If Labour splits…

Over on the YouGov website I’ve written about an experiment we did looking at how the votes might fall in the event that the Labour party did split (the tabs are here). As I say in the article, this needs a thousand caveats – in what proportions has Labour split? Which party is the main opposition with all the publicity that implies? Who is the leader of the anti-Corbyn Labour party, and what sort of policies are they following? How did the split happen? Respondents don’t know, so this can only be a straw in the wind.

The important things to take away are these:

One – there is a sizeable chunk of the Labour vote who are brand loyalists, in the event of a split they would keep on voting for Labour, regardless of whether the left has split away or the right has split away. Just as the faction that is left controlling the Labour party will get the party’s property and assets, they’ll also get that base loyalist vote. Looking at this poll, it seems to be about 28% of the current Labour vote (so about 8% of the national vote)

Two – a lot of Labour voters would go with the left if the Corbyn was somehow ousted and his supporters left. A smaller group of current Labour voters would go with the right if they left, but they’d pick up more support from don’t knows, current Lib Dems and so on. A Labour splinter group of either side would start with around-about 13-14% (again, there are a thousand caveats to this, so don’t take that as set in stone).

Three – the sum total of the support which the two rival Labour parties would be slightly more than the current Labour party (between them they’d get about 34%, compared to Labour’s current polling figures that are around or just under 30%). Under a proportional voting system this might be a good thing. Under First Past the Post this would likely be disastrous for them, splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Conservatives (or UKIP, or whoever) to gain more seats from them. Exactly how bad it would be we cannot tell without knowing how their votes would be distributed geographically, whether individual Labour MPs would be able to retain the Labour vote in their own constituencies. It is likely to be pretty nasty though.

Finally, given the purpose of the exercise was to see what proportion of Labour voters would stick with the “Labour brand” in the event of a party split, we were faced with the problem of what to call the splitters in each scenario. We wouldn’t call them the “anti-Corbyn Labour party” or “Corbyn Labour party” or whatever as the whole point is that they would NOT be the Labour party, we had to give them a new made-up name. But what? In the end we tried it out with various different names to try and cancel out any effect from choosing a compelling or duff name – “Momentum”, “People’s Party”, “Moderates”, “Progress”, “Radicals”, “Social Democrats” – none of the names seemed to make much difference, whatever we called it, the splitters got around 13-15%.


165 Responses to “If Labour splits…”

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  1. …Scot Andy Murray…

    He’s Scottish? Really? Why didn’t one of you say so before?

  2. @ OldNat

    And thing is more interesting than the EWLAB thing.

    It is really these lovely islands where (in the English press) the biggest thing in living memory is the defection of some MPs, which created some short term upheaval, and the current thingy in the social Democratic Party making headlines, none of which in the current form has any bearings on the life of people (but I cannot exclude that it may ferment into a decent stuff).

    Compare this with the relationship between the Radical and Socialist Party of France and the CPF over fifty years, Hungary, where the far left united with the centrists to defeat the left whose consequences are still around after quarter of a century, Czechia, where the liberals and the social democrats united, Germany with their eternal (not anymore) trouble with the liberals, Denmark, where the social democrats are in constant trouble on both sides, and so on (mentioning Greece, Spain and Portugal would have been unfair, and discussing Italy would have upset some people).

  3. “He’s Scottish? Really? Why didn’t one of you say so before?”

    ———-

    It’s complicated, there’s also the Spanish dimension, where he went to develop his tennissing chops…

  4. It’s complicated, there’s also the Spanish dimension, where he went to develop his tennissing chops…

    Yes,…but Scottish! No wonder they cunningly never mentioned his origins. This changes everything. Sturgeon must not now be allowed to succeed. I was okay with North British independence when it just meant the loss of our renewable energy supplies and some aging children’s TV duos.

    But a double Wimbledon champion! Have they got any idea how long it took us to get one of those?

  5. OLDNAT
    Still, I see Scot Andy Murray is to carry the UK flag for Team GB.

    I’m sure he’ll live with that, but I suspect there’ll be a few Saltires waving for him and his brother. It’s one of the few sports I’ll be watching, along with the sailing.

    I do find it slightly sad, though, that no English player was selected in the four. A Murray/Djokovic final could go either way, and on current form Konta could win a medal. All three doubles pairings look promising, too.

  6. “If the difference between the two sides of the Labour is ideological, does this identify where the ideology differs?”

