In the latest Political Barb, ‘General Election 2017 – Fox Hunting’ summarised here, Steve Beauchampé asks if anyone has seen Tom Watson – all but invisible since the General Election was called on April 18th:
“We shouldn’t be too surprised however, I’d always imagined that as an avowedly pro-New Labour, anti-Corbynite, Watson’s main focus ahead of June 8th would be developing a strategy to take back control of the party machinery from the several hundred thousand ideologically driven enthusiasts who have joined Labour since summer 2015. This, following the anticipated electoral disaster and subsequent dispatching of Corbyn to the margins of political history.
“So this Labour surge, even should it ultimately fail to deliver the party the opportunity to form a government, is deeply problematical for those in the Parliamentary Labour Party who so readily opposed or otherwise distanced themselves from the man who has suddenly – and quite unexpectedly – become arguably Labour’s biggest asset”
He notes that ‘missing in action’ are various leading Conservatives: Liam Fox, Sajid Javid, Preeti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, even Chancellor Philip Hammond. But Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who stood in for May during a BBC leaders’ debate last Wednesday ‘put in a combative performance’ leaving Theresa May owing her big time . . .
The ‘downgrading’ of chief political advisors Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy and enhanced rôle of chief strategist Lynton Crosby leads Beauchampé to ask: “Ah, would that be the same Lynton Crosby who oversaw Zac Goldsmith’s highly successful London Mayoral bid last year? Or the same Lynton Crosby who oversaw the equally effective Remain campaign for the 2016 EU referendum . . .
His conclusion: “Restoring Theresa May’s self-congratulatory, complacent, personal power grab of a campaign is probably beyond even Crosby. It is fatally tainted, exposed for its galaxy of emptiness and arrogant narcissism and it long ago ran out of road. Ultimately the mass transfer of UKIP votes to the Tories will probably save her, and might yet ensure her a healthy, workable majority. But Theresa May is diminished, with the clock already ticking on her departure date as internal party scores are settled and her enemies prepare to exact revenge. And who would have thought that the Conservatives would be the party we’d be writing this about seven weeks ago!
As for Jeremy Corbyn, blimey, he’s almost become a national treasure.
Does Theresa May have the temperament and inter-personal skills to lead successful Brexit negotiations asks Steve Beauchampé?
Extracts from his blog, “ General Election 2017 – May Plays Her Trump Card”
We don’t have to look far for reasons to believe that the Prime Minister might be a potentially toxic mixture of intensely controlling, highly secretive, overly sensitive and with a touch of the feudal monarch about her. There’s her unwillingness to campaign using little apart from slogans, to debate live with rival party leaders, to encounter voters other than pre-vetted Conservative Party members or to place herself in anything less than totally managed and protected situations. There is surely more to all this than a natural awkwardness or introspection, of being uncomfortable around people; it is about avoiding scrutiny and challenge, it indicates a lack of self-confidence, an inability to think on your feet. And it might also display a degree of paranoia.
. . . there was no Conservative Party leadership contest, merely a coronation, with May anointed before most party members even had the opportunity to hear or scrutinise her policy platform or personal suitability for the post, let alone approve it. Rivals quickly fell by the wayside, with the mildly stubborn Andrea Leadsom’s bid terminated after she was allegedly goaded by the Tory hierarchy into making an unwarranted personal remark about May.
A bellicose and bunker-like attitude towards the most important negotiations this country has faced in decades
Theresa May’s most memorable contributions to the remainder of 2016 were her revelations to October’s Conservative Party annual conference that the UK would leave both the Single Market and Customs Union as well as end the free movement of workers, with the formal process of departing the EU commencing by the end of March 2017. None of this had been agreed beforehand by the Cabinet.
When the High Court ruled that Parliament, and not the Prime Minister, had the authority to determine when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which commences our exiting the EU, could be invoked, May was furious, ordering a government challenge in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, she permitted Justice Secretary Liz Truss to rail against the judges and failed to intervene to de-escalate tensions both when a Daily Mail front page headline called those judges ‘Enemies of the People’ and when a tirade of online abuse was directed against Gina Miller, who had brought the case.
After government defeat in the Supreme Court, May watched the subsequent House of Lords debate on the Article 50 Bill, staring at Peers from the steps of the royal throne . . .
