The New Era in Politics Begins

I was fortunate to have the complete distraction of the start of the Parliamentary Rugby World Cup yesterday to take my mind off the historic events of the Labour Leadership contest on Saturday. Of course – with it being a rugby competition full of 300 politicians from home and abroad it wasn’t quite the complete switch off from politics that you would imagine. What goes on tour stays on tour but the conversations, input and insight were fascinating…

As you will know I didn’t support Corbyn for a whole range of reasons – but the main one being that I think he will prove to be an electoral disaster for the Party in 2020. Yes he is enthusing people who left the party, and potentially some Greens who may switch back to Labour but this strategy doesn’t add up to winning the 100+ seats Labour needs to win to form a majority government in 2020.

I thought long and hard over the weekend about how to react as I felt numb on Saturday. I had worked out some weeks before that he was going to win (the bookies are rarely wrong even in politics). I was numb because I’ve looked at the electoral maths and realise unless I am completely wrong we have all but lost the next election already, and I desperately want another Labour government before I retire.

I have always been loyal to the Party (ironically unlike Corbyn who is now going to demand loyalty to his programme. Don’t forget Blair got 54% of the vote in 1994 and that didn’t really make Corbyn a loyalist voting over 500 times with the opposition against a Labour government!!), and up to a point will do so again. I have said my piece, I will make predictions about how badly we will do, but I won’t be posting and attacking the party; but I will watch from the sidelines. If he listens and works to understand how to win middle England seats like Loughborough I will be ready to help. But sadly the appointment of John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor sends the signal to me that he doesn’t get the need to reach out from our core vote. I have heard from way too many people over the last 48 hours who are not instinctive Tories, but were/are willing to give Labour a hearing and the sort of voters who put us into power expressing horror at the sequence of events that has created what to them looks like an unelectable Labour Party.

I was never a part of any faction of the PLP. I was not a Blairite, but also never joined the Campaign Group… although when I did rebel it was when working with them. Yet in social media anybody not supporting Corbyn has been labelled a Blairite/ Tory and told they are welcome to leave the party by lots of Corbyn supporters. I think this is going to be a horrible time for many inside the party.

I know we/ Corbyn will wail against the establishment and the Right wing press. I despise them too, but they are not going to go away in the next 5 years. If you thought Miliband had a rough ride and never quite managed to connect with the electorate you ‘ain’t see nothing yet’.

To be fair Corbyn is personable and will bring a freshness to politics. People do like authenticity and politicians who believe in something and are willing to say it. I always tried to tell people as I saw it even if they wouldn’t like what I said – including telling the Grammar school kids that I didn’t believe in private education! I do think that will help and he may get a short bounce in the polls. Despite everything against him Farage has managed to defy gravity for a few years. He has one MP.

IMG_4098 Don’t forget we now have to talk to the country not ourselves. This is where ‘ordinary’ voters are.

I wish Corbyn good luck and hope that I am wrong. But these will be difficult days and I will really hate to have to say I told you so. I will be delighted if I am proved wrong in 2020 and I will hold up my hands. I won’t get in the way of this experiment. I will comment as we go along. It is a fascinating social experiment for the hard left who have always complained they have never been able to put a truly leftwing manifesto to the country (they even think 1983 was a sell -out). Now they have the chance. let’s see what happens, apart from cheering us all up a bit.

Live Blog Updates on Labour Leadership

12.37 – I have been gripped by my twitter timeline, the news, facebook. The fact is that much of the commentariat now believe Labour is now unelectable as does my non-labour member friends on social media. I have thousands of friends/ ex constituents. people who voted and supported me in a marginal seat but wouldn’t normally have ever voted Labour until 97. I care what they say and think and I don’t have response for them at this moment. I need to go away, play some sport and come back with a clear head before blogging here again and working out what to do next…

11.58 – I have  always liked Jeremy personally. But the people around him are not quite so pleasant. I will have to reflect on how to respond to this historic day. I am not and never was a Blairite/ New Labour but  I do fear that we have just lost the next election already. I know I should be excited because II support some of the causes promoted by Corbyn but his 1980s politics is not attractive to the electorate.