    ———-

    Is careerism and the desire, when you leave Parliament, to have a nice earner sitting on the boards of companies you oversaw – and who lobbied you, maybe even companies you privatised – an ideology? Is worrying that these upstarts of the left might end the gravy train an ideology?

  7. @BBZ

    While you’re here, son I forgot to reply about the Lehrer link the other day. Read the bio, didn’t know he was a maths prodigy though once you know, it figures. Thanks once again, Checked out a bit more of his stuff, which still seems relevant today, e.g. “Send the Marines”…

  8. Son I forgot = sorry I forgot…

  9. @ANDREW111
    At 2.41 pm who perfectly and succinctly explained the fundamental asymmetry in the EU referendum campaign that enabled Leave to win! Very perspicacious of you!

    Fair comment, but I seem to remember the Remain campaign having ‘More Jobs, Higher Wages’ signwritten on the side of their battle bus.

    If the Remainers had won, I suspect we’d be waiting a very long time for any of that to happen.

  10. CARFREW
    Thanks once again

    Glad to have introduced you to his works.

    I do hope his I Got It From Agnes doesn’t apply, or at least that you won’t find that The Subway Song applies.

  11. @TANCRED
    “Quite right. I envy the beardie’s pension when he finally retires [sigh].”

    Just checked my bank account, and my four-weekly cycle of State Pension (including Higher Earnings supplement) has gone in today, having gone up by 2.5% every year for the past 3 years.

    Excellent!

  12. Muddy Waters

    :-)

  13. David,

    I was just recalling Priti Patel coming on R4 and saying “we pledge £100 million more a week to the NHS and no VAT on fuel”. and being very clear these were “absolute” pledges.. Which of course Cameron could never do!

  14. David Carrod

    Good things pensions. However, only for those of us able to spend them wisely.

    Considering the flightiness of the younger generations, it seems sensible to limit their access to such a provision, they would only waste the money.

    Now where is that holiday brochure? :-)

  15. “Quite right. I envy the beardie’s pension when he finally retires [sigh].”

    Is this what we call the politics of envy?

  16. Surely it’s the Envy of Politics…

  17. MUDDY

    Thanks-quite a “long game” being played then.

  18. Our electoral system supports the existence of monolithic mega-parties like the Conservatives and Labour, forced to accommodate a very broad range of political opinion within their ranks. A big Centre Right tent and a big Centre Left tent. If they split naturally into their more granular elements, which they would almost inevitably do under a more representative electoral system, then you’d get, on the right, overtly Front Nationale type conservatives, old style Monday Club right wing Tories, centrist one-nation conservatives and pro-EU centre left types who have somehow ended up in the Tory Party. At the moment, remarkably, MPs from all these four centre-right political strands sit alongside each other in the Commons as members of one political party. No other political party in Western Europe, apart from the Labour Party (more about them later) contains such a multiplicity of disparate political strands under one roof. The recent Referendum brought all of them out to play, quite viciously, at times, but, such is the unifying effect of power, they’re back in the pen again. Behaving nicely. For now.

    So what about the British Left as embodied by the Labour Party. As with the Tories, I’d say there are four distinct groupings that could live quite viably and happily as different political parties in a representative electoral system. There are the quasi-Marxists who have little time or appetite for parliamentary democracy (Corbyn, McDonell, Abbott, Cat Smith etc). Then the old soft left Labourites (Winnick, Smith, Eagle, Miliband, Watson etc), followed by the social democrats (Cooper, Burnham, Umannu, Reeves, Powell etc) and, finally, a faction of complete centrists who could move quite easily in Liberal and/or leftish Tory circles (Field, Hunt, Vaz etc). Remarkably, they all sit alongside each other in the Commons under one banner. For now.

    Where the Tory big tent prospers more than its Labour counterpart is in its capacity to more easily find a common enterprise. In their case it’s the pursuit and maintenance of power, very little else. Labour, historically, has found this common enterprise more elusive and has, to all intents and purposes split asunder once already in the 1980s. It’s by it’s very nature more factional and less cohesive and this explains the longer periods of Tory hegemony over the last 100 years or so. I think we’re heading for one of those periods again.

    But here’s the rub for me. The Labour Party doesn’t have to split. Strong leadership is the key to unity and then, after that, the development of a common enterprise. Anti-Toryism isn’t enough and while there is a majority amongst the British electorate that is viscerally anti-Tory, it won’t unite around a party that appears to contain a gaggle of factions incapable of compromising with each other.

    Corbyn’s weak leadership has brought the gaggles out to play, just as Major’s ineptitude did for the Tories in the run up to their long years in the political wilderness.

