As an election looms, here’s some interesting food for thought in the form of research into what parties can learn from the last time Britons went to the polls in 2017.
A summary published today on the LSE’s website suggests that the Tories “went overboard in their rhetoric on ‘getting on with the job’ of Brexit, (risking the alienation of their more moderate supporters) and on the robotic message of ‘strong and stable leadership’.”
By contrast, Labour was said to have played a better hand and tapped into most of its electoral strengths.
The academics, whose findings have been published in a new edition of West European Politics, add:
There is a clear left-wing anti-austerity constituency in Britain, and rather than being out of touch with the public mood, as many New Labour grandees feared, our analysis shows that Labour’s message under Corbyn resonated both with party supporters and the wider public.
By offering its supporters policies they strongly agreed with, Labour also thwarted the electoral threat potentially inherent in its vague position on Brexit.
They add that it remains uncertain now however whether avoiding Brexit in favour of other policies will serve Labour as well next time as it did previously.
Today’s proceedings are under way in the House of Commons, where the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is taking questions.
He’s told MPs that he is one of those who own an electric car and that we’re about to see a big increase in ownership.
In the world of business traders are still waiting for Brexit certainty as as Brussels deliberates over the type of extension to give the UK.
The pound has rallied a little this morning on the back of claims that Labour has offered a “pragmatic path” to a Brexit deal with a compromise on the timetable.
The details of this are still lacking and the terms will probably not be acceptable to the prime minister but in reality, it’s not that important.
An extension will be signed off, at which point we’re probably heading for an election. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Some have detected a vagueness suddenly returning to Labour’s position after those comments earlier this morning by Rebecca Long-Bailey about the party being prepared to immediately back an election after the EU grants an extension.
Steven Swinford of the Times picks up on a slightly different message to Sky News:
It’s worth noting too of course that the shadow secretary of state for business, energy & industrial strategy is today also unveiling major Labour plans to create a carbon-neutral energy system by the 2030s including insulation upgrades for every home in the UK and enough new solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches.
The party is setting out a fast-track climate strategy after adopting plans to work towards a net-zero carbon economy two decades ahead of the government’s legally binding 2050 target.
Liberal Democrats share details of second referendum amendment
The Liberal Democrats have shared their amendment to the Queen’s speech calling for a new referendum on Brexit.
The amendment, signed by the party’s MPs, proposes the addition to the legislation:
At end add ‘but believe that your government should make arrangements for a people’s vote in which the public will have the choice between the latest withdrawal agreement and remaining in the European Union’.
The party’s Brexit spokesperson, Tom Brake, tweets:
One of the more prominent Labour backbenchers this week, Lisa Nandy, has said this morning that five or six days would be a sufficient length of time in committee stage for the Brexit withdrawal agreement bill.
Nandy, who was one of the Labour MPs who backed Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill at the its second reading this week with the aim of allowing it to progress to a stage when it can be amended, told the Today programme:
When you consider that this is a bill that was published only 72 hours before the House of Commons was meant to consider it, that draws a border down the Irish Sea, so essentially creates an internal border within the United Kingdom, which could spark a chain of events which breaks up the United Kingdom, it seems to me not unreasonable to ask for five or six days to scrutinise it.
Nandy added that she had been asked by Conservative ministers how long Labour would need to scrutinise the bill and she said the “general consensus”, including from their chief whip, is that “five or six days in committee would be sufficient”.
An election would still be a major gamble for both Labour and the Tories though and Dan Sabbagh writes in the Guardian on why reluctance on the part of the former goes beyond the need to stave off the potential threat of a no-deal Brexit.
The Conservatives already enjoy a healthy poll lead of 10 points, on average, according to Britain Elects, with the government on 35%. That leaves Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition on 25%, while the Liberal Democrats sit at 18%.
It is a figure so dismal that the party is behind where Michael Foot was in the run-up to the 1983 election, according to the elections expert John Curtice of Strathclyde University – and would result in a Conservative majority of about 60 on forecasts prepared by Electoral Calculus based on October’s polling. And this is with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party at 12%.
Dan adds that against this polling background it would not be surprising, however, if the opposition party found more reasons for delay.
The Telegraph also reports on splits in Downing Street, adding that Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, Edward Lister, is in favour of accepting a short Brexit delay to get the deal through parliament before going for a mid-December election.