11.47 – JC doesn’t realise he has a microphone and is shouting his way through this speech. It is now when the full sense of what is happening takes hold. Corbyn  has a massive task ahead. I am not sure he will survive to 2020 but we will have to see. Quite righty he is praising the role of the other candidates. Looks like Corbyn got 84% of the ‘new registered’ supporters. Let’s see ho many now get involved and pay full membership..

11.43 – chaos as Corbyn figures read out 251,000 – 59% of the votes.   I feel numb,, certainly not excited. I feel fearful for the future of the  party. However, this is an amazing win for him. I can”t argue with that. I will look at the figures in each part of the electorate. But we know he has no support in the PLP

11.40 we finally get to the Leadership. All my twitter feed shows JC with 60% on first round with 422,000 voters.

11.38 Tom making a long call for Unity.. he is going to have a tough job holding together the Labour Party between now and 2020. I need to hear from him and how we win with Jeremy as leader.

11.33 – Tom Watson gets it. I first got to know Tom when he was minding Brian Moore on a campaign visit to Loughborough to support me in 1997.  I am pleased for him. I helped him on his first rebellion!

11.26 So Tom Watson gets 39% so we go to 2nd round. I love this tension but can’t we just annouce the winner and then  publish the figires for each round and how they got to 50%

11.25 – wow over 408,000 votes cast.

11.24 we finally get the Deputy Leadership results. I’m calling it for Tom Watson.

11.23 Sadiq gets a quick go.

11.11 Chance for @iainMcNicol making a few pointed remarks about expecting to see our new ‘£3 supporters’ out on the doorstep instead of click & pay for a vote… let’s see.

11.05 BBC Norman Smith speculating about the shadow cabinet – his options are really limited and his lack of leadership will sadly be exposed very quickly

11.00 Live TV coverage of the ‘conference’.  Lots of familiar faces in the crowd
10.54 – Kevin Maguire would know the ‘secret signals’ so there you have the result!

10.51 – Political pundit Brain Moore

10.48 – Strange knowing the candidates already know. It has been a hard graft for all the candidates in a marathon campaign. One lesson we must learn is not to create this tortuous process again….


Of course if the 76% turnout is correct that is a massive bonus for the Labour movement.. now with over 600,000 members and supporters which dwarfs the Tories at about 100,000. But of course the Tories rich friends and businesses and hedge fund managers pay into the Tory coffers so their moribund Associations don’t matter to them.


10.33 The candidates will be told the results soon and well before they are announced to the Conference. Whilst they are all sworn to secrecy they and their campaign teams will have secret signals to let their supporters know how to react. At the last election one team had a glasses on or carrying signal to note that their candidate had won or lost!

10.15 – speculation about who will and won’t serve in a Corbyn Shadow Cabinet. It’s a genuinely difficult one for most colleagues. Walk away and be accused by Corbynites for being a traitor and ignoring the democratic will of the party (and leave shadow cabinet to the Corbynites) or sit around a table and squirm in every interview about the policies that emerge and whether you think he can win the next election and become PM. For those of us who think we should have acted sooner on Ed Miliband when it was obvious he had no traction with voters this would be a nightmare situation. Personally I would do what Corbyn himself has done – fight from the backbenches for what you believe is right.

10.10 – It’s like Cup Final Day as the live coverage includes the candidates leaving their homes and arriving at the special conference.

The journalists and pundits are all calling for ‘Corbyn by a mile’ whilst some friends are still hoping that the ‘shock’ is anybody but Corbyn, I have looked through their various scenarios but ‘clutching at straws’ springs to mind.