  19. CB11

    Your post seems a little dated, due to your talking about “the British Left as embodied by the Labour Party” and “the British electorate”.

    These really aren’t meaningful concepts anymore, as the different political systems diverge,

    As a discussion of the E&W Left and electorate, your post seems to have merit, though suggesting that the electorate in all or any part of the UK is “viscerally anti-” anything seems very overstated.

  20. @Colin

    Quite so. essentially it’s the same strategy as the Michael Howard solution to the Tories’ IDS problem: stabilise and consolidate; and then think about how to win.

    I have a lot of doubts about whether it can be this simple, given the depths of the split. But it’s not easy to see another strategy for the social democrats. Any overt interventions they make at the moment would almost certainly be counter-productive.

  21. @CB11
    “while there is a majority amongst the British electorate that is viscerally anti-Tory”

    No evidence of that.

    If you take the combined votes of the ‘right wing’ parties at the 2015 GE (Con + UKIP + DUP +UUP) they add up to 50.5%.

  22. via Number Cruncher

    YouGov/Times:

    CON 42 (+2)
    LAB 28 (=)
    LD 8 (=)
    UKIP 12 (-1)

    Fieldwork 1st-2nd August

  23. On the subject of alternative names, the following were touted in 1980/1 was the SDP was in its embryonic stage, according to Crewe & King’s book on the Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party:

    New Labour
    Democratic Labour
    Progressive Labour
    Radical
    Democratic
    Progressive
    Centre

  24. Crossbat

    Absolutely, corbyn should have slapped the Rebels down from the get go. Trying to include other parts of the party in his shadow cabinet was a mistake, he should have appointed his friends. A free vote on airstrikes should never have been allowed and Benn should have been sacked for his speech in support of airstrikes.

    Yes indeed, the labour party only functions as a dictatorship, all hail the dear leader as we used to say in the days of Blair. Corbyn has to go, he’s too bloody nice!

    Just kidding

  25. @CR just kidding about the last sentence? Or the whole thing?

  26. “Trying to include other parts of the party in his shadow cabinet was a mistake, he should have appointed his friends.”

    Umm…..but he doesn’t have enough friends. That’s why there is currently only half an opposition.

  27. @ Crossbat11

    It is a very thoughtful post at one level, and pretty much not that at another.

    I will try to keep my response to an impersonal level.

    You are right saying that all these factions existed in one party, and also saying that they were kept together in the past. Where you are wrong is that you subscribe it so some abstract leadership stuff rather than to very worldly control, co-ordination, which assumes pre-allocated authority. This is what started to go away basically from 2007 (but probably earlier judging from Campbell’s diaries). So the routines became less and less effective, and absorbed resources, while generating bad feelings (to avoid autodmod).

    What you are completely leaving out from the consideration is the essence of the process: change. While these people lived in one tent, harsher and harsher questions were thrown at them (from the Iraq war, to PPF, the recession, the saving of the bankers, the question of anti-austerity, and so forth and so forth).

    By answering these questions the tent was dismantled, it basically made agreements, compromises impossible and it blew up the coalition. It is the questions that the last 15 years put to these people that destroyed the coalition and not some abstract leadership thing or abstract ideological differences (you may want to see how actually happens in a much more edgy situation in the French Mountain Party in the 18th century, or the Bolshevik party in the late 1920s and 1930s. These people were actually closer to each other than Labour in the 1990s, yet they killed each other.). So, it about the questions, and the answers. This is why it is not smearing when the stuff is brought up about either Corbyn or Smith.

    Obviously the situation is nowhere as grave as either of my examples, yet the questions are important – about the economic policy followed from 2001, about the recession, about the response to the state of the perspectives of the new generation. Every single answer drives the wedge in the holding poles of the tent.

    And then I haven’t mentioned Scotland.

    Or I haven’t mentioned the accumulated personal dislikes in the PLP.

    It is a kind of changing of the guards. And obviously the members have their own personal, political, etc troubles.

  28. @CR

    Which were these rebels who were so obvious from the get-go? The ones who weren’t in his shadow cabinet anyway?

    I presume you would agree there should never have been free vote on Trident, and that Corbyn should have supported the policy mandated by Conference?

  29. @DAVID CARROD

    An MP’s pension is a load more than the state pension, as you well know.

  30. @Shevii – Thanks for the interesting reply re Smith and the PLP.

    How the PLP would react to a Smith victory is certainly something that interests me.

