Last night Labour held Stoke Central and lost Copeland to the Tories. As usual, by-elections don’t tell us a huge amount about the bigger political picture, but are very important in setting the political narrative.

By-elections are very unusual beasts. Because they don’t decide who will form the government for the next five years, only who will be the local MP, people are comparatively free to use them to register a protest. They are much more fiercely contested than your average seat at a general election. The constituency itself will also normally have its own local ideosyncracities that mean it can’t just be read as if it is a microcosm of Britain as a whole. So when people ask me what by-elections tell us, I normally say not much: if the change in the vote is in line with what the national polls are showing then it tells us nothing we didn’t already know, if the change is different to the national polls it’s probably just because by-elections are very different to general elections.

Looking at the two results, Copeland is a marginal seat between Labour and the Conservatives… albeit, one that had been in Labour hands for eighty years. The national polls tend to show the Conservatives about 14 points ahead of Labour, the equivalent of a 3.5% swing from Labour to Conservative since the general election. Therefore if Copeland had behaved exactly in line with the national polls it should have been on a knife edge between Conservative and Labour. In the event the Tories gained it comfortably. We cannot be certain why the Tories did better than the national picture would have predicted, thought the most obvious hypothesis is the unusual nature of the seat: Whitehaven is a town wholly dominated by and dependent on one industry – nuclear power – and the Labour party were perceived as being hostile towards it.

On the face of it Stoke Central was a less interesting result – Copeland is one for for the record books, but Stoke saw hardly any change since the general election (only the Lib Dems really saw a significant increase in their share). However it does perhaps give us a idea of the limits to the UKIP threat to Labour. UKIP were perceived as the main challengers from the beginning and it was a promising seat for them: a somewhat neglected working class Labour seat that voted strongly for Brexit, but with a Labour candidate who was remain. They seem to have thrown all they could at it, but with very little success. Again, we can’t be certain why – Paul Nuttall obviously had a difficult campaign and anecdotally UKIP’s ground game was poor, but there are also wider questions about UKIP’s viability now Brexit has been adopted by the Conservatives and without Farage at their helm. By-elections have often been an important route for smaller parties, getting them publicity and a foothold in Parliament. Whenever there has been a by-election in a northern city in the last five years or so there has been speculation about it being a chance for UKIP, but they never seem quite able to pull it off.

So what will the impact of these by-elections be? Copeland will be a body blow to Labour simply because of how incredibly unusual it is. Governments do not normally gain seats at by-elections. Lots of people will be writing about past examples today – 1982 in Micham and Morden (Lab vote split because of SDP defection, and the government got a surge of support during campaign because of the Falklands); 1961 Bristol South East (Tory gain only because the candidate with the most votes – Tony Benn – was disqualified for being a peer), 1960 Brighouse and Spenborough (ultra marginal to begin with). The fact that one has to go back that far to scrape a few examples that generally have extremely unusual circumstances underlines how freakish this is. The political narrative will go back to how Labour are in crisis…but whether that makes the slightest practical difference, I don’t know. Might it provoke another Parliamentary coup within Labour? Who knows. Might it sow some doubts among Corbyn supporters within the Labour party? Again, who knows. The point is, Labour have had terrible poll ratings for a long time, Jeremy Corbyn has has terrible poll ratings for a long time, but this did not stop him being being relected leader last year. The question of Labour’s leadership is one that seems to be a lot more about the opinion of Labour members than the wider public.

909 Responses to “Stoke and Copeland by-elections”

1 2 3 4 5 19
  1. Pete B @ Sys

    There are also inaccuracies in the pledges, which no rational NEC should have allowed to remain,

    For example, “We will bring our railways into public ownership.”

    They are already publicly owned.

    He (and now the NEC) presumably means the provision of passenger trains (though perhaps freight as well) should also be provided by the state or by publicly owned companies – though given the commitment elsewhere to “support a new generation of co-operative enterprises.”, it isn’t clear why that provision should not be via that mechanism.

  2. @Pete B,
    That’s a strange interpretation. I don’t think it has anything to do with GP practices. The second half of the sentence has to be read in the context of the first half – it’s about renationalising things that have been contracted out, not about bringing into the service things that have never been included.
    “Richard Branson has just been awarded a £126million contract to take over services at hospitals in Kent.” –

    “Against a backdrop of austerity and public cuts, healthcare facilities are continuing to contract out their facilities management and clinical services.” –

  3. @PHIL “We’re the ones he’s leading, after all.”
    Serious question: How then do you know which way to go?

    @Syzygy How? is the real question for a policy, not What?

  4. @Lazslo – Agreed on Labour’s response. Ian Lavery MP is someone who has done some good things, but I really don’t see him as a campaigns director. Corbyn really is not the most popular politician in the country, and I think if this is the direction of travel at Labour’s top table then Copeland will just be the start.

