Stephen Bush over at the New Statesman has written an interesting article about the mountain that faces Labour at the next election. I’ve now had chance to sit down and play with the election results and the picture is as bleak for Labour as Stephen paints – for various reasons, the electoral system has now tilted against Labour in the same way it was tilted against the Conservatives at the last few elections.

Looking at how the vote was distributed at the general election the Conservatives should, on a uniform swing, be able to secure a majority on a lead of about 6%. Labour would need a lead of almost thirteen points. On an equal amount of votes – 34.5% a piece – the Conservatives would have almost fifty seats more than Labour, Labour would need to have a lead of about four points over the Conservatives just to get the most seats in a hung Parliament. The way the cards have fallen, the system is now even more skewed against Labour than it was against the Conservatives.

How did this happen? It’s probably a mixture of three factors. One is the decline of the Liberal Democrats and tactical voting – one of the reasons the electoral system had worked against the Tories in recent decades was that Labour and Lib Dem voters had been prepared to vote tactically against the Tories, and the Lib Dems have held lots of seats in areas that would otherwise be Tory. Those factors have vanished. At the same time the new dominance of the SNP in an area that was a Labour heartland has tilted the system against Labour. Labour had a lead over the Conservatives of 9% in Scotland, but Labour and Conservative got the same number of Scottish seats because the SNP took them all.

Finally there is how the swing was distributed at this election. Overall there was virtually no swing at all between Labour and Conservative across Great Britain, but underneath this there were variances. In the Conservative held target seats that Labour needed to gain there was a swing towards the Conservatives (presumably because most of these seats were being contested by first time Conservative incumbents). In the seats that Labour already held there was a swing towards Labour – in short, Labour won votes in places where they were of no use to them, piling up useless votes in seats they already held.

labourswing

And, of course, these are on current boundaries. Any boundary review is likely to follow the usual pattern of reducing the number in seats in northern cities where there is a relative decline in population and increasing the number of seats in the south where the population is growing… further shifting things in the Conservatives favour.


736 Responses to “The mountain facing Labour”

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  1. Thoughtful
    “In the Machiavellian world of politics whose to say that Chukka Ummuna wasn’t given intimations by persons unknown that if he failed to withdraw, certain information would be given to the press.”

    That was my presumption as well. I’m intrigued by your hints about another leadership contest. Was that for Labour leader too?

  2. @Hawthorn
    “You’d have to be lobotomised to believe that ANY democratic government could ever run a surplus on a consistent basis.”

    OK, looking at history for the last 50 years or so, that seems about right. If all the democracies are massively in debt, who is it to? Presumably it will ultimately be the non-democracies. That doesn’t seem a very comfortable position to be in.

  3. Pete B

    In the case of the UK, the debt is held mostly by pension funds ultimately. The money is going toward’s people’s old age.

    Provided that growth is okay, it doesn’t matter.

    The UK has run deficits for most years since WW2, yet overall national debt has fallen from ~250% of GDP in 1945.

    What she is proposing belongs on some barmy goldbug website.

    I am not just complaining that it is right-wing, I am complaining that it is just nuts.

  4. Pete B

    It is a lot longer than that:

    http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1692_2015UKp_14c1li011lcn_G0t

    UK debt/GDP ratio since 1692.

  5. Keir Starmer -well he has a good christian name I suppose but havent got a clue what he thinks about anything..Is he running ?

    Young liz -agree with hawthorn ,just nonsense economics in the guardian tomorrow.Typical historian just like osborne beancounter view of the economy.

    I feel somewhat sorry for yvette who does understand economics – I like the stuff on families but she needs to flesh that out and fast.

    Burnham wont have much to beat if this goes on.

  6. Hawthorn
    I saw her on Sunday Politics, and thought she talked a lot of sense. Obviously I come at it from a different angle to you, but it does suggest that she might win votes in areas that Miliband failed to. It would have to be a calculation whether it was worth alienating some traditional support in order to do that.

  7. PeteB

    If Osborne is correct about economics (he isn’t) then Labour have lost anyway.

