For decent polling analysis during the election it is really worth following Matt Singh. I declare an interest having watched Matt grow up and a family friend. But I would be recommending this anyway.

Over the coming 7 weeks I will try to post the odd lengthy blogs in response to the questions I am asked on social media by friends and followers. Of course my main area of expertise is the Labour Party and it’s performance having fought 5 general elections. However, as a campaigner and election nerd I have always been interested in messaging, tactics, manifesto claims and general political operations.

Normally there is a long run up to the election so messaging is already clear. If you look back at 2015 the campaign had been pretty much been running for 2 years on the same basis for Lab & Tories. The major shift during the election was the prospect of the SNP & Labour working together which gave the Tories another angle. This time the battle lines seem drawn and the SNP card has been played already.

As this is an iPhone blog I will keep it short. But please do ask any questions you want answering over the next 7 weeks. All sensible ones will be answered…

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No I won’t be Running

23256 -  1 Andy Reed MP

Although I have no intention of running in any election I am quite flattered that people still ask if I will do it!

I think anybody who knows me understands why I would not be running for a marginal seat under Jeremy Corbyn at this stage in my life.

I was honoured to have fought the Loughborough seat from 1992-2010 – representing the area for 13 years in Parliament. I did the job to the best of my ability and when I lost in 2010 I said it was time to move on. I don’t see any reason to change that view at this stage.

I will give my support to any Labour successor as I did to Mathew in 2015.

Thank you to all the kind words from across social media. I will enjoy writing about an election from the side again in 2017!

 

General Election 2017

I spent the Easter weekend clearing out my garage – still full of old paperwork from when I closed down my office. I was feeling a little nostalgic for the 5 general elections I have fought, as I threw out old leaflets and newsletters.

So little did I suspect today would start the #GE2017 blog series on this site today as I was returning from the ‘tip’

gene election

There will be lots to write about over the coming weeks. But today is a surprise. I thought the time had gone when she could call a snap election. It is a huge risk for May and the Tories despite her huge opinion poll lead. It is also something that people will judge for themselves. There is NO NEED for the election even based on her spurious arguments made outside NO10 this morning.

I am also not looking forward to this election. First we have become a deeply divided country and we have to put up with all these arguments again.. but I guess that’s democracy.

Secondly, I am uncertain about if this is good for Labour in the short and long term. I didn’t want Labour to limp on under JC until 2020 – when there would probably little left to pick up and rebuild. However, getting smashed in June with a possible 100 seat Tory majority for another full 5 years fills me with dread. We might have disliked Cameron but the Right in the Tory party has been asserting itself in recent months. I would feel better if I was certain JC would go after a massive election defeat. I can see Momentum making their excuses already about why JC needs the next 5 years as he hadn’t had long enough. You can see why I have mixed feelings.

Updates as the weeks roll on to June 8th…

Good Campaign Week but 21 pts Behind Tories?

I was about to finish the blog below today to explain the 21pt Labour deficit.. but as you can imagine the General Election being called for June 8th has slightly changed the news today! More to follow on that later…

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Unfinished blog…

At the end of a blitz of Policy announcments during the Easter recess it looked as though the Labour leadership had found out how to look half competent. Indeed according to the Poll in the Independent released today many of these policies seem to be popular with the public. I am not sure you can read too much into these findings as it would be difficult to find many people who don’t like the idea of a £10 Minimum Wage. The same could go for other policies – like free school meals and reigning in high earners. The worrying finding for Corbyn in this polling is the suspicion of the £500bn ‘investment’ bank. It sounds like more Labour borrowing and people are still wary of Labour on the economy (more of this later). But overall it did look as though all the boxes had been ticked. Most of the policies hit the mark – causing a headline, good media coverage (see what happens in the MSM when you work properly) and creating mini fights to highlight Labour taking on vested interests. Some of the policies don’t really add up under scrutiny but at this stage of the electoral cycle that isn’t the purpose. Job done. Well done from me. But of course there is still the elephant in the room in a week like last week. ‘The Leadership’.

But it was such a relief that Labour had a normal week and a pick up in the polling on policy that Corbynistas got very excited on my timelines tweeting the polling with great excitement. But of course the same newspaper was also reporting its own ComRes poll which put the Tories 21 pts ahead. Of course to Corbynistas this part of the polling is surely #fakenews as its a little inconvenient. They pointed to the ‘other’ poll which showed the gap was ‘only’ 9% behind. This update isn’t really about the accuracy of polls so if you want to enter that debate it is worth following a good friend of mine who does these things for a living! – Matt Singh over at Number Cruncher Politics . Is it a 21 or 9pt Tory Lead? 

This ability for Labour to have ‘popular policies’ but struggle in the polls and at elections is not a new problem. Indeed it is a re-run of the run up to the 2015 election for Miliband. The individual policies (at least most of them) polled well with our core support and those needed to be won over as part of the infamous 35% strategy.