  5. RP
    Thank you for the clarification. It’s certainly not clear from the original text.

    “it’s about renationalising things that have been contracted out…”

    Does this mean unravelling Brown’s PFI in some way?

  6. @Pete B

    I think that Labour would love to (and should) unravel PFI.

    I see it as little more that a dodgy accounting scam.

  7. CMJ

    “I think that Labour would love to (and should) unravel PFI.”

    Do you anticipate that being a motion at this weekend’s SLab conference?

  8. So long as treatment was free at the point of use (apart obviously for prescriptions, spectacles, dentistry etc if you work) does it matter whether the providers are direct employees of the state or not?

    I wonder how VI would be affected (if at all) if this proposal was made by (presumably) the Tories?

  9. @Oldnat

    I have no idea!

  10. CMJ

    Neither have I – nor I suspect, do any SLab voters! :-)

    Of course, it is possible to buy out a PFI contract. The SNP did precisely that with the Skye bridge – although the English Transport Minister (with residual UK responsibilities) seems to think that it subsequently closed due to lack of funding.

    PFI/PPP is, of course, and accounting scam – simply designed to keep borrowing off the public accounts. Currently pointless due to EU rules, the UK will be able to put them back off the accounts when it Brexits.

    That will allow an apparent reduction in the National Debt, by reverting to former UK dodgy practice, to be trumpeted to voters – though unlikely to persuade the markets.

  11. IIRC PFI in the NHS accounts for less than 1% of gross expenditure. Whilst I agree it’s a daft way of running a chip shop, using it as a scapegoat for the funding crisis as (predictably) the tories and (shamefully) elements of the Labour party do is plainly nonsensical. Of course I could be wrong about less than 1% in which case somebody please put me straight

  12. @ Guymonde

    Regardless of what it costs as a % NHS expenditure, PFI is considerably more expensive than Overt Monetary Funding. The only reason for using the device, was to avoid contravening the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact rules which demand that deficit spending is less than 3% GDP. A rule which is economically unjustified and by all accounts. a % that was plucked from thin air.

    IMO the capacity to unravel the PFIs is both welcome and I would think electorally, a very popular policy on the part of the LP.

  13. I’ve always regarded PFI not so much as a left/right issue but as a straightforwardly dishonest bit of fiscal sleight of hand.

    I’d love to see a government, of any stripe, ditch it in favour of honesty. I think at the moment it distorts the debate about the role of the private sector in public services.

  14. Syzygy

    Public authority debt problems are more complex than just PFI (horrendous though that is).

    When the Public Works Loans Board hiked its interest rates in 2010, many authorities (London Transport was one) stopped using them, and opted for “Lobo” loans from the banks instead.

    In Scotland, the situation may be worse than in England, as the Lab/LD administration insisted that PFI was the only mechanism to be used for capital construction projects.

    The net effect (according to Debt Resistance UK) is that “Scotland has the highest PFI debt per capita in the world. Debt repayments on Treasury PWLB, LOBO loans, and PFI soak up 44 per cent of all council tax income.”

  15. @RAF Leicester City analogy “There is with Cameron. May 7th 2015 – greatest Tory election performance for a generation. June 23rd 2016 – out of a job.”

    Nice one.

    @Syzygy “10 pledges which have been ratified by the NEC:”

    They are for the most part just vacuous pledges. They’ve even used the word “secure” in 50% of them because they were likely written by one person (Milne)

    @Alec If this does start to happen, the effects for countries around the North Atlantic will be severe, with an estimated 5C fall in mean temperatures in just 10 years thought possible.”

    It’s possible if the effects are too pronounced that it tips the Northern Hemisphere into the next Ice age. Scientists have shown that they come on very quickly indeed – within the space of a decade. With sea level falls and a land bridge you might get your wish to rejoin Europe sooner than you think!

  16. Actually it seems NHS PFIs cost about £2Bn out of an overall budget of ~£110Bn so more like 2%.
    As I said, I think using private finance is cockeyed, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the penalties for unwinding existing schemes may make it doubly cockeyed to do so (though maybe electorally popular nonetheless!)
    My point is that the Tories love to use this insignificant issue (after all, it’s not as if there is zero value obtained from spending that 2Bn even if some of the interest portion is wasted) as a scapegost for the far greater funding issues in the NHS. Worse, it is fashionable for elements of Labour to exaggerate the problem in their indefatigable attempts to discredit Blair/Brown.

  17. Guymonde

    I’m not sure why you are introducing a Tory/Labour aspect into the discussion on PPP/PFI.

    One of these parties called it PPP, the other PFI – but they were identical schemes.

    As with so many things, there is nothing to distinguish between these parties on this issue.

