Tag Archives: leadership race

In Labour leadership contest, few believe Owen Smith has a chance

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Challenger Owen Smith greets Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn  (Getty)

With every big-name endorsement that Owen Smith wins in his quest to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour Party’s leader, his chances seem as remote as ever.United Kingdom Flag Icon

It’s not that Labour voters don’t respect Corbyn’s predecessor, Ed Miliband, or London mayor Sadiq Khan or even Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale or former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn or any other of dozens of high-profile Labour officials.

But the Labour rank-and-file, which elected Corbyn as its leader with a first-ballot victory only last September, seem just as determined to deliver another mandate in three weeks when ballots close in this year’s Labour leadership contest. It’s entirely possible that Corbyn will even exceed the 59.5% of support he won in 2015.

So when Labour gathers for its annual conference on August 24, there’s little doubt — at least today — that Corbyn will emerge as the winner once again. It’s especially likely after his opponents failed to force him Corbyn to win renomination from sitting Labour MPs and after the same Corbyn opponents failed in court to prevent new (likely pro-Corbyn) party members from voting in the 2016 contest. That means that Labour’s parliamentary party will remain at contretemps with a twice-elected party leader. Smith, for all his qualities as a potentially unifying successor to Corbyn’s tumultuous leadership, is not yet breaking through as a genuine alternative, even as Labour voters begin to vote.

A strong Corbyn effort might embolden him and his increasingly isolated frontbench to force Labour MPs to stand for re-selection in their own constituencies, essentially forcing a primary-style fight for all of his critics. That may not matter to many MPs in marginal constituencies, who would lose reelection if a general election were held today, many polls show, whether they are automatically re-selected to stand for parliament or not.

The fear of both widespread de-selection from the left and a landslide defeat to the right, however, could force a formal splinter movement from Corbyn’s Labour, and that could conceivably, with enough support, become the ‘new’ official opposition in the House of Commons.

Given where Labour today stands — divided and electorally hopeless — it’s truly incredible that Smith’s chances seem so lopsided.

Continue reading In Labour leadership contest, few believe Owen Smith has a chance

Yvette Cooper is the only Labour aspirant who seems like a prime minister


Voting in the contest to select the Labour Party’s new leader ended yesterday, and the winner will be announced tomorrow morning.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Polls and oddsmakers agree that the victor will be Labour’s far-left summer darling, Jeremy Corbyn, whose unlikely rise spawned a movement of activism for a more full-throated opposition to Conservative austerity policies.

Cooper probably will not win, it’s true.

The Corbynmania phenomenon is deep and resilient, and it’s clear that Corbyn’s understated charms, ideological consistency and his willingness to contrast sharply against the governing Conservative Party have brought thousands of enthusiastic voters to his cause — none less than Harry Potter himself (or at least Daniel Radcliffe).

But for all the real excitement that Corbyn’s leadership campaign has generated, Cooper is the only candidate who emerges from the leadership race looking like a potential prime minister, and unlike her opponents Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall, she will end the race with her reputation enhanced, especially after taking a bold stand last week on admitting more refugees to the United Kingdom.

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RELATED:  Corbyn’s surprise rise in Labour leadership race highlights chasm

RELATED: The rational case for supporting Corbyn’s Labour leadership

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Cooper’s chances for the leadership, though slim, aren’t non-existent. If no candidate wins over 50% of the vote outright, Cooper will receive many of Kendall’s second-preference votes. If Cooper edges out Burnham for second place, which now seems likely, she could clip Corbyn to the leadership if Burnham’s supporters disproportionately give their second preferences to Cooper (and not to Corbyn).

Articulate and poised, Cooper was already a rising star as shadow home secretary, capably challenging Conservative home secretary Theresa May. An MP since the 1997 wave that brought Tony Blair and New Labour to power, she served as chief secretary to the treasury and as work and pensions secretary under former prime minister Gordon Brown. In particular, she won admiration across the political spectrum for her support of anti-stalking legislation and the creation of a new office for domestic violence. But Cooper spent much of the past five years overshadowed by her husband, the pugilistic shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who contested the leadership in 2010 and finished in third place (behind both Miliband brothers). When Balls unexpectedly lost his seat in the May 2015 general election, it was suddenly his wife whose leadership aspirations were on the fast track. Born in Scotland, 46-year-old Cooper has at least some claim to the case that she can win back supporters from the Scottish National Party (SNP), which now dominates Scottish politics.