    In any case, there is no chance of Osborne actually managing to do what he suggests unless voters are prepared to have shanty towns cropping up (already does to an extent with the “beds in sheds” problem in parts of London like Newham).

  8. Hawthorn
    Sorry, I hadn’t realised we were discussing Osborn. I’m obviously getting tired. I’ll leave you to it.

  9. Pete B

    Sorry, a logical leap on my part. What she is proposing is slightly to the right of Osborne.

  10. OMNISHAMBLES
    Why do you need more detail? Why is more data necessary?
    …..
    I get the feeling I’m being trolled

    The feeling is mutual regarding your last sentence. AC’s conjecture was that England is a nation divided, but you correctly identified that his suggestion of the Con having a plurality of votes only in the South was incorrect then went OTT in castigating him.

    Under the plurality system, votes does not equal seats to put it mildly, so the only logical way to determine the preferred governance of a nation or region is to calculate who had a plurality of votes in each. The BES data gives us the ability to do that.

    The English regions which had a plurality of Con votes were: East Midlands [28.9%], East of England [33.1%], South East [35.3%], South West [32.4%] & West Midlands [26.5%].

    The others all had a plurality of Lab votes, viz: London [28.6%], North East [28.7%], North West [28.5%] & Yorkshire and The Humber [24.7%].

    Had AC said England voted Con South of the Trent excluding London that would be a reasonable approximation of the divide.

    BTW, v1 of the BES excludes the NI constituencies but includes all 632 GB constituencies.

  11. Pete B
    “OK, looking at history for the last 50 years or so, that seems about right. If all the democracies are massively in debt, who is it to? Presumably it will ultimately be the non-democracies. That doesn’t seem a very comfortable position to be in.”

    Agreed. Most of the “non-democracies” are quoted companies in the City. M

    Scary, int it?

  12. The terrible thing is that there is still quite a lot of demand that has to come out of the UK economy. The question is the distribution of it (and its consequences). It is the real issue, and hence there was a real question in the elections. Shame on Labour that it couldn’t articulate it bravely enough. It was getting there, but only on the redistribution side (what has happened to the Predistribution?), which is the wrong way, and already Kaldor criticised the then Labour government for it.

    I don’t think that the current government can do it either. So, unless we have a recession, the next government will still have the problem, but on a smaller scale.

    It’s all about buying tIme, but time has a higher and higher price.

  13. Sorry logical leap:

    The reason for cutting demand is to force asset write off. The asset base of UK public companies is far too high. As long as it is, their dominant behaviour is cost cutting and not investment.

    Predistribution: making it impossible for firms to transfer the cost cutting to the public sector.

    Force firms to live with a relatively high wage cost, training spending, etc. and thus develop a distinctly different business model (or models). Fear not of “we will relocate”.

    Of course, for political purposes it would have to be worded rather differently …

  14. BZ

    Re the AC/Omni/BZ spat

    Much of the problem lies with the English habit of using shortened geographical divisions of England as if those geographical terms applied in UK terms.

    It’s rather like the Vikings correctly naming the northern part of the Scottish Mainland “Sutherland” – appropriate in an archaic political system.

    From the perspective of anyone viewing the map of the UK, the English Midlands (and Wales) are clearly part of the Southern UK. The North of England and the Scottish Marches are part of Rory Stewart’s “Lost Middleland”.

    To resolve the matter, perhaps we can all agree that the Conservatives are primarily a southern UK party, with some colonial extension into Middleland? :-)

  15. OLDNAT
    To resolve the matter, perhaps we can all agree that the Conservatives are primarily a southern UK party, with some colonial extension into Middleland? :-)

    That sounds about right to me but I doubt OMNISHAMBLES will concur or even apologise to AC.

    I only got involved in the spat because I felt AC was being insulted but that he was too polite to complain. Glad I did now, though, since it lead me to discovering for myself that the BES data is almost complete.

    Exploring it in more detail will have to wait for tomorrow, though. TTFN

  16. @ Anthony Wells

    Apologies – in the last two posts I veered far too much to discussing policy issues.