    As Neil A pointed out, it isn’t a “left/right” issue (or even an issue between two right wing parties), just a devious scheme thought up by some prat, that both parties thought would make them look good, but ended up with both looking as crooked as the other.

  18. Guymonde

    What are the figures for NHS England, if you limit your analysis to the capital expenditure budget?

    Staffing, drug costs etc would be the same regardless of which financial model was used to build the infrastructure.

  19. Alec,
    ” I don’t really know what difference it would make if Corbyn was replaced by someone else. ”

    A lot of vitriol here about Corbyn, but I agree with this. labour has been in decline since the first Blair government. It is a long term pattern.

    Seems to be several attacks on Corbyn on the basis the nation needs an opposition to the government. Yet what this really seems to be calling for is that labour become more like the government. Corbyn and his supporters do not seem to want to have a party which is just like the conservatives.

    Blair turned the labour party in a direction to the right. While he won dramatically, maybe this had more to do with hatred of the conservatives than the policies of New Labour. The emphasis was on the ‘New’ not on ‘Labour’. So after a few years, the shine wore off. New Labour had become old Conservative. Now we have ‘New’ Conservatives.

    However, was there ever any real distinction between policies of labour and conservatives? Both sets have led us to a national housing scandal, immigration dependency, uncontrolled national debt and the bank-led world recession. Britain is frankly in decline. As a result of all that we have Brexit, which in my opinion is most unlikely to impove the situation, quite the reverse.

    I don’t know if Corbyn has a plan, but it is futile to demand he creates a party indistinguishable to the conservatives just so they can have a siamese twin and stay in power whether they happen to have been elected this time or not.

    Although I am sure the conservatives love having an opposition which is simply themselves in a mirror.

  20. Danny

    I think the discussion starting from the latter third of the previous page suggests how NOT to create a social democratic programme.

    I was supportive of Corbyn in both of his leadership election campaign, because I do think that there is a room for a social democratic platform in Britain (in all the four countries). He kind of talked about these.

    I don’t really care about his personality or the supposed charisma needed – but I do care when one has the resources, the authority to create a solid basis to develop policies that could be understood (distinctly different from embracing to the hear or affiliate with) at the level of common sense.

    Labour collected a huge amount of money in membership fees, affiliation fees, supporter fees, donations. This money could have been used for getting a good understanding on the social, economic, cultural changes at the micro level, and hence creating a credible, differentiated, discerning narrative. The money would have also allowed for financing social gatherings up and down in the country, to create something more concrete networked individuals. He could have used his authority for a,chistka (cleansing- but it is my pet thing.

    None of these happened. In effect, ever since the winning of the leadership election nothing has been done. It is inertia on the power of three.

    So – it is not Corbyn because of whom Labour lost the seat in our Cumbrian neighbour (and performed less than satisfactorily in Stoke), but it is leadership, the people around him, the whole attitude. It is the political stance, that pretends commitment, and lacks commitment.

  21. Jasper22,
    “What I think people should be concentrating on, following last night’s results, is how good they are for the Tories”

    Goodness, all this spin. No, they are not. Pick a poll, any poll, and look at the raw data and they have 30% support: that’s pathetic. It is only first past the post keeping them alive as a party. On those figures, 7/10 MPs ought to be from a different party. If MPs really were elected proportionately, then probably that 30% figure would fall off further as voters chose parties more tailored to their views. The big danger of the system we have is that it allows unpopular parties to cling on to power well after real support has drained away.

    The conservatives did well yesterday because they are mopping up UKIP votes. They have made a promise to the electorate that they will carry through Brexit and it will be a stonking success. Everyone will be freer and better off. It is just the same as Margaret Thatcher’s bounce for winning the Falkland’s war, or Galtieri’s hoped for bounce in starting it.

    On one level, success is success, but on another there is no substance behind it whatever. It is a pure gamble with the fate of the nation. Political dice throwing.

    The Uk political system prevents new parties and new views emerging. Brexit was a protest vote against conservative policies which are perceived by voters to have failed. Or call them New labour policies, because they are the same. Voters believed that in attacking the EU, somehow their lives will be better, but at best this is irrelevant. Conditons people live under are determines by the broad consensus on how to run a government, which has continued for decades both within the UK, the US and to a perhaps lesser extent, within Europe.

    I don’t know what Corbyn and Co. are planning, but if its revolution, then maybe they feel they are better off not being too explicit. The conservatives know that even a small party can be a more effective opposition if it is promoting significantly different policies, than a large party which espouses virtually the same thing.

  22. Danny

    “The Uk political system prevents new parties and new views emerging.”

    Well, it tries and succeeds up to a point. But sometimes, FPTP is a miserable failure in keeping the Establishment parties in power – and the system produces results diametrically opposite to the intention.