    There is no question that the centre of political gravity of the leadership debate is tacking hard to the left. The key question is going to be whether this is a Laszlo style meaningless chat with the party faithful, merely to win this vote, or something more deep and substantial to be carried forward into policy formulation for the GE. With Corbyn, we know the answer (or at least we assume we do, as he has actually been pretty quiet over the last year or so).

    It will be very difficult for the PLP to reject Smith on policy grounds, as he is now ‘their man’. But I would expect a degree of rowing back from positions taken in the leadership campaign as detailed manifesto commitments are crafted.

    Having said that, he world is changing. The financial crash changed a lot of things, but as usual, politics is the last bit of the social jigsaw to make the change. Milliband did a bit here, but Corbyn has had an impact – more so than his critics allow. I see no sign of the Tories tacking right – all the talk across the field is of making the economy work for ordinary people, and Corbyn should take credit for this.

    If we are genuinely seeing a more receptive environment for policies that focus more on working people, then Labour may have more room to push the boundaries. Some of Smith’s policies are very interesting, and may get a better hearing than we would traditionally expect, but that’s not a given.

    Aside from the PLP response to a Smith victory, Corbyn’s response would be critical too. After all the Corbynistas ire in recent months, one would expect, purely for consistencies sake, that they all fall into line behind a newly democratically elected leader and follow the party line, as they have demanded the PLP do now. A united Labour party with half a million members, policies to move the base and a leader who can actually communicate these might be a more difficult proposition for May than we currently expect. But will the PLP and Momentum play ball?

  31. @DAVID CARROD

    “If you take the combined votes of the ‘right wing’ parties at the 2015 GE (Con + UKIP + DUP +UUP) they add up to 50.5%.”

    Hmmm. Northern Irish parties are pretty irrelevant.

  32. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/aug/03/cash-handouts-are-best-way-to-boost-growth-say-economists

    I always wondered why QE wasn’t constructed to create money to ‘give’ to consumers by wiping out their debts. The banks would have been recapitalized, debt levels would have fallen, and consumers would have a lot more money to spend as they saved on interest and debt repayments.

    I’m sure there were good reasons why the BoE wanted to give the money direct to the banks, but various people now seem to be suggesting a different version of simple cash handouts is in order.

  33. @CROSSBAT11

    ” If they split naturally into their more granular elements, which they would almost inevitably do under a more representative electoral system, then you’d get, on the right, overtly Front Nationale type conservatives, old style Monday Club right wing Tories, centrist one-nation conservatives and pro-EU centre left types who have somehow ended up in the Tory Party. ”

    Odd comment. I don’t see all these splinters. I see basically three areas in the Tory party: right wing Thatcherites and hard core Brexiteers (e.g. Fox, Davies, Gove), centre-right pragmatist libertarian Tories (e.g. May, Cameron, Johnson, ), and centrist pro-EU social market ‘one nation’ conservatives (e.g. Clarke, Heseltine). There is no equivalent of Le Pen in the UK outside of the BNP. Also, you get muddled between you call centre-left (no such thing in the Tory party) and ‘one nation’ Tories – they are both largely the same.

    “There are the quasi-Marxists who have little time or appetite for parliamentary democracy (Corbyn, McDonell, Abbott, Cat Smith etc). Then the old soft left Labourites (Winnick, Smith, Eagle, Miliband, Watson etc), followed by the social democrats (Cooper, Burnham, Umannu, Reeves, Powell etc) and, finally, a faction of complete centrists who could move quite easily in Liberal and/or leftish Tory circles (Field, Hunt, Vaz etc). ”

    Corbyn and McDonnell and simply the leftist part of traditional Labour – no more and no less. Similar to Benn, Foot and others of past decades. Call them what you like but that’s basically what they are. The soft left is the right of traditional Labour, close to types like Healey, Callaghan, etc. What you call the social democrats and centrists are basically one and the same – I don’t see any differences. These are what I would call ‘New Labour’, i.e. the liberal and non-socialist elements that supported Blair and later Brown.

  34. Tancred

    “Northern Irish parties are pretty irrelevant.”

    To whom?

    From my perspective, this ELab tizzy is more irrelevant than the NI political structure, so relevance is very much a matter of your own local interest – it isn’t a universal truth! :-)

  35. @ALEC

    “I’m sure there were good reasons why the BoE wanted to give the money direct to the banks, but various people now seem to be suggesting a different version of simple cash handouts is in order.”

    Pigs will fly before that happens under a Tory government!

