Thursday 28 November 2019

Emergency! Danger!

I was going to write about Corbyn damaged but, otherwise, has presented himself and the Labour Party quite well, that Swinson had recovered from her Leaders' Question Time low point but this recovery is qualified by lack of media reach, and Johnson has gone for safety first and whose reputation is beginning to have impact.

But, forget all that. The YouGov poll is a wake up call to optimists. It predicts what I was beginning to think in Scotland, but throughout the UK.

I thought in Scotland that the Conservatives would resist better than we expected and, as the Scottish National Party progressed, it would be Labour that would be squeezed.

It seems that, according to the YouGov poll of 100,000, this is so across the UK and, not only that but the Liberal Democrat experience of disappointment isgoing to be repeated. I could have written about the latter, and now it seems the indicators are this could well be so.

YouGov predicts: Conservatives 359, Labour 211, SNP 43, Liberal Democrats 13, Plaid Cymru 4, Green 1. However, there is a margin of error that leads to the Conservatives having a majority of one to a landslide - 328 to 385 for the Tories.

The Brexit Party burst its own tyres weeks back, and now they have deflated completely. They could still deprive the Tories of some eight seats, but utter collapse improves the Tories further. The view that it was the party to take on Labour seats seems now to be fading away, and the Leave vote will give itself to Johnson's Conservatives. The squeeze on all others will lead to Labour having Michael Foot 1983 numbers of MPs and this when the Tories haven't just won the Falklands War.

The Remain Alliance is likely to fail completely. Defectors to the Liberal Democrats won't win unless local factors operate. In essence, the unity of the leave vote and the weakness of Labour lead to this likely Tory majority result. The Liberal Democrats simply cannot organise the remain votes to itself, not unless it takes from an even weaker Labour and that means a bigger Tory majority.

I take the view that half a loaf is better than none, but we are up against a Labour Party that thinks if ideological purity is not possible then we may as well have the Tories. It is this logic that leads to us having the Tories.

We have two weeks to turn this around. It needs dedicated 'least worst' voting in every constituency with a marginal flavour. I notice that even once safe Labour East Hull, my constituency, is at risk of a Tory win - not Liberal Democrat - and this means I may have to swallow hard and hold my nose. It is a likely Labour win, but it used to be rock solid.

Friday 22 November 2019

Liberal Democrats Need to Regather

I watched the two hours of four leaders meeting an audience. Now, to be clear, I am Liberal Democrat and support the revoke policy. But there is no doubt that the worst performance on that programme was that of Jo Swinson. More than that, I could see it coming. It was coming because Corbyn was matter of fact and played a straight bat, and then Nicola Sturgeon showed her skill derived from being First Minister, answering questions and even creating some room for some teasers about what Corbyn would and would not expect if ending austerity and promoting the public sector was his priority. I could foresee Johnson in some trouble as well, which he was but then had cheering supporters.

Jo Swinson will not get this policy understood if she doesn't do a Jonathan Sumption (the ex-Supreme Court Judge) and point out that a referendum is no more than an opinion snapshot and is not a part of the British Constitution, that no government or House of Commons can bind another, and a General Election is the opportunity for a party to make its manifesto promise. Instead, she was forced on to the back foot.

But her other weakness is her voting record in the coalition, for which the Liberal Democrats will get punished. For that she should promote government discipline, and contrast it with what has been missing this last three years, and that arguments were made in government, agreed, and then delivered. She can say a lot was regretted, but the necessity was for certainty in government at a difficult time. Failure to say this makes her look like a charlatan - and she looked like a charlatan in the programme.

Visuals matter, and Johnson didn't look good, but his waffles and defensiveness was not good either. The cheers of the crowd did not bail him out. The main result of his appearance was not his policies but the dodginess of his character and how he expresses himself.

There is no doubt, therefore, that Jeremy Corbyn continues to have a good General Election. He did it last time in 2017 through rallies and 'momentum' (to use a word) but now he is doing it by having a strong policy thrust. The Liberal Democrats manifesto launch was overshadowed by other news.

To describe The Tories and Brexit Party as having a 'stitch up' is to open the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru to the same charge. The reason Swinson as less likely to be a PM is not the Brexit Party retreat but lack of impact of the Liberal Democrat campaign.

I receive many Liberal Democrat emails, but they cannot deny that they are having a rough election so far. They need not to change the revoke policy, but change how it is defended and where the second referendum policy fits into that. It is the case that a Liberal Democrat majority government would be such a seismic change that it would be the equivalent of a second referendum.