    Talking of which – I don’t know if Sadiq Khan is actually going to say at the SLab conference what the papers are trailing, but if he is actually going to say that supporting Scottish independence is “racist”, then so labelling so many of SLab’s former voters and around a quarter of their remnant ones, would seem an odd way to go about it!

    It could be an attempt to try to cauterise the haemorrhaging of votes from SLab to SCon, I suppose, but that would just demonstrate the very limited ambition of the Lab strategy.

  23. From the Brit Nat standpoint, dividing their vote between 3 parties is a really crap idea for the FPTP UK Parliament elections.

    Doesn’t matter for the Tories, of course. Their dominance of the dominant English polity means that they can largely do what they like.

    For ELab, the “strategy” seems suicidal.

  24. Mrs May’s (Happy) Dilemma

    The By Elections were catastrophic for Labour and pretty poor for UKIP. The Tories are now more dominant than they have been since the 1930s. Corbyn and his supporters have set their faces against learning a single thing from the results, and are certain to lose to the Tories in the next General Election, when it comes.

    The dilemma for Mrs May however is, does she call an election immediately after Article 50 is invoked in March and win with a large majority, which would give her a stronger hand to play in the Brexit negotiations? The big majority would allow her to push through more radical policies, such as banning strikes in transport and the public sector, scrapping excessively expensive final public sector pensions, and getting tougher control of over mighty Trade Union bosses. Or does she leave Corbyn swinging in the wind to rot?

    The latter option has its’ attractions for the Tories. If Corbyn carries on until 2020, he will leads Labour to certain catastrophic defeat. It might well be too late to ever save Labour, and it could be finished for good. The longer Corbyn is there the more institutionally rotted the Labour Party will become. In any event, a defeat of such magnitude in 2020, should guarantee the Tories power to till 2030.

    But what if Mrs May doesn’t call an election, immediately after Article 50 is invoked, and, following the Local Council Elections in May, where Labour might even lose Birmingham, Corbyn decides that he no longer has any more stomach for this, and goes of his own accord? Corbyn supporters are as self centred and self indulgent, and are willing to carry on until the Labour Party is totally ruined.

    But Corbyn’s own selfishness and self indulgence, might manifest itself in a different way and he might just throw in the towel, because can’t be bothered wasting his time on this hopeless cause any more. He and his supporters are sufficiently dishonest to say that they have had to give in because they have been ‘forced’ out.

    If Corbyn went, Labour would surely elect a far more suitable leader, and when the inevitable difficulties arise with Brexit in the run up to the 2020 election around late 2018 and 2019, Mrs May might start feeling pressure from a new competent Labour Leader.

    Mrs May shouldn’t risk losing the gift of having Corbyn as Labour Party Leader in a General Election.

    If I were Mrs May I would call an election immediately after Article 50 is invoked, and tell the country she needs the strongest mandate possible for the EU negotiations to come. Even with the Parliament Act, it’s still relatively easy for the Governing Party to engineer an election. With Corbyn still in place, Mrs May will surely win a big majority and be guaranteed power till 2022, which would take us beyond the worst of the uncertainty associated with Brexit, and leave her a shoe in to win again.

    Then she, or a younger Tory leader should be able to win yet again in 2027. By the time Labour has any chance at all in 2022, it would have been out of power for 22 years and it’s perfectly likely the Tories would win yet again.

    Thanks to Corbyn, his supporters, the SNP and the Brexit Vote, the Tories are now in an unassailable position with a real chance of destroying Labour for good. The only question is, which option gives them the biggest rewards.

    The best alternative for Mrs May however might be a third outcome. If the House of Lords is stupid enough to sabotage the Brexit legislation in the coming weeks, Mrs May can use that as the excuse for calling the election, win an enormous landslide, and get rid of the House of Lords, which is the sole repository of Lib Dem and elitist Labour influence, as well.

  25. Danny’s comment is absurd. FPTP does not enable unpopular parties to cling on to power. It enables the Party with the most votes, i.e. the most credible in the pubic eye, (or at LEAST the least incredible), to have a real chance of forming a Government on its’ own.

    In any case this feeble debate was decided in 2011 when the electorate rejected AV in the Referendum which in itself was pretty watered down version of PR. FPTR is plainly the system the electorate wants. So that, like Brexit, is the end of the matter.

    It’s Proportional Representation which enables unpopular parties to stay in power. You can’t get much more unpopular than the Lib Dems were in 2015 when the came FOURTH. But if we’d had PR they’d still be in Government and would be there solely owing to the dynamics of the relative perceived positions of the parties.

    Easily the most popular (or by far the least unpopular) party at the moment are the Tories. They are above 40% in most Polls, which considering the number of choices available is no mean achievement. They are on 44% according to the February 20th, Guardian Poll published on this very site. Their closest rivals in the mid twenty %, It’s not clear where Danny gets his 30% figure for the Tories from. And the swings to the Tories in Stoke and Copeland suggest a National figure of about 42%. This is an extraordinarily strong position for any Government.

