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So how will Labour do when the votes are counted?

RosetteManaging expectations have become a political football in the interminable (and boring) tussle in the Labour Party. With forecasting subject to factional agendas, can we cut through the crap and think about what would constitute an advance and a reverse for the party and its leader? I’m going to have a try.

The key election for Labour – sorry everywhere else – is London. In the capital, Sadiq Khan and the Labour campaign have faced a barrage every bit as unpleasant as the one targeting Ed Miliband last year. The Tories and their helpful media friends have branded Sadiq an ally of terrorists because, wink, wink, he’s a Muslim. And this is a deliberate strategy pushed right from the very top to secure the mayoralty for the terminally useless Zac Goldsmith.

It is utterly outrageous but, thanks to the good sense of Londoners, Labour has a commanding polling lead. Fingers crossed, our vote will turn out on the day. It is highly unlikely that KenGate will have an affect on the polls, it being widely perceived as yet another barney in the bubble, but Goldsmith’s dog-whistling, racist literature has been rammed down Londoners’ throats. And in the country’s most multicultural city that’s electoral suicide. As far as Jeremy’s prospects are concerned, only a win here will do. To lose again in London under these conditions would make it politically impossible for him to carry on.

This is the only result that put the leadership in jeopardy. Whatever happens elsewhere is not sufficient in and of itself. That said, the second most important set of elections after London is Wales. Oft neglected by the metropolitan set, the story here is of Labour dominance slowly getting eaten away by UKIP and, to a much lesser extent, Plaid Cymru. The last poll has Labour on 33%, Plaid on 21%, the Tories on 19%, and UKIP 15%.

Yet there is a factor not yet picked up by the polls, but has certainly manifested in the local council by-elections in Wales over the last couple of months: the government’s handling of Port Talbot. The debacle has seen Conservative polling plummet in the three or so Welsh by-elections taking place in that time. Now, three car crashes don’t make a motorway pile up, but it’s difficult to see how their very public indifference and incompetence can’t but depress the Tory vote further.

The question then is who benefits? While Labour has the disadvantage of incumbency, I think it’s fair to say that if we cannot capitalise at all on government difficulties here that would be very disappointing, especially when polls and by-elections are not pinpointing breakthroughs for the leftish Plaid either.

There is Scotland, which may as well be written off. A number of folks, including me, thought Jeremy’s leftism would be enough to begin the claw back at this set of Holyrood elections. Ha, I can laugh at my naïvete now. The problem is the SNP have run a relatively competent, relatively centre left administration in Scotland for eight years and cornered the market in political vision thanks to the referendum campign.

Matters weren’t helped by the rotten state Scottish Labour had got itself into after years of neglect and complacency, nor selecting a leader who epitomised the old Westminster-centric way of doing things, nor seen cosying up to the Tories and conniving in their hysterical and mean-spirited attacks on the independence movement.

With Labour unionism taking a battering, only a generation-long struggle of rebuilding and opposition can make it a proper contender again. And so this Thursday’s verdict on Labour in Scotland doesn’t spell doom for Jez or Our Kez, but delivers the final act in the electoral battering our party – truthfully – has deserved for a long time.

Where it does become a problem for either of the leaders is if the Tories snatch second place. In Ruth Davidson the Tories have found a leader who combines genuine charisma (without Boris-style manufacturing) and down-to-earth personability. Alas, shame about her politics. She is their best bet for detoxification, but despite being well-liked I don’t think the Tories will pull it off in votes or seats. But if they do that’s one more cause for concern.

The English local elections then. Jeremy has been widely attacked for saying this week that we will lose no seats. Of course, by this he means we will make net gains – not that a single council seat will be snatched away. However, there are a number of mediating factors that ensures the result, unless it is a huge disaster, will not impact on the leadership.

As a general rule, Labour councillors are more pragmatic and centrist than either the left-leaning membership (even before the Jez surge) and the right-leaning parliamentary party. And this is their election. They are incumbents defending positions conquered off the back of coalition austerity, and did so running semi-independent and highly localised campaigns.

Then, as now, many hundreds of candidates were convinced the leader was a liability, and then as now have doubled down on local issues. And, on the whole, you tend to find that the voting hardcore who turn out for the locals tend to have those matters in mind.

As with London, KenGate barely registers, but decisions about roads, housing, services, council tax, and so on do. Labour are disadvantaged by incumbency and being in power in a disproportionate number of seats, which ordinarily makes losses likely, but this would be just as true if Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper were at the helm.

But again, while the media are convulsed with Westminster parlour games the awful headlines of the preceding month about steel, about tax, about the budget and for some, the EU, could depress Tory turnout. The question then is which will matter more? My money is on the strength and focus of Labour’s local campaigns in framing the issues that matter. And so I think it’s fair to forecast unspectacular gains for us.

The other elections taking place are differently weighted. The two parliamentary by-elections in Ogmore and Sheffield Brightside should be pretty much in the bag for Labour, taking place in super safe seats. Losing either or coming close to failing would be a major difficulty for the leadership, but that none of the usual suspects have alighted upon them, let alone spoke about them goes to shows how unlikely a threat from that quarter is regarded.

And there are the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Don’t expect a record low turnout like last time as the proper electoral machinery is in place, and will be boosted by other elections. Last time, Labour barely registered outside of the metropolitan areas, and seeing that few of the electorate and the political cognoscenti care that much about them, outcomes either way won’t matter much.