So if all these policies are so popular what is going on when Labour are then a massive 21% behind the Tories and heading for another poor set of local election results?

Perhaps this article from Helen Lewis best summarises the problem. The electorate have already made up their mind about Corbyn and thet aren’t prepared to listen.

There was also ‘the’  photo which showed his team are not quite keeping their eye on the ball all the time but to be fair this job is much harder than it used to be. We all know a photo can haunt a politician as Ed Miliband found to his cost when that Bacon sandwich photo became the abiding memory of the Labour leader.  The toilet photo is poor and thanks to social media has been shared more than it deserved to be. For me this isn’t the same bracket as the Bacon sarnie fiasco but it does reinforce a poor image of Corbyn.

I write these things in desperation that Corbyn supporters may start to take an interest in the damage he is doing to the Party and what it takes to win a general election where we need to win marginal seats like Loughborough. I watched I Daniel Blake this week. It reminded me of the cases I was able to take on as an MP and win. Being out of power and allowing a regime of sanctions against the poorest makes me angry and desperate to see a Labour government as soon as possible. It won’t be me in Parliament but it needs Labour representation asap. With Corbyn

At Last..how to do a policy launch

At last it seems Corbyn and his team may have briefly understood about how to work with the media (one good day is a real start!)

This week you will have seen wall to wall coverage of a policy announcement. The Policy to provide free school meals for all primary school children generated lots of coverage and the photo opportunity below.

To make matters even better Labour then managed to not do something stupid on the same day to detract from the story they wanted covering. (unlike earlier in the week when they launched the local eleciton campiagn on the same day Ken Livingsonte hearing and decision- unsurprisingly drowning out the launch).

When Corbynistas moan about the MSM it’s usually because they don’t know how to work with it or how it actually works. The story this week shows what you can do even with a ‘biased media’, when you learn the basics!

Now of course the policy outcome itself is questionable. I really understand the desire to ensure that children from poorer households get a nutritious meal. However, after years of watching policy development both from inside and outside parliament I have become much more intersted in the evidence base for policy effectiveness. As this Opinion from the Independent argues this is one of those policies that grabs a headline but doesn’t meet the VFM for effectivness test. Of all the demands on the education budget I don’t think there are many who really believe this is the most effective use of new investment if it were ever made available.

Of course some policies are designed to capture headlines and not stand up to detailed scrutiny. They are more a signal of intent than the last line in how a specific idea could be rolled out in 3-4 years time. I have seen plenty of ‘policies’ adopted for a slow campaign day never to be heard of again.

The intent of this launch rightly highlights the growing inequality between the 7% in private schools and the poverty in society and many schools where poor children may not be performing at their best because of their difficult home backgrounds. In a country of ‘The Foodbank’ it is unsurprising that nutrition is a key political issue.

However, as many who have studied the previous policy for infant children introduced by Nick Clegg the costs of introducing the universal scheme really do outweigh the benefits. There are much better ways of tackling poverty impacts on school attainment than providing 70% of kids who can easily afford a hot nutritious meal to get to the 15-30% who will benefit. Sometimes the principle of universalism can be questioned.

If you have time it is worth reading the blogs from a twitter friend Andy Jolley who has exposed the Universal Free School Meal costs and policy gaps for some time. His analysis had already convinced me that this was not a brilliant way to tackle the issue we are all agreed needs tackling!

So to return to my original point. This was an example of what can be done if Corbyn and his team can get their act together. The MSM will give you coverage (and quite rightly challenge the news release with an opposite view) if you take the trouble to do it this way. I am nothing if not fair. If I think there is something worth praising from Corbyn I will do so. At last I have spotted something worthy of a big thumbs up for presentation. Getting policy right is the next stage but we have time to do that.

Having said nice things about this day… do I now have permission to say awful all the others have been this week. First Ken Livingstone and then *that* reaction from Corbyn on Syria. I have got to the stage I am grateful for small adequate days.

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Copeland Blues

So much has been written and said over the last few days about the state of the Labour Party after Copeland that my brief intervention here isn’t that important. But after reading and listening to so much analysis over the weekend I needed to be clear in my own mind what is going on and what we do about it. Therefore, this blog is probably more for me to clarify my own thought process, but if anybody finds it of interest that’s an added bonus!

 

I have hovered over a keyboard for the last 48 hours almost stunned into silence by the scale of what is happening to our Labour Party under Corbyn but then shocked at the sheer inability for Corbynistas to acknowledge just how awful these results were.

I put my hands up. I have never thought the Corbyn experiment was a good idea or would work. Over a year ago when I predicted Corby could take us down to 25% in the polls this was my worst case scenario. Now that is where we are hovering and the By-election results only confirmed that the polls as they always do slightly inflate real support for Labour.