    Neither is it true that PR prevents new parties gaining power. Tell that to the SNP. In fact tell it to UKIP as well. They’ve managed to achieve their single principle objective regardless of FPTP simply by exerting pressure through the electoral system and forcing the three main other parties, mostly the Tories, to promise the Referendum.

    The reason? UKIP had a policy which they pursued with total uncompromising clarity. Who knows knows (or cares) what the Lib Dems or Greens’ policies are? But if they had a single one which resonated with the public the way that Brexit did, they too would be able to achieve it. But they don’t.

    Ironically, the closest the Lib Dems came to such a policy was Tuition Fees. And when despite the FPTP system they achieved a PR style coalition they promptly abandoned it in exchange for Ministerial cars. There’s very little doubt they could have insisted upon it, as the price of the coalition if they’d wanted to, but in the end it became quite apparent that they have promised it solely to get votes. And that it was not a priority for them. As Nick Clegg said ‘We shouldn’t have promised it’.

    Incidentally it’s often forgotten that the Lib Dems were also in favour of holding the Brexit Referendum. But that of course, was when they thought it would gain them votes, and that it didn’t matter anyway because assumed they were going to win it.

    The perennial extraordinary conduct of the Lib Dems, is exactly what we would get year in year out under PR:- politicians making promises they have no intention of delivering, just so that they can get votes.

    FPTP is a sophisticated system which forces us to make proper choices. It allows the more responsible amongst us to choose between the rival electable parties which have a chance of winning in our constituency, and so have a reasonable chance of affecting the outcome. The parties themselves have to take into account the views of all voters otherwise they can’t get elected.

    It forces them to offer us two coalitions from which to choose and makes us think carefully about how best to achieve out priorities by us making the compromises in advance of the election, rather than abandoning it all to the political parties to sort out later.
    PR simply gives us a list of parties to choose from with no hope whatever of influencing who actually gets into power, or the policies the pursue. It emasculates us completely and puts the power solely in the hands of the party machines.

    No electoral system is perfect, but given the dynamics of the UK party system and the presence of two parties who are capable of winning power if they can put a credible programme and team of leaders before the electorate, FPTP is by far the best for us.

    To be blunt of we had PR, I doubt if I’d bother voting at all. What would be the point? We might just as well have an Opinion Poll.

  26. OldNat,

    “One of these parties called it PPP, the other PFI – but they were identical schemes.”

    I was under the impression that PFI was a subcategory of PPP, in which the private sector provides the finance. In contrast, you could have a PPP in which the private sector provided the service, but not the finance. So the permutations would be:

    (1) Public finance/public sector provision. (Fully state-run service.)

    (2) Partial or total private sector finance/partial or total public sector provision. (PFI.)

    (3) Public sector finance/private sector provision. (Non-PFI PPP.)

    (4) Private sector finance/private sector provision. (Where nothing ever, ever, ever is done inefficiently. :P .)

    A lot of the cases of PFI seem to have more to do with the private sector provision rather than the private sector finance. I’m no expert, but I don’t see why there’s much difference between the government (a) taxing/borrowing from the private sector through normal means and (b) borrowing through PFI, except that (b) is more opaque.

  27. Laszlo.

    It’s not failure to explain Corbyn’s policies which causes such hostility to him on the doorsteps when canvassers attempt persuade people to vote Labour. People understand perfectly well what Corbyn’s real beliefs are. He’s been telling us for the past forty years.

    Thus people in Copeland flatly refused to believe that he is now after campaigning all his life against Nuclear Power, Corbyn is suddenly in favour of it after all.

    It wasn’t just that they don’t agree with his real views on Nuclear. Just as with Brexit, they despise Corbyn’s dishonesty in trying to deny them.

    Corbyn has campaigned all his life against membership of the EEC and the EU, yet as soon as he gets elected Leader he claims to be in favour of it!! No one believes him.

    It’s the same with the NHS. Labour had a good local candidate, in Copeland with a good knowledge of the NHS, and had a strong opportunity to fight on the NHS, with regard to the local hospital. Yet Labour responded with the most offensive claims imaginable about ‘babies dying’ if you vote Tory.

    But people just don’t believe that Corbyn’s policies (whatever they are), will generate as much to spend on the NHS as the Tories spend, and that even if he did, he would spend it on rewarding the NHS Union Members, rather than spending it on patients. People know that 30% of the NHS Budget is spent on paying NHS pensions to people who no longer work in the NHS, many of whom are getting more in pensions that the patients are actually earning.

    Opinion Polls now show the Tories well ahead of Labour as the party which can best be trusted with the NHS.

    The one and only thing that Corbyn had going for him when he became Leader was his alleged ‘principles’. Yet becoming leader he has compromised every one of them so cack handedly that people see him as a liar. He would have been better off carrying on and losing with integrity rather than this.