9.00 Quite rightly most of my regulars ( yes there is such a thing!) will not be glued to live coverage of the Labour Leadership today on BBC2. Whilst I have managed to move on from full time politics you can’t eradicate the total absorption I feel on big days like today. This is not just an announcement about a post that nobody cares about (the annual battle for the conference arrangements committee for example). But today for me will decide the next historic fate of the entire Labour Party and who governs Britain for the next generation. There will be plenty of time for reflection when we know the result. But this morning is a chance to build up to the 11.30 announcement.

I have posted intermittently over the campaign so you will know that I eventually backed Andy Burnham, whilst feeling very torn with a vote for Yvette. In fact I thought Yvette finished the campaign much stronger and I am glad our household did vote for her! I put her as me second preference with enthusiasm.

I have also been pretty open at my despair at the electoral prospect of Corbyn winning today. I feel after 20 years of frontline politics in a marginal key middle england seat I know what it takes to win an election. Despite many of my own values probably being closer to Corbyn than all those Corbynites calling anybody who doesn’t think he is the messiah as ‘Tories or Blairites’ I realised the electorate are more centre left/ centre right and we need to win their votes not hector them about being wrong and shouting our views at them.

So it means I am not really looking forward to the result – unless of course we are now going to have the biggest upset in political polling and betting. With just about 2 hours to go I will post some more random thoughts as I read articles and tweets.


One Down 2 to go

So today Sadiq Khan was selected as the Labour candidate for one of the most powerful jobs in Politics – Mayor of London. Once again the ‘polls’ got it wrong as Tessa Jowell seemed to be the firm favourite for quite some time.

In the end the margin was 59% to 41% (on about the 5th round) despite the fact that in the last few days people close the campaigns were saying it was ‘close’. I was with Tessa on Tuesday of this week and whilst they knew they were in for a fight I sensed a note of cautious optimism that it would be alright. However, Khan and his team have expressed some confidence that they were going to win for some time. Even in a private conversation with Sadiq just before the Summer recess he was supremely confident that he wasn’t in the race to come second!

I think his victory does point to a sizeable Corbyn victory tomorrow and I will write about that when the numbers are known. It is the size of the victory now that becomes the talking point it seems.

I have worked with Sadiq and played football with him (where you truly get to judge character on the Sports field). He is a pretty hard working, ambitious and determined guy who will now work tirelessly to win next May. Polls had shown that he would trail when pitted against the Tory favourite Zac Goldsmith, whereas Tessa might triumph. Given they were only polls and we know how accurate they have been recently we perhaps shouldn’t read too much into them. But the gut instinct for me was that Tessa had greater ‘reach’ amongst the London electorate. Mainly of course because of her profile around the Olympics, where I worked with her and admired her ability to work as an operator to get things done. I do feel London members have taken more of a gamble with Sadiq and it means we are probably fighting as underdogs.

Why one down 2 to go. Well of course we get the other 2 results tomorrow -Leader and deputy leader. In a way these will shape the Mayoral campaign probably more than Sadiq can. As regular readers will know I fear the electoral consequences of Labour selecting Corbyn are electoral suicide outside our core support. If this is the case, Corbyn could be pretty unpopular by May 2016, and Labour in London will be tarnished by the poor showing Labour will have in the national polls. My only hope is that the likely ‘novelty factor’ lift for Corbyn will last just long enough for Sadiq not be wiped out. I do get the novelty and excitement that surrounds Corbyn, so despite the entire media onslaught that is coming his way there will probably be a little bit of a bounce for him. The key question is how long it lasts and how large it is likely to be.

sadiq khan

But for 24 hours Sadiq should enjoy the victory and then look forward to Sunday and working out how on earth he is going to grasp the big prize and have a Labour London Mayor. He certainly has a great story to tell about his journey from a son of a bus driver in Tooting to Mayor? For that sake alone he is worth a good win! I really wish him well. Having seen the job and the prize that is representing London I can see why he wants to win. What a great job t lead one of the most interesting Cities in the world.

As the results were being read out I watched and felt physically nervous. I can’t imagine how I will feel tomorrow as the results are read out. The future of the Labour Party is at stake.