There are so many issues that need to be taken on in the aftermath of the last few weeks I am not sure one blog will be enough. I will try to break down all of the complex issues into a series of manageable thoughts. As always these jottings are as much for me to make sense of the politcal world around me as for the sake of anybody else. Indeed for the first time this week I have left a particular Labour forum on facebook because I don’t have the time or energy to argue against Corbynites who won’t let a single fact get in the way of their belief that they are on the macrh to some great victory. In fact when I posted this joke list of excuses the corbynites had come up with for the defeat in Copeland they actually assumed it was a proper briefing paper from Labour to explain the defeat.

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When these weren’t working they posted the weather reports of #Doris to prove that Labour voters had stayed home. It has reached the stage that I can’t tell the parody accounts from the real ones any longer on the left.

All of this would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. As Jonathan Freedland pointed out in this article the Tory government under Theresa May is allowed to preside over a series of disasters that would in normal time bring down a government with a 12 seat majority because there is no serious opposition or prospect of a Labour government soon.

So the reason I have to bang on about the disastrous state of the Labour leadership is because I care so much about the damage the Tories are doing to the country with their hard brexit, undermining of the NHS, and destruction of all public services. I care so much that I can’t wait for us to lose the next election. That will mean another 8 years of this destruction. That doesn’t bear thinking about. And it seems I am no longer alone. Apart from the most delusional of Corbynites it seems some are finally starting to realise Corbyn is a liability and this won’t work. In the New Statesman even UNSION Dave Prentiss hardly needs reading between the lines to work out what he is saying (although how many more disasters will it take). I am sure by even daring to criticise the dear leader I will be described by the usual tags – red tory, Blairite, traitor etc. But as I have always avoided labels I have no intention of being boxed into one now. I have been described as  Bennie to Blairite so I guess not all of you can be right!

So why don’t people like me just shut up and let JC lead. Well we have tried that since he won the second leaderships election (I will deal with this nonsense of disunity and a legitimate leadership election elsewhere) and where has that led? We are now 16-18 points behind the Tories and we just lost Copeland. The list of excuses trotted out above over the last 48 hours means we can no longer afford to let Jeremy get on with the job, lead us into 2020, lose badly and then try to pick up the pieces. I fear there will be now pieces left to pick up if keep heading in this trajectory.

Being complacent about the depth of the problem leads to this sort of analysis.

img_2409Here Corbyn supporter Cat Smith tried to argue the result from Copeland was an incredible achievement considering we were 18 points behind in the polls. I really don’t know where to start with this sort of muddled thinking. On what planet is 18% behind in the polls acceptable and what on earth is remarkable about that then playing out in an electoral disaster?

In Copeland we played the NHS card gifted to us by the Tories handling of the issue and the local potential closure of maternity services. Even with a basic message that babies will die if you don’t vote Labour they still decided to vote Tory.

As for the Corbyn tweet – that this was an anti- establishment vote. Where do you start. So people now vote against the establishment by voting for the party of government? That’s a new one on me!

So when Ian Lavery MP said the leader couldn’t possibly be blamed because ” he is one of the most popular politicians in the country” I had to spit out my breakfast cereal. I know they don’t ‘trust’ the polls but on every measure and amongst almost every demographic and age group Corbyn has record levels of dissatisfaction amongst the electorate (and even Labour voters). He has lost more working class support than any Labour leader amongst C2s DEs etc. He is now 36 points behind Tory PM Theresa May!

The summary of where I have got to is simple.