    The difficulty with Corbyn and his supporters is that they have never had to persuade people to vote for them. All they have ever done is sit around agreeing with one another and making snide remarks about everyone else. That’s fine in their own narrow sectarian part of the Labour Party, but they have neither the leadership, soclal, or communication skills, nor the inclination to try to convert others.

    Converting voters to have trust in you requires leadership and the willingness to listen and make compromises. All Corbynites ever do is tell us how right they are and demand that everyone else agrees. Leadership is more than inventing policies and telling us. You then have to persuade us that you believe in them, persuade us to like the policies, that they will work will work, and that you are capable of implementing them. Corbyn doesn’t come anywhere reaching first base on any of these requirements,

    Another difficulty with these new Corbynite Labour members is that virtually none of them have any intention of actually doing anything to help achieve a Labour victory. You never see them canvassing or going to meet Working Class people to see what they think, and then being ready to make compromises. They seem to hate Working Class people because we are too vulgar and ‘right wing’.

    All they do is go on demos, vote in internal elections and publish Social Media comments abusing Non Corbynite Labour people and ‘The Tories. They appear to believe that you only have to utter the word ‘Tory’, will be and people converted in droves to Left Wing socialism.

    Following these measly self indulgent efforts they assume that the public will somehow come and vote like sheep for whatever ‘policy’ they’ve decided on.

    Some of these new ‘Corbynite’ Labour Members don’t even vote Labour. It’s not uncommon to hear that they are voting Green or Lib Dem because the Labour Party candidate is not to their taste. Yet they despise the Working Class people who’ve been voting Labour for years and the Non Corbynite loyal Labour activists, councillors and MPs, who are going out and still canvassing for them.

    This is a recipe for the total destruction of the Labour Party.

    This ‘enthused’ membership who’ve joined the Labour Party are alien to Non Metropolitan (and many Metropolitan) voters. Yet they’ve all joined up and assume that all they have to do is elect Corbyn as leader and the people they’ve ousted will go out and win the elections for them and that Labour voters who have completely different attitudes to them, will just carrying on voting Labour. But these voters will not!

    If these people wanted to set up a Corbynite political party, they should have all got together and set one up, with Corbryn as leader, not all joined the Labour Party and assumed that Labour voters will just accept them.

    All they’re doing is destroying the Labour Party without creating anything else instead.


    Two great posts. The best contribution to UKPR Blog I have read for ages.


  29. LASZLO

    @”I was supportive of Corbyn in both of his leadership election campaign, because I do think that there is a room for a social democratic platform in Britain”

    @”He could have used his authority for a,chistka (cleansing- but it is my pet thing.”

    That someone from the Political Left can make these two statements together in the same opinion confirms everything I believe about that political persuasion.

  30. re: PFI

    They are closing hospitals in my neck of the woods. Only one is guaranteed to remain in business: the one paid for with PFI. They can’t afford to close it.

    PFI – Please Forget It

  31. PFI – invented by the Tories, unfairly classified as a disaster by the left, quite a good idea if done properly, but very silly to use it with private finance. The entire point should have been to use low cost government borrowing while transfering all the risk to the private sector.

    Many PFI’s have worked well, others have not. Edinburgh schools have walls falling apart, thanks to some really bad design and build work. Under conventional funding, Scottish taxpayers would now be facing very big repair bills. Under PFI. the repairs will be made at no cost to he taxpayer.

    I’m with @Guymonde on this – not perfect, but please do look at what PFI helped provide us with, and take a much more reasoned view of the true results, rather than adopt a simplistic and partisan stance.

  32. Good morning all from a blustery and mild rural Hampshire.


    “If I were Mrs May I would call an election immediately after Article 50 is invoked, and tell the country she needs the strongest mandate possible for the EU negotiations to come. Even with the Parliament Act, it’s still relatively easy for the Governing Party to engineer an election. With Corbyn still in place, Mrs May will surely win a big majority and be guaranteed power till 2022, which would take us beyond the worst of the uncertainty associated with Brexit, and leave her a shoe in to win again”

    Several months back I would have been aginst an early GE for the simple reason of getting on with Brexit. Fast forward to the present day I’m now hoping TM calls an election after A50 has been triggered.

    Brexit is such as momentous issue and I doubt her majority of 13 is strong enough to withstand the wrecking ball of the re moaners in parliament. The constant barriers being put up from the opposition and a few within her own party to frustrate Brexit is a good enough reason for her to go the country to seek a mandate.

    It would also be the perfect opportunity for her to put the Lords out of its decrepit misery by ensuring her new manifesto includes legislation to reform the unelected House of Lords which is far too Liberal-ish in nature.