  17. When I wrote post, I meant comment …

  18. Second budget july 8 -to implement the cuts that osborne wouldnt tell us in the election.

  19. “Apologies – in the last two posts I veered far too much to discussing policy issues.”

    ———–

    To be fair, discussing polling is a little awkward at the moment…

  20. Strong criticism of Ashcroft polling .

    Constituency polls miles out and choices of seats questioned.

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/robertsmith/2015/05/lord-ashcrofts-polling-overlooked-many-of-the-real-election-battlegrounds/

  21. Can Ashcroft read minds? He went off the best available data, as did we all.

  22. This place is like the Berlin Bunker.

    We could call it The Last Redoubt .

  23. It’s not nearly so well catered!

  24. “Labour is in deep crisis – and trite guff won’t save it
    John Harris
    The party’s leadership contenders seem unaware of the size of the task ahead of them, and what is required to tackle profound long-term social change”

    A very good read in the G-if you’re a Labour supporter who wants to understand what is happening.

  25. Laszlo,

    Yes in a high(er) wage Economy, investment becomes a necessity for firms to compete thus enhancing productivity.

    For example, in the Recycling Industry, as multi-material collections became the norm, the Dutch, Germans and Nordics, invested heavily in specialised sorting equipment whilst we relied on low wage labour.

    The UK has become the US of Europe relying on immigration to keeps costs down with some of the non-immigrant population (including 2nd and 3rd generation) missing out on the benefits of lower costs.

    The ‘predistribution’ concept and anaylsis behind it is imo sound but how to implement without short and medium term negative consequences beyond me and I think left-wing politicians at present.

    Pulling out of the EU may ease some downward pressure on wages but the impact on trade would be worse and we would still need some ‘low wage’ immigration.

    My worry is that it is too late to escape from the low wage Economy and low productivity (measured by per hour worked) we have become.
    I believe, the Thatcher/Major Government and the Blair/Brown one paid lip service to education and training but both did insufficient to move our Economy away from the old industries in a way German Governments have.

  26. Good Morning All, from a windy Boscombe-by-the sea, in Bournemouth East Constituency.
    COLIN:
    Thank you for the tip off about the G read.

    On Chuka; it just could be true that he and his family and loved ones looked at the media spotlight and realised that it was not appropriate for him. Michael White writing for the G yesterday said that John Smith (RIP), leader from 1992-1994 found the experience to be appalling. The associate editor of The Sun, Mr Kavanagh said yesterday that the scrutiny is very harsh and that Chuka was too soft and melted away.
    On secrets I doubt whether many people have no secrets, and in any case on the attainment of high place it was said once: ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his very soul? (modern translations leave out the word soul).

  27. @ChrisLane1945

    Burnham as leader with Umunna as Shadow Chancellor would be a good ticket, drawing on Umunna’s charisma and providing a match for Osborne without allowing him to move the direction of the party too far.

    As it is, I think Burnham and has some charisma too (Amber, where are you?)

  28. @Jim Jam “For example, in the Recycling Industry, as multi-material collections became the norm, the Dutch, Germans and Nordics, invested heavily in specialised sorting equipment whilst we relied on low wage labour……

    My worry is that it is too late to escape from the low wage Economy and low productivity (measured by per hour worked) we have become.”

    The answer is long term, but quite simple.

    Current improvements in support for business is pretty much restricted to reduction in Corporation Tax for multi nationals and the £2000 NI discount.

    The SNP is arguing in typically conservative tones for more of these in Scotland (they want to increase the NI discount to £6,000) but this whole approach is simply designed to curry favour with businesses owners, rather than actually help business grow.

    Good governments pour everything they’ve got into assistance for proper investment. This creates higher productivity, higher wages, and by altering the balance of costs between salary and investment costs, provides an ongoing incentive to maintain high levels of investment.