That reportedly puts him at odds with Dominic Cummings, who reportedly wants a poll as soon as the EU grants an extension to article 50, with 28 November or December the most like dates.
“Is Boris Johnson still listening to Dominic Cummings on Brexit?” the Telegraph also asks.
Also speaking of Cummings, the New European has a fairly striking front page today.
Many ministers favour an election this year, arguing that Johnson will become progressively weaker if he is forced to fight battles int he commons to pass a Brexit deal, the Financial Times reports.
One minister is quoted by the paper as saying: “We’d cream it, with or without a deal.”
On the front of the Guardian, the dividing lines of an emerging Cabinet split are laid out.
Some cabinet ministers, including the Northern Ireland secretary, Julian Smith, are cautious about asking for an election, report Heather Stewart and Peter Walker
They believe the majority of 30 achieved by the government on the second reading of the Brexit bill on Tuesday suggests Johnson’s deal has enough support to carry it through all its stages in parliament.
However, hard Brexit supporters appear to be more gung-ho, with leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg fearing support for the bill could yet fall away – if the 19 Labour rebels who backed it fail to secure the amendments they would like to see, for example.
In the mix too – as reported by Buzzfeed – is the prime minister’s chief aide, Dominic Cummings, who is said to be one of the main driving forces for an election.
Yesterday’s appalling human tragedy in which the bodies of 39 people were found insider a container lorry in Essex dominate the front pages today, but Brexit takes up considerable space inside most titles.
The Times makes space on its front for a piece in which it reports that Johnson could make a third attempt to trigger a general election as early as today.
He is likely to lay a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act as early as tonight that would force MPs to decide before that much-touted 31 October deadline on whether to permit an election, reports Frances Elliott and Bruno Waterfield.
The paper also reports that Theresa May, the former prime minister, has raised concerns about an early election before a Brexit deal is over the line.
Long-Bailey: Labour would back election after ‘Flextension’ granted
After Cleverly, the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was asked if Labour would vote for a general election as soon as the prime minister asks for one after the EU grants an extension.
That’s our position. But we also want the prime minister to look at the compromise that’s been offered that a lot of MPs support, and that’s the ability to be able to properly scrutinise the bill.
‘Conservatives cancel Christmas?’
It’s not quite the election slogan that Downing Street will have been hoping for but the prospect of an election poll appears to be gaining ground, with all the spin-off problems that come with it.
As reported by the Guardian earlier this month – and by the Times today – electoral officials are facing logistical issues as authorities seeking to hire venues find that some are already booked up for nativity plays and pre Christmas venues.
The Tory party chairman, James Cleverly, when asked about the issue today on the Today programme, replied:
I don’t want to be the Grinch but the point is that democracy is incredibly important and we have been prevented from discharging the duty imposed on us.
He didn’t take the bait when asked how the party’s Christmas election planning was going.
Cleverly had not ruled not Brexit taking place on 31 October and said the government has had to “ramp up” its no-deal preparations.
The EU has not agreed an extension and therefore it is absolutely essential that we make sure that we are ready to leave.
Good morning and welcome to Politics Live for another day of intrigue, brinkmanship and jumbled acronyms as the British government, EU leaders and Labour all face difficult choices over Brexit.
Boris Johnson’s cabinet is divided over how to proceed with Brexit, as the prime minister faces the stark choice of pressing ahead with his deal or gambling his premiership on a pre-Christmas general election.
After an inconclusive meeting with Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday morning in an attempt to agree an acceptable timetable for parliament to consider the bill, the prime minister told MPs at Wednesday’s PMQs that he was awaiting the decision of the EU27 over whether to grant an extension before settling his next move.
While the EU’s decision is unlikely to come before Friday, look out for signs of positioning from European capitals and from inside the commission today.
The French government has privately voiced its concerns about taking the pressure off MPs to vote for the deal, which they believe could be ratified in 15 days, but EU sources said the bloc was seeking a “solution that works for all” and avoids a no deal exit.
Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, told Johnson in a phone call on Wednesday his reasons for “recommending the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension”.
The Labour party meanwhile also faces a choice, whether to support fresh moves for an election, or to again stand in the way of the two-thirds majority needed as one way of initiating a poll.
Timings (provisional) today:
• 10.30am – The leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg’s is expected to make a statement setting out next week’s business.
• 5pm – MPs vote on Queen’s speech
• 7pm – Jeremy Corbyn to address rally