    The rest of your comments on Labour and your other post on FPTP….I’m sort of 50/50 with you on them. Labour are down and out for at least the next decade, no party stays in government for ever and voters do get fed up with the same old same old and as for FPTP, well as long as no single party takes parliament for granted and understands that the majority of the country may not have voted for them and takes this into consideration when putting through legislation then I might be won over by FPTP…but for now the jury’s still out.

  33. @Oldnat

    “I’m not sure why you are introducing a Tory/Labour aspect into the discussion on PPP/PFI.”

    I’m not. Just making the political point that it makes sense for the Tories to use it as a stick to beat Labour with because it is the classic squirrel: the NHS is falling apart because of a lack of funding for Health and/or social care. Look! a PFI
    It makes absolutely no sense for Labour elements to use it as a stick to beat Blair/Brown, but they are determined to do so, perhaps because discrediting Blair/Brown is far more of an objective than taking on the Tories.

  34. PFI = ripoff

    Build a school for £10 million and over the next 20 years, the taxpayers have to pay in excess of £50 million!!

    Short term gain for long term gain = ripoff.

  35. #Short term gain for long term (PAIN)

  36. Ronald Olden,
    The 40-44% conservative scores are achieved only after discounting people who say they will not vote for one reason or another. The actual percentages saying they support conservative have been much more static around 30%. The tables showing slowly rising conservative percentage share in reality show pretty static support for the conservatives but more people moving to ‘dont know’. In other words, the total which is growing steadily is that of people dissatisfied with every party.

  37. Poll alert poll alert….Times poll

    Cons..41% (up1)

    Labour..25% (up1)

    UKIP..3% (-2)

    Lib/Dem.11% (-)

  38. Sleeping overnight on the reaction to yesterdays results and I think it actually looks worse for Corbyn this morning.

    The line apparently pushed by Corbyn and his team seems to be essentially that it’s nothing to do with him, which is simply unacceptable. It also comes across as extraordinarily arrogant and complacent.

    This isn’t to say that Copeland was all his fault, or even partly his fault – it’s just that he is the leader, and so at least he should make some soothing noises about understanding the message, everyone taking responsibility etc etc. In contrast, the response from his internal opponents has been (so far) remarkably muted, given the savage blow that this represents.

    The messaging yesterday was, once again, truly awful as well. Apart from the appearance of blind denial and outright arrogance, Corbyn seemed to just get everything wrong. It’s like he wrote his speeches before the result on the basis of winning both seats, but then blindly carried on regardless.

    On Stoke, he said – “You shouldn’t underestimate the defeat for Ukip in a city they began to call their own. It is a very significant turning point in British politics…..,”

    This is simply delusional. UKIP only entertained any thoughts of winning Stoke because of Corbyn, and have a solitary councilor on Stoke council. UKIP are nowhere in the city.

    Then on Copeland, the somewhat glib statement – “….I was elected to lead this party to oppose austerity and to oppose redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction, which is what this government is doing. We will continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care and on housing,….” fails to grasp the fact that this is just what Labour did, and then suffered a huge swing against them.

    I think that up to Thursday, Corbyn supporters were able to point to a huge boost to the membership plus some contradictory election results that were not as bad as some made out. Despite having lost vote share in every parliamentary by election this parliament they held all their own seats, and last year’s locals weren’t too bad, even if the polls look grim.

    Now, Corbyn has banked a truly awful electoral defeat, and looks set to preside over a further disaster in May. It’s no surprise that more and more of his supporters are now pondering whether they made the right call, and I suspect that the penny is finally dropping within large chinks of the union movement, but the party leadership seems to be cast in a North Korean type mould, believing only in themselves and subverting all contrary evidence.

  39. AW “The constituency itself will also normally have its own local ideosyncracities that mean it can’t just be read as if it is a microcosm of Britain as a whole. ”


    Which is why I’ve taken a longer term view, and aggregated results of all 9 by-elections since the GE 2015 (excluding Batley, with its very special circumstances).

    By my calculations, this shows:

    LD are the only party to have increased its total ballots cast (unusually for by-elections) – by 57%
    LD are the only party to have increased its share of vote – going from 6.7% to 116.6%.

    The greatest decline in ballots cast, was for the Greens. As others have noted about this weeks elections, they’re very much in the doldrums, with some support drifting off to either hard left Labour, or to a reviving LD.

    Overall, the Conservatives have lost more share than Labour Witney . In part this is a distortion reflecting the exceptional circumstances of Richmond Park, but there was also a big decline for Cons in Witney. As AW writes in his post, every by-election has its own set of exceptional circumstances.

    (I’ll be posting a link to my figures and graphs later – once I’ve given them a once-over to check).


    I am in fully in agreement with Colin when he says “Two great posts. The best contribution to UKPR Blog I have read for ages.”

