A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Local Labour Roundup 2

On an initiative from Theo Blackwell local councillors and campaigners on the blogosphere are running up a ‘Local-Labour’ blog-roundup. This aims to highlight local stories by Labour councillors or campaigners from across the country, or examples of poor policymaking by Conservative or Lib Dems or the SNP in power.

The second edition of this falls to me to produce, so here's my roundup of the best local stories of the last couple of weeks:

Theo himself thinks Ken's Progressive London conference should feature some local government voices.

Ewan Aitken reports on an eight hour long Edinburgh City Council meeting where the SNP and Lib Dems cut funding for voluntary groups and tried to silence objectors to this.

Darlington Councillor Nick Wallis has a good example of how ASBOs work and why they are necessary.

Phil Dilks is shocked to hear that Lincolnshire County Council's review into a case of serious child abuse may not be made public.

Labour Councillors in Lambeth’s Larkhall Ward are campaigning to get residents to cut down on the amount of food they needlessly throw away and to recycle this Christmas trees.

Nigel Knowles reveals that Worcestershire has not really been set alight by the debate about Elected Mayors.

Geoff Lumley looks at the impact of Labour choosing not to field a candidate in an Isle of Wight by-election.

And Louise Baldock has the latest Lib Dem scandal from Liverpool.

If you have any good local posts about what's going on in your area send them to: local_labourblog@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, December 22, 2008

Predictions for 2009

My work colleague Ewan Watt has tagged me to make some predictions for 2009, so here goes, though mine are more of the nature of random guesses and in some cases, wildly optimistic hopes:

  • Labour will narrowly win the Seven Sisters Ward by-election in Haringey on 15 January.
  • Labour will win the Stoke Newington Central Ward by-election in Hackney on 29 January with a swing from Green to Labour. (this bullet point Promoted by Luke Akehurst of Flat 1, 8 Beatty Road, London, N16 8EB on behalf of Louisa Thomson of 81A Farleigh Road, London, N16 7TD. Hosted (printed) by Blogger.com (Google Inc) of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043 who are not responsible for any of the contents of this post).
  • The Unite/Amicus General Secretary election will be a photo-finish between Kevin Coyne and incumbent Derek Simpson.
  • I will throw myself into contesting a parliamentary selection somewhere, the laws of probability meaning that there must be somewhere I'm keen to stand that isn't an All Women Shortlist.
  • There won't be a General Election in the first quarter of the year.
  • But Labour will edge narrowly ahead in the polls by March.
  • The General Election will be called to coincide with the 4 June Euro Elections - why allow these to happen as stand-alones when they are usually a bad news story for Labour?
  • Labour will emerge as either the largest party in a hung parliament, or with a very narrow overall majority.
  • Labour will make against the tide parliamentary gains in Blaenau Gwent, Bethnal Green & Bow, Manchester Withington, Rochdale and Hornsey & Wood Green.
  • The BNP will win MEPs in a couple of larger regions in the Euro Elections, the results of which aren't declared until the Sunday after the General Election - but fewer than they would have got if the elections had been held separately from the GE and had a lower turnout.
  • Peter Hain and David Blunkett will return to Government.
  • Compass will attack Labour's fourth victory as further evidence of Brown selling-out.
  • All three political parties will end 2009 with the same leaders they started with.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Council By-Election Results

Last night's council by-election results. Some real cliffhangers:

Kells & Sandwith Ward, Cumbria CC. Lab hold. Lab 434 (41.7%, -24.2), BNP 418 (40.1%, +40.1), Con 190 (18.2%, +1.3). Swing of 32.3% from Lab to BNP since 2005.

Thrapston Lakes Ward, E Northants DC. Con hold. Con 475 (63.9%, +3.9), Lab 168 (22.3%, +22.3), UKIP 111 (14.7, -26.2). Swing of 9.2% from Con to Lab since 2007.

Newchurch Ward, Isle of Wight UA. LD gain from Con. LD 389 (39.7%, +39.7), Con 377 (38.5%, -8), Ind 213 (21.8%, +9.4). Swing of 23.9% from Con to LD.

Weston Super Mare Clarence & Uphill Ward, N Somerset UA. Con hold on drawing of lots! Con 477 (27.5%, -33.6), Ind 477 (27.5%, +27.5), LD 421 (24.3%, -4.1), Ind 228 (13.1%, +13.1), Lab 132 (7.6%, -2.9). Swing of 30.6% from Con to Ind since 2007.