Having stolen UKIP’s mantle (move much further to the right and the BNP might start to get nervous) Theresa May now seems to be taking cues from US President Donald Trump. Yes there were some leaks against her from EU officials, but then Whitehall also regularly leaks to its political advantage. But Theresa May’s speech outside No. 10 last week was designed to create the illusion of shady foreigners out to get Britain, before claiming that only she can save the country from them. Works every time!
May’s rage against the Brussels machine came only a day after she had revelled in claiming that the next person to find out that she was “a bloody difficult woman” would be European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Although I suspect that she’ll quickly find out that the other 27 EU heads of state and their negotiators can be even more ‘bloody difficult’ should Britain’s attitude be to go looking for a punch up. And if she continues on a confrontational course, Theresa May might now learn that the election of the strongly pro-EU Emmanuel Macron as French President will make her already difficult task just that little bit tougher. . .
Little wonder that many in Brussels are becoming tired with Britain, with its accusations and insults and with our Prime Minister’s testy approach when goodwill, reciprocity and a modicum of inter-personal skills might bring far greater rewards.
Such a bellicose and bunker-like attitude towards the most important negotiations this country has faced in decades, if not centuries, might well bring Theresa May a substantial General Election victory. Yet the country that she is creating has deepening political fissures, geographically and generationally, that both the forthcoming election and the Prime Minister’s anti-consensual and seemingly joyless leadership style appear to be exacerbating. It is a deeply unedifying spectacle. Given all of the above, do I really want to give Theresa May a mandate to negotiate my country’s future?
May 8th 2017
Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as Labour leader, winning 61.8% of the vote. He vows to bring Labour back together, saying “we have much more in common than divides us” and insisting the party could win the next election as the “engine of progress” in the country. More than half a million party members, trade unionists and registered supporters voted in the contest. To see the video click here.
This is not just support for the leader – often said by detractors to be unelectable. The party under his leadership had Labour’s best council by election result since the General Election – reported David Hencke. In his blog he recorded yesterday that Labour councillors had been elected in the Midlands, North West and Scotland: Results:
- Labour won two Conservative-held seats they won a seat in Cockermouth with a 5% increase in a solid Tory ward in the town.
- Arley & Whitacre, North Warwickshire, where there was a high Conservative vote in the general election, was gained by Labour (+33% of the vote).
- Labour won a seat from the SNP
- Two Conservative seats went to the Liberal Democrats.
- Plaid Cymru took a seat from Independents.
- Last month in North Ayrshire Labour came from behind to win, though challenged by Nicola Sturgeon’s father.
Hencke comments that in both cases the STV system helped Labour gain the seats. What appears to be happening is that more people voting for opponents of SNP end up switching eventually to Labour rather than helping the SNP hold the seat. He noted a 20% rise in support for the Liberal Democrats which pushed the Tories into third place.
He adds that UKIP continue to do badly. In Gateshead they got 1.3% more of the vote but the Lib Dems did better. In other places UKIP got a small share of the vote – for example coming bottom in Coatbridge with just 63 votes compared to over 1350 for the winner.
On present performance in council areas it is the Liberal Democrats rather than UKIP that are re-emerging as the challenger to the Tories in the rural shires and to Labour in the cities.
And all is not lost for Labour on this performance, provided they unite.
In The Times today: under Corbyn, new members are still joining up at an unprecedented thousand a week
In the Times, Jenni Russell reports that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are buoyed by their tremendous popularity with members and their growing experience of how to handle the party and PMQs. Editing out the inevitable snide remarks, the article continues:
“Jeremy’s not going to stand down,” says one insider. “He’s really warmed to the job. You couldn’t have had the experiences he’s had and not be strengthened by it.
“Everywhere he goes he gets the most amazing reaction. He gets mobbed.
People wait outside halls and want selfies and autographs. And new members are still joining up at a thousand a week. That’s unprecedented. He’s not just an ordinary lefty politician — he really communicates with people”.
Corbyn’s circle believe he has more than minority appeal. They think he can build a broad alliance, including disheartened former UKIP supporters. They no longer fear a coup, realising that the two main suggestions for deposing Corbyn won’t work and now accept that he would have to be argued out of power, by a revitalised alliance of soft left, moderates and Blairites. Ms Russell thinks that such a challenge is unlikely to happen until 2018 or 2019.
Ms Russell ends by saying that Corbyn’s team believe they can win a sceptical country – and his opponents in the party believe that they can win over a sceptical party.