And so there you have it. A few predictions and some consideration of the wider ramifications sans the tedious internal partisanship. What do you think?

12 Comments

  1. John P Reid says:

    London Elects reveals how many people in the first round of the Mayor vote,put smaller candidates as their second choice,the Greens have spent so much time slagging Labour,I wouldn’t be surprised if Many labor voters put the women’s equality party,or Cannabis is safer than Alcahol,as their second choice, and the funny thing is how badly the Lib Dmes will do, the turnout will actually be higher than people expec,t it maybe not as high as 2008

    The Police commissioner vote will still be less than 14%
    Hopefully Tom Copley will win on the Assembly but labour a percentage of vote will be down there,

  2. Jim Moores says:

    Good piece Phil.
    It chimes with my own, personal experiences.
    As one who helped a bit in Royton East and Oldham which UKIP said they were almost a certainty I am hopeful that Labour will do as well across the Country with the seats it holds – and, dare I say it, even pinch a few.
    I am a Labour member and we deserve all we got, and will get, in Scotland. We will just have to build from scratch. I will be very surprised if the Tories get second but almost all Labour voters have gone to the SNP so it may happen.
    I am however in despair over the Blairites’ attempt to show how bad Jeremy Corbyn is even at the cost of election results.
    They are the big risk to Labour’s election chances and I suspect, whatever happens today, they will attempt to remove him somehow. Most likely Blairite front benchers will find an excuse to resign and they will probably blame Corbyn, very publicly, for Scotland and Wales.
    It is vital then that we do better than expected there.

  3. Chris says:

    Khan is really the worst candidate we could have chosen.

    He must never be forgiven for his comments fueling the fake anti-semitism conspiracy.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Anti Semticism is fake and a conspiracy, ?
      Holocaust Denial is a arrestable offense

      1. No it isn’t. It is psychopathic bullshit but it is not an arrestable offence.( yet) And nor should it be.

    2. Sadiq Khan has only one concern, and that is Sadiq Kahn

    3. Kahn is in the pocket of his ” close friend” the mega fraudster Gerald Ronson. He has drunk so many toasts to The State of Israel he is in danger of developing an alcohol dependency problem.

  4. Karl Stewart says:

    Really made me angry to hear the hard-right warmongering Atlanticist Jo Cox rushing to attack Corbyn before the full results are even in.

    Odd how the SNP losing their overall majority in Scotland is being reported as a historic victory for Sturgeon, while Labour achieving essentially the same result in Wales as the SNP got in Scotland being reported as a ‘setback’ for Corbyn.

    The London mayor result isn’t in yet, but if Khan does win, then let’s remember that this is the fifth London Mayor election and Labour has only won it once before, in 2004. It would be a huge gain from the Tories. And if Khan does win, let’s crow about all we can.

    Don’t forget, Labour lost this particular election under Blair’s leadership in 2000, under Brown’s leadership in 2008, and under Miliband’s leadership in 2012.

    I helped a bit with the Labour campaign team in Merton, and the mood was generally quite positive. So fingers crossed.

    And most importantly, let’s hope Londoners have turned out overwhelmingly to reject the disgusting racism of the Tory campaign.

    How dare the Tories try to attack us on this issue, when their own party leader has repeatedly publicly endorsed the racist Tory mayoral campaign.

    As things stand at the moment, Labour could be within two or three percentage points of the Tories across England – we might even outpoll them in the popular vote. When was the last time that happened? I don’t think it’s happened since the 2001 landslide.

    Let’s remember all those Blairites who predicted that under Corbyn Labour’s share of the vote would drop down to the mid to low 20s.

    Labour could also win the mayor election in Bristol – again, a remarkable achievement, bearing in mind Labour lost this one badly back in 2012. Again, I don’t remember calls for Miliband’s resignation when that happened.

    So let’s wait and see what the full results are. And if Labour does end up having done quite well, let’s crow about it.

  5. Karl Stewart says:

    You can keep up with the London count here:

    https://www.londonelects.org.uk/im-voter/election-results/live-count-progress-2016?contest=23

    (Looking promising at the moment – fingers crossed!)

  6. Karl Stewart says:

    BBC polling expert John Curtice is projecting Labour 1 per cent ahead of the Tories on the national share of the vote.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2016/may/06/uk-elections-sadiq-khan-ahead-in-london-mayoral-race-live-updates

    And he’s projecting a 57/43 win for Khan in London.

    But the Blairite scumbags are still attacking Corbyn!!!

  7. Tony says:

    I wonder how much damage the recent controversy did to Labour’s chances. I suspect that it was anti-Corbyn elements within the Labour Party who were behind it. The timing of the revelations could be a coincidence but I rather doubt it.

    The 4.5 percenters know that most Labour MPs will tend to go along with Corbyn if he can demonstrate competence and electoral success.

    Personally, I think that John Mann should have been suspended and investigated too. He could have lodge a complaint about Livingstone and/or written to him instead of doing what he actually did.

  8. Graham Day says:

    “There is Scotland, which may as well be written off. A number of folks, including me, thought Jeremy’s leftism would be enough to begin the claw back at this set of Holyrood elections. Ha, I can laugh at my naïvete now”

    Just to say, no-one on the Scottish Labour left thought this. The problems we have up here are far more deep rooted, as you go on to say.

    Also, the description of our role in the referendum is basically false. We failed to see the traps being set by both the SNP and Tories, and walked into them. This isn’t the same as “cosying up” or “conniving with” the Tories.

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