Ibstock & Heather Ward, NW Leics DC. Con hold. Con 660 (31.5%, +8.7), BNP 647 (30.9%, +2.7), Lab 614 (29.3%, -1.6), LD 174 (8.3%, -9.9). Swing of 3% from BNP to Con since by-election in January this year.

Glyncoch Ward, Rhondda Cynon Taff BC. Lab hold. Lab 217 (50.5%, -17.7), Ind 143 (33.3%, +33.3), Plaid 47 (10.9%, -20.8), Communist 12 (2.8%, +2.8), Con 11 (2.6%, +2.6). Swing of 25.5% from Lab to Ind since May 2008.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Interesting innovation - a site where you can follow all the MPs on Twitter: http://tweetminster.co.uk/

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Misdirected begging bowls

I've just had another email from Compass:

"Dear Compass member/supporter [I'm neither!]

I'm writing to ask for your urgent support to help provide the extra resources we badly need to make real change happen.Please show your solidarity to Compass by setting up a regular donation.

We need your support to successfully make the case for a radical progressive agenda by providing us with much needed financial support. Our aim is to raise £15,000 by the New Year to fund a new post in order to increase our organisational capacity in 2009 and add to our small team of just two.

Please donate now. If only 300 people give just £50 each we will reach our target. Compass may not have rich millionaire donors, but we have got you! If we reach our target think how proud we can all feel going away for Christmas and then start the New Year with a spring in our step."

Or alternatively, instead of finding £15k to damage Labour's chances of re-election by organising against its Leadership, engaging in collective navel-gazing conferences and promoting vote-losing policies, 300 people could give £50 each to their local CLP where it will be spent on leaflets that might actually persuade people to vote Labour.

Historic relic or prediction?

As mentioned by Harriet Harman at PMQs:


"The Rt Hon William Hague MP
Leader of the Conservative Party"

NEC Turnout and membership size

A couple of commenters below have asked what the NEC Results say about size of CLPs, and turnout.

You can work out average CLP size from the published data in the Labour Party NEC Report - it's no great secret that it down to about 38% of what it was in 1997, but seems to have bottomed out. The relative size of CLPs to each other seems to be consistent though, as this list of the 20 largest CLPs is almost identical to lists I saw when I worked for the Party in the mid-90s - just that each of them is about 500 members smaller:

Ealing Southall CLP
North Ayrshire & Arran CLP
Bethnal Green & Bow CLP
Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Hornsey & Wood Green CLP
Feltham & Heston CLP
Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Islington North CLP
Dulwich & West Norwood CLP
Brentford & Isleworth CLP
Camberwell & Peckham CLP
Streatham CLP
Garston & Halewood CLP
Greenwich & Woolwich CLP
Derby South CLP
Nottingham East CLP
Cambridge CLP
Vauxhall CLP
Brighton Pavilion CLP
Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP

The patterns behind these pockets of very high membership are mainly obvious: a cluster of three in West London with Sikh and/or Hindu mass membership; the equivalent large Muslim membership in Bethnal Green & Bow; Derby S I think is also driven by a large ethnic minority membership; two where I think the driver is people joining through NULSC (i.e. Labour social clubs) - North Ayrshire and Garston; a cluster of 5 neighbouring seats in the Guardian-reading belt of liberal North London; the mirror image cluster of 4 in South London. Brighton and Cambridge are the equivalent areas outside London. I can never remember whether social clubs are a factor in Greenwich & Woolwich but it has been in the 20 largest CLPs since individual membership came in in 1918 - I think Greenwich had the first full-time Agent in the country, pre-WW1, and pioneered individual membership when in the rest of the country you had to join through a union, the ILP, or the Fabians. Nottingham East I don't know about, can anyone explain?

I won't name the 20 smallest CLPs but the pattern is obvious in that they are all in largely rural/agricultural areas: eight in rural Scotland, two in rural Wales, three in the far south west and the others scattered across the south.

As for turnout in the NEC elections it was just under 20% nationally, ranging from a high of 43% down to 8%. The highest turnouts were mainly in small CLPs, the lowest in very large ones where the members have joined to get entry to a social club or vote in council selections rather than because of a passionate interest in the relative fortunes of the Grassroots Alliance or Labour First. I was pleased to note that both the CLPs I have been parliamentary candidate for (Aldershot and Castle Point) were in the 20 highest turnouts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where's Rich when you need a comment from him?

Commenter Rich has repeated a mantra for well over a year that Labour is doomed.

