So how could UKIP achieve this 18% of the national vote share? This figure, too, looks decidedly dodgy. 

If we take 31.5million or 66% of voters as a likely General Election turn out, UKIP would need 5,670,000 to reach 18%. Of that 31.5million, if UKIP polled a uniform 20% or 3,700,000 across the roughly 18.5million voters who might turn out from the UK’s shires, towns and small and medium cities and combined that with 12.5% or 1million from 8million voters in the major cities UKIP would then need 970,000 or 19.4% from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to reach 18% nationally. Given that UKIP just don’t exist in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a 19.4% vote share there is not only very unlikely it would be miraculous. 

Give UKIP a more likely and still very generous 7.5% in the major cities and 5% in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and they’d need 4,820,000 or 26% across the entire rest of the country to make 18% of the total vote share. Again, very unlikely.

Bring UKIP’s vote share down to the 4.16% they achieved in Bristol – the only major city they’ve recently competed for the vote in - for the urban vote, totalling 330,000, and down to the 0.5% or 25,000 vote share they took in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in 2012, UKIP would be left needing 5,312,000 or 28.7% in the rest of the UK, almost a full 1% above what they polled in Eastleigh, to make the figure up to 18%. 

It just doesn't stack up I'm afraid.

Analysing UKIP's vote - the 23% "national breakthrough" debunked down to 10%

This article first appeared at the Fabian Review website

On the day after the May 2nd 2013 council elections the BBC, as usual, posted a lead story on their news website about the previous day’s vote. Entitled, “As it happened: Vote 2013 results and reaction” it contained this line - “UKIP is the big story of the night, gaining 139 councillors and beating the Lib Dems into fourth place in projected vote share with 23%.”   

Elsewhere on BBC’s online coverage a blogpost was published by their Chief Political Correspondent, Nick Robinson, where he told his readers that “It is the day UKIP emerged as a real political force in the land” and “This is a more profound change than you might think.” (Robinson later backtracked on these claims and added a note at the bottom of his original article where he stated “They [UKIP] are not about to challenge for power.”)  

 By the start of the weekend of May 4th what had been an emerging narrative now seemed set in stone – the story of the election was UKIP’s 23% “national breakthrough” and commentators from across the spectrum began relentlessly analysing the potential shifts in the political paradigm for both left and right. 

Yet, something didn’t seem right. The BBC’s online figures contained little raw data regarding real, on-the-ground voting numbers and vote shares as percentages. Furthermore the BBC’s coverage repeated a key phrase – “if we look at UKIP’s vote share in the seats that they stood in” – as a benchmark from which to extrapolate UKIP’s exceptional national breakthrough.   

By Saturday morning 14 of the various areas and councils where the elections had taken place published their actual voting numbers and vote shares. These included parts of the country where UKIP had had their strongest showing such as Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Hampshire. 

On this blog, Moment of Crisis, I published those figures, made some preliminary calculations and arrived at a figure of 18.52% as the UKIP vote share based on those areas only. 

How then had the BBC arrived at 23% projected national vote share for UKIP when it appeared that their vote share was only marginally up on their best performance in the 2009 European Election of 16.5% - and this in the English shires where they were supposed to be at their strongest? How could UKIP’s vote be considered national when 10 of the 34 councils voting hadn’t returned any UKIP councillors at all and in Bristol, the only urban area involved in last Thursday’ elections, they only polled 4.16%? And when you factored in UKIP’s very poor showing in the 2012 & 2011 council elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where they managed a combined total of only two councillors across all three countries, the idea of national had suddenly been reduced to the regions of Southern and Eastern England.   

In the days since then I’ve dug further into what kind of numbers UKIP would need to a) reach a 23% PNVS and b) speculated on what kind of vote UKIP might get in a General Election. The following results are surprising and undermine the dominant and favoured narrative on UKIP that is now being widely circulated.   

If we assume there will be a 66% voter turn out at the next General Election that will give us 31.5million voters from 47.5million of the entire electorate. Therefore to secure a PNVS of 23% of 31.5million UKIP would need a grand total of 7.25million votes across the entire country. Of that 31.5million, roughly 5million will be from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with the remaining 26.5million from England. Of that 26.5million roughly 8million would be from the major urban areas such London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield etc. This leaves 18.5million voters in the shires, towns and small to medium urban centres.  

