May’s muddled thinking

First published on Progressonline for ‘the Last Word’

Theresa May had a pretty bad start to the year with resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the European Union. It was unfortunate for her that his email to all staff was leaked to the media. His warning about ‘muddled thinking’ should be a theme that the Labour leader – were he to comment on such matters – should pick up on and repeat over and over. May has now made Tim Barrow pretty much unsackable as he takes up his new post in Brussels. The prime minister is due to make a big speech on Brexit in the coming weeks. The Guardian’s cartoonist Ben Jennings sums up her known position extremely well.

Women finally winning

Last night Clare Goghill was elected leader of Labour group and, in turn, the London borough of Waltham Forest. With too few women leaders in local government, this is a very welcome development. She takes over from Chris Robbins – who has given exceptional service to the party and his community – in May this year.

In addition, today the party confirmed two metro mayor candidates. Sue Jeffrey will be Labour’s candidate in Tees Valley and Lesley Mansell in the West of England. Both should elected based on recent local and police commissioner results. Best of luck to all three.

Mistaken predictions

In the last poll of 2016 Labour was on a staggering 24 per cent of the vote but trailed the Tories with both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ voters – and in every age group, social class and every region. Of the less than quarter of the voting public that say they would vote Labour, only 53 per cent thought our leader Jeremy Corbyn was the best candidate for prime minster. By contrast May, at a relative high in the polls for her party, some 39 per cent, was preferred prime minister with 96 per cent of current Tory voters.

But shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti had a great line with the Oxford Union last night on her running theme: nothing to see here. Politics Home reports her saying, ‘people that base their values on polls are mistaken, and people that base their predictions on polls it would seem are also mistaken.’ She cites Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as proof the pesky polls cannot be trusted. As Owen Jones is now pointing out ‘when polls are wrong, when does it benefit the left?’. I would not want to butt in but no poll has been 17 points out either!

Chakrabarti will wake up to pleasant news that in Labour’s best poll performance of 2017 the party nationally now gets 26 per cent of the vote. A whole two point increase. The leader’s office will be worried that Corbyn’s support for best prime minister among this group has dipped to less than half – only 49 per cent of Labour voters think our current leader is the best choice for No 10.

Livingstone cannot ‘linger’

But we should not have a downer on everything the shadow attorney general says. Last night she said the issue of Ken Livingstone’s membership – remember he was suspended last April for saying Hitler ‘was a Zionist … before he went mad’ – should not be allowed to ‘linger’. I agree with Chakrabarti that there is ‘a case to answer’. It is surely time Livingstone was kicked out once and for all.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell

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