I'd like to give him the opportunity to respond to the most recent 5 opinion polls:

ICM - Con 38% (-7%), Lab 33% (+3%)
MORI - Con 41% (-2%), Lab 36% (+4%)
YouGov - Con 41% (+1%), Lab 35% (-1%)
ComRes - Con 37% (-), Lab 36% (-)
Populus - Con 39% (-2%), Lab 35% (-)

What's going on Rich, are the voters suffering from false consciousness? Because these look to me like the kind of scores that, 18 months away from an election, point to a victory for the incumbent Government.

Labour's most leftwing and most moderate CLPs

One for the Labour internal election trainspotters.

If you know where to look you can read the CLP by CLP detail of this year's one-member-one-vote NEC results.

I've done a bit of analysis to produce league tables based on the aggregrate level of % support for the left's Grassroots Alliance slate.

The sensible 20 least "left" CLPs (worst result for the GRA first):

Salford & Eccles CLP (home constituency of candidate Peter Wheeler)
Ealing Southall CLP (home constituency of candidate Sonika Nirwal - also the largest CLP in the UK)
Orkney CLP (admittedly not a huge sample size!)
West Bromwich West CLP
Warley CLP
Ipswich CLP
Glasgow South CLP (well done Tom Harris MP)
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East CLP
Northern Ireland Members
Pendle CLP (home constituency of candidate Azhar Ali)
Rossendale & Darwen CLP (I think this is in the same local authority as Pendle)
East Renfrewshire CLP
Bury South CLP
Liverpool Riverside CLP
Oldham E & Saddleworth CLP
Chelmsford CLP
Old Southwark & Bermondsey CLP
Cheltenham CLP (must be the Brian Hughes effect)
Gainsborough CLP
Clwyd South CLP

And the 20 most supportive of the left slate were (best result for GRA first):
Hereford and South Herefordshire CLP
North Herefordshire CLP
Rochford and Southend East CLP
Stourbridge CLP
Shetland CLP
Bournemouth West CLP
Orpington CLP
East Devon CLP
Newport West CLP
Tatton CLP
New Forest East CLP
Wantage CLP
Bristol East CLP (the Benn factor still in evidence 25 years after he lost the seat?)
Shrewsbury and Atcham CLP
Mid Worcestershire CLP
Broxbourne CLP
Chingford & Woodford Green CLP
Nottingham South CLP (constituency of GRA candidate Christine Shawcroft)
Southend West CLP
Wrexham CLP

Interestingly only 5 of the 20 most pro-GRA CLPs are Labour-held, as opposed to 14 of the 20 who backed the left least.

My own home patch of Hackney was mid-table but in the more moderate half - Hackney North was 405th of 635 CLPs for the left, Hackney South 426th.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Canvassing in SNC

Me and the team (or 1/4 of it) canvassing in the rain in Stoke Newington Central Ward on Saturday:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ComRes was not a rogue

Lots of Tories wrote off the last ComRes opinion poll - the one showing a 1% Tory lead - as a rogue. Looks like they were wrong as a new ComRes poll tonight shows almost exactly the same figures - Con 37% (unchanged), Lab 36% (unchanged) and LDs 14% (-3%) - which would deliver a Commons majority of about 20 for Labour.

This all seems to tally up with what I'm finding as Agent in a council by-election in a marginal ward at the moment (albeit a Lab vs Green marginal). The seat in question is a mix of two different types of what have historically been core Labour territory - very ethnically mixed streets with some council estates, and then an area of "Guardian-reader" territory (I live there and I read the Guardian!). I've inputted canvass data from about 10% of the electors in the ward recently and it all shows either our core vote holding up or previous undecideds and supporters of other parties moving in our direction. On the estate we hit today a team of 8 of us working for two hours failed to find anyone admitting to supporting another party.

I'm not saying that the final result will reflect that, but for now at least the picture seems to be Labour supporters rallying round the flag.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Council By-election Results

Last night's council by-election results:

Ballochmyle Ward, East Ayrshire UA. Lab hold. First prefs: Lab 1598 (47.9%, -3.7), SNP 1129 (33.8%, +3.8), Con 273 (8.2%, -1), Solidarity 243 (7.3%, +7.3), LD 93 (2.8%, +2.8). Swing of 3.8% from Lab to SNP since 2007.

Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary Ward, Fenland DC. Con hold. Con 512 (50.1%, -11.7), LD 208 (20.4%, +17.1), Lab 190 (18.6%, +0.3), Green 111 (10.9%, +10.9). Swing of 14.4% from Con to LD since April 2008 by-election.