    I’d also do what notable right wing economic commentator Alistair Heath calls for, which is to scrap Corporation Tax as currently constructed, and replace it with an across the board tax on profits, share buy backs and dividend payments. This could be done to actually reduce tax rates on profits, but while encouraging greater investment, rather than withdrawal of profits to the owners.

  29. Jim Jam

    “I believe, the Thatcher/Major Government and the Blair/Brown one paid lip service to education and training but both did insufficient to move our Economy away from the old industries in a way German Governments have.”

    I share some of your worries, but would question at least that part of the diagnosis. It’s true that Germany has moved away from – say – consumer electronics but it’s still a massive player in autos, trucks, heavy engineering, chemicals, aerospace and many other ‘old’ industries. The Germans are just better at it than us, though once we get the investment right we seem to be able to compete very strongly (EG see Japanese auto makers in the UK and the resurgent Jaguar/Land Rover). Don’t forget also that Mercedes racing cars are made in England, as are their engines.

    Personally I think the mistake was to abandon the old industries to pursue a future exclusively or predominantly in services. Hence we abandoned industrial training incentives and de-emphasised technical qualifications in favour of ‘soft’ university degrees: this combined with a culture that had smart people going into financial services, lack of partnership between workforce and shareholders (cf Germany where worker representation is enshrined in laws which I believe the British originally drafted in 1945), and that the only smart place to put your savings is in domestic property.

    One of our local employers – a big manufacturing success story and an important exporter – is dogged by two particular problems: it’s almost impossible to hire engineers because the system doesn’t churn enough out, and it’s almost impossible to get industrial premises because landlords prefer to keep them empty in the hope they will be rezoned for residential property (the latter probably a London-specific problem)

  30. Colin

    Labour should listen to people like John Harris rather than Mandy.

  31. Unless there has been a recent step change in education and skills training in particular, then we are in a low wage economy for some time. Until very recently, most of our FE colleges were pretty useless at preparing students for the world of work.
    A few years ago, I made the suggestion that the painting and decorating students at our local FE college should, as part of their training, do some of the repainting of their own college. This would also give them something of a showcase for their talents. The staff were extremely hostile to the suggestion unless the students were paid full union rates, otherwise we were apparently exploiting the students. Instead the students had to keep repeatedly painting pieces of plaster board which were subsequently thrown away. I had the same response when I asked if the horticultural students could look after sections of the main college’s garden. No wonder we have to bring in skilled and semi-skilled workers from abroad.

  32. John Harris is great. I’m in one of his videos for a few shots (the Hallam one) and he seems like a very down to earth, informed guy. His insights are often very handy, particularly since the constantly-rolling camera catches a lot others would rather not be seen.

  33. it looks like we are very much in that post election period where everything magically changes.

    Yesterday, we saw the Prime Minister negotiating with the ‘Most Dangerous Woman in Britain’. How odd. Two weeks ago just talking to this woman was the harbinger of chaos and heralded the break up of the UK, apparently.

    Today, we have news of an emergency budget for July. After being told that the plan was working and things will be fine. Last time, they used the excuse that ‘we didn’t know how bad it was until we saw the books’. Hmmm.

  34. PHIL HAINES.
    I think that Labour has a rule that if the leader is male then the deputy is female.
    I do not understand it, but I believe it to be a TIGPOO rule. (This great party of ours, or TIGMOO: this great movement of ours).

  35. RMJ1

    They should have just paid them. Getting paid is the main point of working.

    What the right have forgotten is creative destruction. Making it easier to run a business via hidden subsidies just makes it possible to run bad businesses. Hence terrible productivity etc.

    At least our service businesses aren’t as laughably inefficient as the small businesses I saw in Mumbai. We are gradually heading that way though.

  36. Alec,

    Corporation tax is a minefield of myth. People usually think that consumers pay VAT, while corporations (or their owners) pay corporation tax. As long as that’s the case, I don’t see the situation on business tax in this country changing much for the better.