    I think your defence of FPTP in your second post goes right to the heart of the matter. I have always strongly supported FPTP as by far the best method for the UK.

    Great stuff, well done

  41. @Ronald

    I’m afraid Danny is largely right. FPTP (and a media stranglehold) has allowed the Tories to become a kind of Default Party, and too many voters see the choice as between Tories and whichever flavour of Not Tories are available. The idea that FPTP ‘forces us to make proper choices’ is currently wishful thinking by Conservatives who like the idea that their party support is the only rational one.

    At present this just about holds together because they are not pigging up the main political issue of the day.

    But people are increasingly unhappy with their handling of health, education, social care, the environment and transport to name a few, and the number of people -especially the young – who feel they’re unrepresented by the current political status quo is remarkable and alarming.

    If Brexit goes bad – and the chances are too high for anyone to be complacent – things could get bad, quickly. Nobody wants to think about this. Tories don’t want to because deep down they know a really bad Brexit could just smash the party – and don’t think it couldn’t. Labour don’t want to contemplate the idea that a Tory collapse wouldn’t benefit them. Everybody is frightened of the possibility of Brexit bringing civil and social disorder except the foolish Farage who seems blithely unaware that he is one of the individuals in greatest personal danger if this happens.

  42. Alec,
    “The line apparently pushed by Corbyn and his team seems to be essentially that it’s nothing to do with him”

    Well ‘nothing’ is a bit strong, but I keep posting that labour has been in electoral decline since the first Blair government. I imagine those of the Corbyn faction would argue that in Thatcher’s time the labour left were defeated. Blair arose, but in reality only because of hatred of the tories, not for love of his policies. Voters then became disillusioned with Blair also. So the argument would be, voters do not like the tories – obviously, or they would have a big majority. Voters do not like New Labour. So try something different.

    They would continue that the parliamentary labour party remains totally at odds with Corbyn and the members. He has hardly had a chance. I would add that the revolt against their own leader likely cost labour more than accepting him and working with him constructively would have done. Labour have simply played into conservative hands agreeing that they are an unelectable party with a leader they would not wish to see as PM.

    Part of the explanation of support for UKIP is detestation of all the established parties. We saw this before, with the rise and fall of the libs two elections ago.

  43. I’d add. I dont see this ending well either. Vote lib and you got conservative. So people tried UKIP…and got conservative.

    We wait to see whether Brexit will benefit the nation more than 50 liberal MPs did.

  44. In this report on PFI , from 2015:-

    …is this quote-which kind of sums up the Alice in Wonderland world of PFI “Off Balance Sheet Borrowing” Theory :-

    “An NAO briefing, released last month, says: “In the short term using private finance will reduce reported public spending and government debt figures.” But, longer term, “additional public spending will be required to repay the debt and interest of the original investment”.”


    Clearly we don’t agree about FPTP, leaving that aside i was very surprised by this comment of yours.

    “Farage who seems blithely unaware that he is one of the individuals in greatest personal danger if this happens.”

    Well actually he has been saying in recent days that he is scared to leave his house. No doubt “tongue in cheek” but he is aware he is very unpopular in some quarters.

    I agree there is a lot of fear that Brexit could go badly wrong, and it is a possibility I accept. However even then I suspect the Tory party would survive and rebuild itself. It has amazing tenacity, driven by a desire for power.

  46. There is an interesting parallel to Labour’s problems across the channel:- The implosion of the French Socialists under Hollande.

    …..from which has emerged a young centre left Presidential Candidate , with a new party & no MPs-who looks like he is headed for the Elysee Palace.


  47. It’s actually a bit worse than I thought. I’ve just discovered that Corbyn said that Copeland voting for a Conservative MP was because people were unhappy with the political establishment.

  48. Graham

    Further to our discussions on where the parties really stand which we have from time to time. I see Prof Curtice was saying yesterday that the Tories would have a majority of 96 based on recent polls and actual figures from the by-elections. If there was an election tomorrow he would expect the Tories to take 40 seats directly from Labour.

  49. I have acquired a Conservative mole who passed on this message today from Patrick McLoughlin

    “Help us keep up the momentum and build a country that works for everyone – please donate today. ”

    He doesn’t really mean that donations go to Momentum. Does he?

  50. @Colin – I do think that this issue is at the heart of the many PFI problems. The point of PFI should have been purely and simply to negotiate for a lifetime build and service costs for facilities, getting both good value and no risk to the taxpayer. If this had been done using the traditional routes to finance government expenditure, then I suspect we would not be seeing half as much criticism now.

    In reality, the entire point of PFI was twisted around into one of financial fixing, where instead of cheap government finance being used, the whole approach was for PFI contractors to riase their own private finance and include the charges in the overall contract. It’s the use of expensive private finance that is the ridiculous element here, all so sucessive chancellors can boast about the deficit levels.

1 2 3 4 5 19