Northwood Ward, LB Hillingdon. Con hold. Con 1216 (64.4%, -1.1), LD 466 (24.7%, +3.8), Lab 116 (6.1%, +6.1), Green 66 (3.5%, +3.5), NF 25 (1.3%, +1.3). Swing of 2.5% from Con to LD since 2006.

Clipstone Ward, Newark & Sherwood DC. Lab gain from Ind. Lab 326 (43.4%, +7.3), LD 216 (28.8%, +28.8), Ind 157 (20.9%, -22.3), Con 52 (6.9%, -13.8). Swing of 10.8% from Lab to LD since 2007.

Kilbirnie & Beith Ward, North Ayrshire UA. SNP hold. First prefs: SNP 1363 (48.9%, +25.5), Lab 939 (33.7%, -4.4), Con 322 (11.6%, +1.7), LD 94 (3.4%, +0.1), Soc Lab 68 (2.4%, +2.4). Swing of 15% from Lab to SNP since 2007 due to several independent candidates not being in the field this time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The toughest job in local government?

My friend Claire Kober has drawn the short straw and been elected as Leader of Haringey Council last night.

This means the buck will stop with her for turning round the faults in Haringey's social services identified in last week's OFSTED report, and ensuring that Haringey Council does not allow another horrific tragedy like the Baby P case to take place.

I hope she is successful in leading Haringey to a position where its children's services ensure that all the children in the borough get the protection they need.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Boris assessed

The G2 section of the Guardian has an interesting assessment of Boris' mayoralty so far:



"Johnson may need a lot of help. Even now, his popularity as mayor could be more apparent than real: astonishingly it has yet to be measured in an opinion poll. And Londoners can quickly tire of their leaders. Just off Tottenham Court Road in the centre of the city, there is a faded mural. It is a rather bleak panorama of London life, painted in 1980: traffic, cranes, dark pubs, grey-faced people. High up in the picture, presiding over the near-chaos, is a flamboyant Tory politician who has been viciously caricatured, as a red-eyed, bow-tied vampire. It is Horace Cutler, the Boris Johnson of his day.

Cutler's administration took office in 1977, governed London with flair, and then ran into a recession and a country-wide revolt against the Conservatives. The year after the mural went up, the Cutler regime was voted out. He soon left politics to pursue other interests."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tory pomposity and overstatement

Listening to the current range of Tory interventions in the House of Commons banging on with faux outrage about the Damian Green investigation being a threat to democracy, our ancient liberties etc., I am reminded of their predecessor Churchill's disastrous party political broadcast in the 1945 General Election campaign, suggesting Labour would institute a police state, which contributed to Labour's landslide victory that year:

"No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp or violently worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance."

The problem is that when you cry wolf by smearing legitimate police inquiries as attacks on liberty and democracy, you reduce the credibility of democratic politicians' warnings about real threats to liberty and democracy.

Attlee's rebuttal speech the next night was pretty good:

"When I listened to the Prime Minister's speech last night in which he gave such a travesty of the policy of the Labour party, I realised at once what was his object. He wanted the electors to understand how great was the difference between Winston Churchill, the great leader in war of a united nation, and Mr Churchill the party leader of the Conservatives. He feared lest those who had accepted his leadership in war might be tempted out of gratitude to follow him further. I thank him for having disillusioned them so thoroughly. The voice we heard last night was that of Mr Churchill but the mind was that of Lord Beaverbrook"

Manchester's c-charge vote

Just as Boris dismantles the western extension to the congestion charge zone, Manchester is going to vote on 11 December on going in the opposite direction:


Friday, December 05, 2008

Toby Harris on Boris and Damian Green

It's always refreshing to find a blog that is written by someone with real knowledge of an issue rather than just delivering ill-informed rants (I know I'm often guilty of the latter).

Toby Harris, now in the House of Lords, was previously Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority and continues to serve on it as the Home Secretary’s representative on the Authority to oversee the national and international responsibilities of the Metropolitan Police, primarily its role in counter-terrorism and security. He has posted three really good pieces in recent days about the Damian Green affair, from the perspective of someone who understands how the Met handles such investigations: here, here and here.

Council By-Election Results

Last night's council by-election results:

Bingley Rural Ward, Bradford MBC. Con hold. Con 1949 (59.9%, -3.1), Lab 689 (21.2%, +4.2), LD 332 (10.2%, -1.4), Green 175 (5.4%, -3.3), Dem Nat 61 (1.9%, +1.9), UKIP 49 (1.5%, +1.5). Swing of 3.7% from Con to Lab since May 2008.