  37. Good morning all from a blustery wet Giffnock.

    BARBAZENZERO

    “Had AC said England voted Con South of the Trent excluding London that would be a reasonable approximation of the divide”
    _____

    That’s exactly what I meant to write ;-) Maybe if I had then poor ole Omni’s nerves might had calmed down but in all seriousness your reply’s were far better at explaining what I was trying to say.

  38. Alec

    Fool me once…

  39. SNP to abstain on fox hunting vote on the grounds that it’s “English only”. I’m not sure this will win them many friends.

  40. OLDNAT

    “To resolve the matter, perhaps we can all agree that the Conservatives are primarily a southern UK party, with some colonial extension into Middleland? :-)”
    ________

    You should offer to work for ACAS lol

  41. Alec,

    I understand that and indeed have posted about how Labour allowed it’s position on some issues involving big corporations to distort its’ position on wealth creation and small business (Colin disagreed but he has a different outlook to me but like me is not representative of the target voter with genuine respect to him).

    I think the trouble is that we may now be so reliant on low wages and long hours that business trying to do the right thing and invest (with Government support) will be uncompetitive versus those taking the low wage route.

    Guymonde – I accept all your points and of course it is not black and white and we do have some spheres of excellence, around some Environmental Technology industries for example.

    Key thing I think we all agree on left and right is that without long term productivity increases Governments of whatever hue will eventually run out of tricks and be sent packing.

    Thatcher had North Sea Oil, New Labour had the’ E’ Revolution and Off-shoring keeping inflation down and a pact with the City to fund transfer payments.

    Osborne has got away without any fortuitous circumstances due to Labours’ legacy (fair or not) but by 2020 that spectre may be too far in the past.

    To bring back to the thread, Labour needs a leader who can capitalise on The Tories failings in 2020 which more than a critique but also with workable, explainable solutions.

    Of course the Tories may grasp the nettle but I doubt it.

  42. Theres loads of scottish hunts ?

    http://lauderdalehunt.com/index.php?page=links

  43. MRNAMELESS
    SNP to abstain on fox hunting vote on the grounds that it’s “English only”. I’m not sure this will win them many friends
    __________

    Why’s that then? Is it because you’re against fox hunting? Are the SNP going to be judged on everything that they abstain from? If the sport is so unpopular in England then surely there are enough English MP’s to vote against it without the help from the SNP.

    For what it’s worth I’m against fox hunting and the blood sport typifies the elite snobbishness of the few so surely the English will boot it into the long grass!!

  44. Calm down. I’m merely pointing out that there remains a certainly level of good will towards the SNP from left-leaning types in England. This may not do that much good since, as you say, most of them oppose fox-hunting.

    The question now falls to how many Tory MPs rebel on repealing the ban, since almost the entire rest of the opposition (DUP and Carswell a question mark) will be voting against with the exception of Kate Hoey.

  45. I should clarify that the hidden subsidies I an talking about are those that make it possible to run low wage businesses (eg tax credits), although weaning the economy off them without causing extreme poverty is difficult to do.

    I agree that government can and should aid productive investment

  46. Reports of a significant move in the Lab leadership election.

    D Miliband in from 50/1 to 33/1 on Oddachecker.

  47. RAF,

    People betting on that must hate having money. Even if the whips did hide in a cupboard and leap out at Gerald Kaufman to induce a heart attack, do they really think a candidate obviously deliberately parachuted in from halfway across the world – even if he did win his by-election which in those circumstances would be no certain thing – would have any credibility or would win the leadership election?

  48. @Allan,

    Come on, the reason the SNp are abstaining from fox hunting is that hunting is a big Scottish industry and tradition. Deer, pheasant, grouse etc.

    Rich

  49. MRNAMELESS

    I am calm, I’ve taken my pills. ;-)

    There are going to be times the SNP will abstain from voting on matters that concern England only even though they disagree with what is being voted on.

    The point I’m making is that the SNP can’t simply be used as piggy in the middle over English only matters regardless of the goodwill that may exist between them and some others on the left.

  50. Lots of rumours circling of a curve ball entry to Lab leadership race later today. Hmm! Exciting. In fairness, it needs livening up. Maybe Starmer?

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