  • Corbyn (And his Cabal) are a disaster for the electoral prospects of the Labour Party – a blog to follow with all the evidence piling up on why this is the case and how much is down to him
  • His leadership can’t hang onto seats we hold so how on earth do we think we will win the 107 seats we need to gain to have a majority of 1. I will do some more deeper analysis of Loughborough now 97th on the Target list and no candidate in sight!
  • The Tory Government is getting away with everything because of his weak leadership & yet this government is vulnerable (12 seat majority) & May would be vulnerable to a strong and popular opposition
  • We can’t just unite behind a useless leader and hope all will be well… we have to speak out to get Corbyn to do the honourable thing and admit he is incapable of winning in 2020 for Labour – as @Cheggers1971 said “If you see an inevitable car crash looming do you try to raise the alarm or sit back, do nothing and then say whoops I told you so?
  • We can’t just keep blaming the MSM or #fakenews. The most important job of a Labour leader is to understand there will be media bias! The job is not to just keep moaning about it but to work out how to work with the media and negate the worst aspects of this. And making the case we are doing better on social media is also mistaken.
  • They can’t just keep blaming Blairism. He left a decade ago! I saw them doing this with Copeland. They make up this idea that 1997 was year zero and w/c votes were lost steadily.
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  • This graph is useful because it makes the clear point that 97 was a high point and all these ‘lost’ votes the Corbynites bang on about were from a political high we can only dream of… It took us 83-97 to learn last time!
  • There is no chance of another leadership election – so it is those who supported Corbyn who will increasingly come to the same conclusion as those of us who got there a little sooner who will have to give this message
  • Those of who seek change should remain on message and unified in the evidence we have to show why the car crash is happening and stay calm and collected in the way we make our arguments. We shouldn’t sink into the social media gutter and repeat the mistakes of the aggressive trolls. We need to be forceful but graceful. I need to learn this a little.
  • We have to do this now. Waiting until 2020 is no longer an option. I know that many PLP colleagues cannot speak out and want to make sure JC is taking the heat for the his own disasters, so we have to help create the climate that they are able to speak up again!
  • As for the questions – well who else? At the moment anybody more coherent and presentable than Corbyn would be a start. No room here but we can have that fun speculating on another blog. But how about this for starters. lets start debating a brighter future in the post Corbyn Labour party. At least this will give us something to look forward to and not this constant depressing feeling that we have to have another decade of Tory Government.
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  • I am sure we probably need to draw up a JD and Person Spec for the leader next time! I tried to kick off this debate last time. In no other sphere of sport or business where I work would we have such little idea about the leadership qualities we need, rather than simply voting for the nearest ideological fit. It’s a bizarre system we have but I guess we are stuck with.

 

On a separate note – there is nowhere near enough space to deal with Labour and #BREXIT here. But more thoughts will follow. There is a genuine mess we have now.

These are some early thoughts and most of these need expanding – but the central message is clear. We can’t just carry on with Corbyn at the helm otherwise the Party is in danger of disappearing as a serious force in British political life.

 

 

BACK FOR 2017

After the Labour Party conference in October I decided to take a break from blogging on the fortunes of Jeremey Corbyn and the Labour party. I know quite a few people seemed to appreciate some insights but others took offence as the constant negativity! I did try to find something positive to say (when Corbyn probably won a couple of PMQs for example) but generally I was depressing myself as much as many others.

Well I’m back. Nothing has changed for me in the Labour camp. Things look just as depressing for the future electoral chances of the Party. I will continue to make the case (as it seems Len McCluskly has this week) that Jeremy should consider going when things don’t get better. I do this precisely because the people who are suffering most under this Tory government *need* a Labour government more than ever and the thought of another Tory majority in 2020 frightens me. We can’t wait for it all to go wrong in 2020 for us then to say well we did warn you. This will allow the people we say we want to represent and look after exposed to another decade of Tory/ UKIP light government. For me this is a two stage battle. To get Labour into shape to win the confidence of the electorate and create the coalition necessary to win an election in 2020. Then we battle to maintain ourselves in power by learning the lessons of the mistakes we made in 97-2010. I know there were many. But the battles of 2020-25 will be very different and we need to stop looking back to the Blair/ Brown era. Time has moved on. IMG_2674

Many of my former colleagues in parliament have taken a vow of silence so as to avoid being accused of dividing the party and giving the Corbynistas another handy excuse as to why they are doing so badly. I obviously don’t have the same kind of profile or pressure as there is no chance of me returning to Parliament (thanks to everybody who still asks weekly! I will do a separate piece on why it can’t and won’t be happening soon). So I think there are those of us who can see what is happening around the Leadership and heart of the Party need to speak up. It is a little bit of necessary pain for some very real long-term gain.

brexit

The difference in 2017 is that I hope there will be a little more balance in the blogs also exposing the disastrous handling of #BREXIT by this government and the potential consequences of a decade of uncertainty in politics. I am one of the 48% who now seem under attack for having any views at all by the #BREXTITEERS. They narrowly have won a referendum (more on the inadequate use of referendum on single issues) and expect us all to go home quietly. It certainly didn’t stop them banging on about Europe since the 75 referendum. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be any different for us. There was no plan from the #brexit campaign and everything at the moment seems to ride on a hope that things will be ok. I think those of us in the 48% have a duty to battle to save as much of the best deal for the UK inside the Single Market as possible.

The other difference is that because of the current state and flux of politics in the UK, Europe and the US amongst others there will be a few more ‘big issues’ discussions. Clearly the rise of the right, populism and the response of the liberal establishment is worthy of comment in a more general sense rather than just a narrow party positioning perspective. I think all mainstream parties in the UK are trying to find their feet in a post BREXIT world where the traditional left/right economic battle lines are being redrawn. I will try to take a global look at this and bring it back to what it means in a marginal seat like Loughborough that will decide the electoral balance of the country. I always said Loughborough was a microcosm of the country – with its urban, rural, student, manufacturing, BAME, High tech, University, poverty.

So lots to look forward to in 2017. Not much is likely to very good but at least we can try to make sense of it together.

 

Best wishes

 

Andy