The Three Colnes Ward, Braintree DC. Con hold. Con 647 (77%, +24.6), Lab 121 (14.4%, +4.1), Green 72 (8.6%, +8.6). Swing of 10.3% from Lab to Con since 2007 (previously independent candidates came a strong second in this ward).

Birch & Wintree Ward, Colchester DC. Con hold. Con 745 (58.1%, -12.0), LD 423 (33.0%, +14.1), Lab 83 (6.5%, +0.5), Green 32 (2.5%, -2.5). Swing of 13.1% from Con to LD since May 2008.

Avon and Swift Ward, Rugby BC. Con hold. Con 361 (56.8%, -12.0), LD 153 (24.1%, +8.9), Lab 84 (13.2%, -2.8), Green 37 (5.8%, +5.8). Swing of 10.5% from Con to LD.

Hale End & Highams Park Ward, LB Waltham Forest (2 vacancies). 2 LD holds. LD 1298 and 1295 (44.3%, +2.4), Con 1223 and 1153 (41.8%, +4.6), Lab 264 and 241 (9.0%, -2.3), Green 142 (4.9%, -4.6). Swing of 1.1% from LD to Con since 2006.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Redwood's solution

John Redwood's solution to the financial crisis: "The truth is that both the UK and the US have to cut living standards."

Is that official Tory economic policy: "you all need to live less well"?

Not serious

Watching the Sky footage of the Shadow Cabinet chortling away I was left with the overwhelming impression that these people are not serious and seem to think the whole Damian Green affair is all a big political game.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Luke Akehurst Fan Club visits Guido

I made the mistake of posting a rather geeky comment about Guido's post about the new ComRes poll.

This seems to have rather excited his readers, prompting the following comments in response:

"Luke Akehurst will quite happily stab Gordon in the back after he loses the election, just as he did Blair after the Brownites deposed him from power. The man has no conscience, no loyalty except to his own career.He's a councillor in Hackney, quite possibly the shittest borough in England. He's alco defended his pc pals on Harin-GAY council. In other words, a complete and utter waste of space whose never done a hard day's work in his life. I should also tell you that he's a lobbyist, working on behalf of the arms industry. Nice!
December 2, 2008 1:50 PM"

"Thanks Luke 1.42 Labour activist since 1988 so I dont think you have anything worth saying. Why dont you post on Comment isnt Free like all the other commies.
December 2, 2008 1:51 PM"

"sam 1.50 Thanks for that revealing insight into Luke Akehurst. He sounds like a right c**t.
December 2, 2008 1:59 PM"

"Luke is a cock - he used to be head of Labour Students and whenever I came into contact with him (as a member of Labour Students) I always thought how little actual talent and normalness he had, I'm surprised he has managed to actually hold down a job and get as far as he apparently has
December 2, 2008 2:06 PM"

"Luke Akehurst used to be a lover of Gordon's new head spin doctor Michael Dugher. Everyone's banging everyone else in the nu Lab big tent! Bunch of thieving perverts. Give 'em the chemical Ali treatment!
December 2, 2008 2:58 PM"

I should point out that the comment posted at 2:58 isn't true, before Mr Dugher contacts his libel lawyers.

Anyone would think Guido's readers were a bit peeved about the Tory lead collapsing to 1%.

Boris Johnson, biscuit snatcher

I attended my first meeting of the Labour Party's London Regional Board last night. Most of it I won't be blogging about (there's a limited audience for online reports of the rules revision process for the GLLP Biennial Conference) but there was an interesting London Assembly Labour Group report by John Biggs AM.

It seems Boris is making some rather petty cuts. Two examples:

  • He has cut the budget for the biscuits that used to be given to school kids visiting City Hall.
  • The London Living Room (on the top floor of City Hall) used to be available free to charities to host events. Now they have to pay 50% of the rental price - about £2000 - so most of them aren't using a space that was supposed to be accessible to all Londoners.

Stylish and thoughtful budgeting there Boris. Though what we would expect from a Tory Mayor.

VAT cut kicks in

I was a bit taken aback on handing over my £1.30 for a small black coffee in Greggs the bakers, Leather Lane, EC1, this morning, to get 3p change back.

The shop assistant explained this was the 2.5% VAT cut being passed straight on to customers.

So thank you, Alastair. I will, in the interests of the fiscal stimulus, find something to spend my 3p on.