 Given that in Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland UKIP don’t really have any base whatsoever – in the 2012 Scottish Council Elections UKIP secured 0.28% of first preference votes whilst in the 2012 Welsh Council Elections they secured 2 council seats in the entire country and in N. Ireland’s 2011 Council Elections they managed 0.4% vote share - it’s safe to say that it would be miraculous if UKIP polled 5% across these three constituent parts of the UK.   

But, just for arguments’ sake, let’s be extra-generous and give UKIP 7.5% or 375,000 General Election votes from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

 Now we can factor in a projected result from the 8million major English urban areas. If we take UKIP’s Bristol showing (4.16%) and their Greater London Assembly vote (4.5%), more than double it and give UKIP a uniform 12.5% across all the major urban centres that would equal 1million votes.   These very generous projected vote shares give us a grand combined total of 1,375,000 votes from the major urban centres, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These numbers would also mean that from the remaining 18.5million votes UKIP would need to secure 5,875,000 votes or a uniform 31.75% vote share across the board in the English shires, towns and small to medium urban centres in order to attain the 23% projected national vote share. Given that UKIP, even during the Eastleigh by-election only managed 27.8% the notion that they could sustain 31.75% across most of England seems implausible to say the very least. Bring those shares in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the cities down to a more realistic 5% (250,000) and 7.5% (600,000) respectively and UKIP would need to secure 6.4million or 34.6% of the remaining English vote to reach a 23% share.     

If you then reverse the equation and take a generous UKIP share of 23% or 4,255,000 of 18.5million voters in the shires, towns, small and medium urban centres plus 12.5% or 1million voters from the major cities UKIP would then need 2million or 40% of the vote in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland to take it up to the 7.25million for a PNVS of 23%. Once again, the numbers just don’t add up and the BBC’s 23% figure must be greeted not only with scepticism but cynicism.   

So what would a more realistic UKIP vote share look like? If we agree that UKIP’s actual vote share was 20% last week – still a very decent number – and extrapolated that across the 18.5million voters in the shires, towns, small and medium urban centres we’d get 3.7million votes. Add in a more realistic 2.5%, or 125,000 votes, from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and 7.5%, or 600,000 votes, from the large cities and you’d get a combined national total of UKIP 4,425,000 votes.   As a share of 31.5million, and based on relatively generous numbers, 4,425,000 is 14.04%, far below the 23% projected national vote share concocted by the BBC. In fact, I would instinctively go further and state that due to differing voting patterns and a lack of adequate candidates UKIP would, at their very best, likely only just make 10% as PNVS in a General Election.   

At this stage these numbers represent preliminary investigations but they do assert a challenge to the emerging discourse on UKIP. They also underline questions regarding the BBC’s 23% as UKIP’s PNVS and lead this writer to believe the BBC’s number was spurious hyperbole. My view is that the BBC went with the largest polling number they could find in order to shore up their own sensationalist narrative of the “UKIP Breakthrough” story. Furthermore what is missing from the BBC’s coverage is an explanation of how they reached 23% as their PNVS. It would certainly be interesting to take a close look at the methodology behind and to see how could reach a 23% PNVS figure.  

 As way of conclusion as to what this all means for the Labour Party the first thing to point out is that to all intents and purposes UKIP are, in fact, just Tories by another name. Labour should be standing aloof, statespersonlike, as they watch Farage, Cameron et al tear each other to pieces, shaking their heads disapprovingly and putting out as much of a positive message as possible on getting the economy moving, jobs and homes. 

  Of course, for some, one reaction to UKIP would be for Labour to tack towards UKIP’s position in order to hold onto any possible switching voters. Caution should be urged regarding this strategy as it would likely have few benefits as the small number of UKIP voters who’d switch to Labour would almost certainly be offset by those Labour supporters who would find any rightward turn unpalatable and stay at home.  

 Does this mean that UKIP and its voters can be ignored or dismissed as cranks? No, of course not. But when most people talk of fear of immigration what they are really talking of is a fear that they won’t get their share of scarcer resources. For me Labour need to address the fears of UKIP voters and not pander to them. To do that Labour needs to create positive policy-led solutions to the problems at the root of those fears, not least creating affordable housing, decent, secure jobs and a sense of community engagement with the political process. Just wearing UKIP’s clothes reveals a lack of purpose, ideas and courage. It’s also likely to win Labour few, if any, extra votes.