I'm not over worried at this point. That Labour is doing much better helps defend it against shirnkage, and it doesn't follow that the Liberal Democrats are less able to take Tory votes. Towards the end, Swinson made that point quite well. (She also made the anti-semitism accusation over Labour well.) So the result of the present moment could be better in terms of avoiding a Tory majority. But the Liberal Democrats need to gather round and sort this out fast; it needs something of a relaunch without it quite being a relaunch.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

A Month to Go: How Goes It?

I thought the initial General Election launch was good for Labour: straight out of the traps with policy announcements. The Tories were a bit of a mess in comparison, and then the Liberal Democrats somewhat disappeared in the national media.

Since then, Labour was slightly derailed by some of its past personnel, and the Tories continued to have accidents. The Liberal Democrats emerged with its revoke position and a few policies, such as mental health. At this point Labour had more to vote for, because it painted the broader brush. The Tories were incredulous regarding their offerings, and we'd sort of heard them before.

The press thus did its duty, putting out Tory HQ propaganda, e.g. on Labour's spending cost. I increasingly object to television 'reviewing' the press, because the press is simply biased from top to bottom. Broadcasters have a duty of balance, and the Sky Press Preview, for example, treats stories as something worth talking about when they are propaganda and misinformation.

So we had accidents and skirmishes, but the big event at the end of the beginning was The Grand Old Duke of York, Nigel Farage, deflating the tyres of his own lacklustre troops and marching them down again. In this one-man party, he decides - or rather he and President Donald Trump of the United States. He won't stand in 317 Conservative held seats, unilaterally (we are told). This has a number of interesting effects, and why the Tory press has come out with the fed message to stand down in them all.

This is a General Election to be fought constituency by constituency. Farage's intention is for Labour voters to (more likely) vote Brexit Party than Conservative, and thus undermine Labour seats. But it means the Conservatives less likely to win such seats, even if Brexit can focus more on Labour.

And then some Labour voters, who saw Brexit as an alternative party from the Conservatives, might regard Brexit as (obvious to the rest of us) a right wing party. So the resistance to vote Tory might translate to Brexit, with its Trump association and its likely impact on the United Kingdom. However, militant brexiteers won't be affected: they'll vote Brexit or Tory.

It doesn't affect the Liberal Democrats: in fact it improves their position. This is because Conservative 'soft remain' voters will realise that the party is now compatible with the Brexit Party. They are likely to take behaviour from MPs who left the Conservatives for the Liberal Democrats.

It does not follow, even with Farage's help, that the Conservatives can maintain their 317 seats. The Liberal Democrats can chip away at some of those votes, either to their own advantage or to let Labour in. This is why the Tory right and press want Farage to stand down: because the impact of his action to make Trump happy is more limited than people may think.

Liberal Democrats = unaffected, may even benefit
Labour = will be squeezed, but Brexit becomes Conservative associated. It means even more Labour should promote a broad agenda for this electorate.

The Remain Alliance is a formal version of redirecting votes prior to Farage's climbdown, but the Alliance is likely to have minimal effect I'd think, even if it does cover sixty seats. The Remain Alliance may help the Liberal Democrats if there is a Green-leaning Climate Emergency vote: Labour is making a big effort on that as part of its headlines of broader concerns.

Johnson's reputation is failing. The MPs Russia report was frozen, probably because the Tory party is funded by rich Russians, these of Russians who killed in Britain. Johnson looked a comparative mess at the Cenotaph, but of course he wasn't Michael Foot. He's had to follow, not lead, over the flooding in Yorkshire. His reputation as a political liar is growing. He actually shields Corbyn in this: and, indeed, Corbyn has never made any racist statements in his life but Johnson has. How much this matters we don't know. Many Labour voters will withhold their votes with Corbyn as leader, but a lot of that is the drip drip of the press and the nature of the more right wing Labour voter, the one that surfaced as a result of the European Union membership referendum.

Also some people think that Parliament wasn't working before - the fact that it kept holding the Government to account seems to be lost in this. It was Government that was continually crass in how it approached matters through the May and Johnson years.

Furthermore, Scotland is another country and Wales is beginning the think differently, such that Wales is more of a mystery now.

There is a month to go from today's date to polling - four weeks and two days. It must be a possibility that the Brexit Party will stand down from more seats as its vote diminishes. Its decision so far, and any further, will also sharpen the minds of the other sides, whether Labour or the clearer Remain parties. There'll be much less complacency that the other side will split its vote. It is too early to predict trends, but Labour are campaigning better than the Conservatives and could pick up support, and we still do not yet know whether the Liberal Democrats will make real inroads using its database and constituencies focus or get squeezed again as the campaign pans out. If it is a 'Brexit' General Election then the Liberal Democrats should do well, but it may be otherwise.