If everyone else spends their 3ps too we might have the desired economic effect.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Can Labour win?

Some interesting observations by Professor John Curtice at an IPPR lunchtime presentation he gave on Monday on whether Labour can win the next General Election:

  • Almost all elections are decided on basis of which party is judged more competent.
  • New Labour in 1997 was almost unique in altering the character of the Labour vote - normally party support distribution stays the same across classes and goes up and down in uniformly according the the competence criteria.
  • To win an overall majority Labour only needs to be level-pegging with the Tories in vote share.
  • The current "bounce" occurred because of Brown's speech at the Labour conference - this lifted the Labour poll share by 5% whereas the bank bailout had no effect on Labour's ratings. Curtice believes that it is the political salesmanship that shifts the polls, not the actual policy decisions. The second stage of Labour's boost was Glenrothes, after which they went up a further 4%.
  • In Scotland the Labour poll trajectory has mirrored that in the UK as a whole but with the SNP profiting from Labour's misfortunes then being hit by the Labour recovery. The Tories can't break the 20% barrier in Scotland.
  • The Labour recovery is only 5-6% on average above the figures from the summer, so Curtice believes Labour is not yet back in contention.
  • Citing the 1966-'70, 1974-'79, 1979-'83, 1983-'87 and 1987-'92 parliaments he said there were multiple precedents for governments recovering from a low point to about 40% within 12 months. Labour might therefore end up level-pegging with the Tories within 6-12 months. However, these kind of recoveries don't guarantee victory (e.g. 1970, 1979). The Brown bounce is not as decisive or strong as the government recoveries generated by decisive events such as the fall of Thatcher or the Falklands War.
  • The British Social Attitudes survey reveals bad news for Labour, as on a raft of questions related to equality, public opinion has been showing a sustained drift to the right - from a high point support for left-of-centre attitudes of 64% in 1994 down to 44% last year. This might change if Labour articulates the equality message more strongly.
  • On tax and spend there is also bad news for Labour as the balance of opinion has now reverted to 1980s levels of hostility to increased taxation and spending.
  • Mori polling on the relative importance of key issues to the public shows the economy is back as the top issue after a decade when it was running fifth in the list. After the 2005 election health and education were high importance issues, as was defence because of Iraq, but now both they and race/immigration are a lot less important to the public. Crime has remained steadily the second most important issue. In 2001-2005 the public services messages Labour had were resonant, but now they are a lot less relevant to the public, who are focused on economic competence.
  • Labour's ratings on economic competence have gone up but these are related to handling a crisis, not raising living standards where the Tories are still ahead. The public seem to want Labour to solve the current crisis, but maybe not then get another four year mandate.
  • "Borrowing" is a very unpopular concept with the public. There is no public understanding of Keynesian economics. Tories can therefore attacking borrowing by implying its level is a proxy for measuring economic incompetence.
  • The score Labour needs to win (34% if the LDs recover to their 2005 position) is a low target so victory might happen. But the climate of public values now favours the Tories. Labour's handling of the financial crisis has started to restore its economic credibility but the task is incomplete.
  • There is too little polling data to understand whether there are different trends in different English regions i.e. whether the Labour recovery is in safe seats or marginals.
  • Long-term structural decline in the Labour vote (because of falling TU membership and de-industrialisation) is no longer a major factor as the decline in size of the working class has now slowed down.
  • Current polling volatility is nothing new - there was extraordinary volatility for the whole period from the late 1960s through to 1983. Even in the '50s 25% of people changed their minds about who to vote for during the month of an election. Curtice said "there are always lots of sheep in the electorate - the party with the best sheepdog wins".
  • Calls for an early election from Labour MPs are crazy - Labour needs to be in contention and stay there for a while, a short term bounce is not enough.
  • However, May 2009 is not early - it's after 4 years. If by Feb/Mar Labour is consistently 2 or 3% ahead then it might be a reasonable gamble to go to the polls in May as you would be betting losing 1 guaranteed year in power against gaining 4/5 more - otherwise better to wait longer.
  • Whereas when he took over Brown's personal reputation required him to get the same 66 seat majority as Blair or better, now he will be seen as a miracle worker if he gets a 1 seat majority.
  • The Tories will have a tough time finding anything they can cut in the public services given the existing tight spending climate.
  • The Lib Dems have a stronger core position than pre-'97. They might get 20% if they fight a good campaign but it is "not proven" that Clegg can deliver this.

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Seriously he is having to fund a legal case over something published on LabourHome.

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