  36. Just posting to comment on that list of ‘lifted’ policies LIZH posted a few pages ago:

    – at least a few of them were Miliband policies – it’s downright dishonesty to claim that Smith stole the idea of a 50p top rate of tax from Corbyn and McDonnell
    – Smith was Corbyn’s Shadow welfare minister – it would surely be very strange if they didn’t have similar welfare policies, wouldn’t it?
    – given that Smith’s campaign is (and has been from the beginning) based around the idea that Corbyn isn’t competent rather than a fundamental difference in their policies, saying “look, his policies are similar!” does nothing to answer Smith’s argument. It’s a dead cat.

  37. Good evening all from a fine evening here in rural Hampshire.

    “Hampshire MEP Diane James favourite to succeed Nigel Farage as UKIP leader”
    ….
    “James made several controversial comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin in an April 2015 interview with Iain Dale, saying she admired him and that he was a strong leader who puts his country first and that he and UKIP may share common ground over their disagreements with the EU”
    ______

    She gets my vote.

  38. Neil A

    I was kidding about the whole thing. People always talk about the left/right split in labour but to my mind the other split is more relevant, the authoritarian/libertarian divide. I’m most definitely on the Libertarian side, if JC had approached his relationship with the PLP in the way i described i would have run a mile.

  39. Allan Christie

    I presume that James is “Hampshire MEP” in the same way that Coburn is the MEP for Ibrox?

    Still, if she gets the job, then only the really, really minor parties in the UK will have male leaders – SDLP, Lib Dems, both bits of the former Labour party (E&W) …..

  40. DAVID CARROD
    “If you take the combined votes of the ‘right wing’ parties at the 2015 GE (Con + UKIP + DUP +UUP) they add up to 50.5%”
    __________

    It would be quite interesting had it been a hung parliament to see this line up form a coalition. It does look a little fruity-cake though.

  41. Alec

    “I always wondered why QE wasn’t constructed to create money to ‘give’ to consumers by wiping out their debts.”

    Are you saying there is a magic money tree?

    Seriously, if a govt did that then once the public know they can vote themselves free money, it will never stop. Or a least that would be the fear

  42. OLDNAT

    It was the headline in the Hampshire Chronicle.

    “Still, if she gets the job, then only the really, really minor parties in the UK will have male leaders – SDLP, Lib Dems, both bits of the former Labour party (E&W) ….”
    _______

    LOL well it looks like things are heading in that direction.

  43. OLDNAT @ Allan Christie

    Her constituency is South East England, which she shares with 9 other MEPs.

  44. @CAMBRIDGERACHEL

    “Is this what we call the politics of envy?”

    Not really, it’s the envy of a privileged group of people called politicians, especially those with 35+ years of service as MPs. They enjoy the most generous pensions in the country while most of us without defined benefit pensions will scrape a few thousand a year plus the state pittance.

  45. ALLAN CHRISTIE

    “It was the headline in the Hampshire Chronicle.”

    I guessed it was something like that. It’s always fascinating to see localities claim unto themselves something that is part of a greater unit.

    Like “Hampshire’s PM, Theresa May”, “Hampshire’s President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker”, “Hampshire’s Queen, Brenda”.

    Not all of those may be realistic choices for the editor of the Hampshire Chronicle, though. :-)

  46. Barbazenzero

    Indeed – though I had to look up which region Hampshire was in.

    I was wrong about Coburn though. He isn’t just the MEP for Ibrox – but Wishaw as well. :-)

  47. OLDNAT
    He isn’t just the MEP for Ibrox – but Wishaw as well.

    Quite so, not to mention both Backsides in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.

  48. @CambridgeRachel
    “Are you saying there is a magic money tree?”

    I agree with Alec. If the BoE can ‘print’ money to give to the banks, why couldn’t it have given (say) £1000 to everyone in the country? Some of it would have found it’s way into the banks, some would have gone to pay off personal debts, and some would have been spent, thus boosting the economy. The only reason not to do it would be because the people are regarded as slaves.

    I await a rubbishing by people who think they know about economics, but for now goodnight.

  49. OLDNAT & BARBAZENZERO

    Well a lot of spuds for Walkers crisps come from Hampshire. Stick that in yer breeks and rub them. ;-)

  50. PETE B

    “I agree with Alec. If the BoE can ‘print’ money to give to the banks, why couldn’t it have given (say) £1000 to everyone in the country?”
    ________

    I also agree with Alec. I could had done with that £1000 to put towards my new Sinatra Tuxedo suit……miserable bastards!!

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