When the leadership ballots were first mailed to Labour members, starting on August 10, there was a sense that Cooper still trailed Burnham. But in the final two weeks of the voting period, Cooper began to emerge as the chief alternative to Corbyn.  Continue reading Yvette Cooper is the only Labour aspirant who seems like a prime minister

The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

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It’s been a massively disappointing night for the Labour Party.United Kingdom Flag Icon

English voters didn’t swing en masse to Ed Miliband. It certainly seems like southern voters stuck with the Conservatives and northern voters turned to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Leftist voters turned to the Green Party, which seems set to triple its national support.

Scottish voters abandoned Labour outright, swinging massively to the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).

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RELATED: Live blog — UK election results

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It’s the kind of wipeout that will demand Miliband’s resignation — even before he’s delivered an address and even before the British media has declared a winner. It may not happen tonight, it may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen soon.

Labour’s top officials will wake up on May 8 trying to figure out just how in the span of 18 months, the Tories whittled down a 10-point Labour lead in polls. Despite only tepid GDP growth and five years of budget cuts, voters failed to warm to Ed Miliband’s leadership. In the span of months, Labour saw ‘fortress Scotland’ obliterated by the SNP. In the span of days, Labour saw a plausible, if narrow, lead nationally evaporate.

Plenty of Labour officials will be saying that they chose the wrong Miliband brother — and that the one who could have won the 2015 general election was instead sitting in New York City running an NGO after Ed Miliband nipped past him in the 2010 leadership race on the strength of the votes of labour unions. Continue reading The race to succeed Ed Miliband begins tonight

Despite Trudeaumania, Joyce Murray personifies the future of Canada’s center-left


It’s a safe prediction that Joyce Murray will not be the next leader of the Liberal Party.Canada Flag Icon

When the Liberal Party’s membership finishes voting and the winner is announced this Sunday, the winner is certainly going to be Justin Trudeau — and likely by a landslide margin.  His anticipated election is already pushing the Grits ahead in polls, and not only against the official opposition, the New Democratic Party under Thomas Mulcair, but into contention for first place against the Conservatives under Stephen Harper.

It seems equally likely that the Liberals will get an even larger boost in the polls in the ‘Trudeau honeymoon,’ as the presumptive Liberal leader ascends to lead a party that governed Canada during 69 years of the 20th century — and which has seen its share of the vote fall in each of the past five elections.

Murray, who served as minister of water, land and air protection in the Liberal government of British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell in the early 2000s, lost her provincial seat in 2005 and reemerged as a Liberal MP from Vancouver in the House of Commons in the 2008 election.  Since the withdrawal of MP Marc Garneau from the leadership race, however, Murray has been locked in a battle for second place with former Ontario MP Martha Hall Findlay.

The late momentum, however, lies with Murray, whose main campaign strategy has been a unite-the-left platform aimed at pulling together the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Greens together in an alliance for the next general election.  Murray certainly has raised more money than any of the non-Trudeau hopefuls.

The fundamental fact of Canadian politics is that the broad left — from the most moderate business-friendly Liberals to the most ardently progressive New Democrats — remains split between two credible alternatives to the Conservatives.  In many ways, it parallels the split between the old-guard Progressive Conservative Party and the upstart Reform Party / Canadian Alliance in the 1990s and early 2000s, which allowed Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin to govern without much of an opposition from 1993 to 2004.

In the same way, the logic that propelled the conservative merger in 2003 augurs for a similar center-left alliance in 2013.

And the logic is tantalizing — in a country where MPs are determined in 308 first-past-the-post single member ridings, the Tories won a majority government in 2011 with less than 40% of the vote.  A recent Léger poll shows the Conservatives with 31%, the Liberals ascending to 30%, the NDP with 24% and the Greens with 7%.  Taken together, Murray’s dream coalition would trounce the Tories on a vote of 61% to 31%.

The problem is that unlike the PCs, which never won more than 15 seats in the House of Commons after their decimation following the 1980s governments of Brian Mulroney, and unlike Reform/Alliance, which never managed to extend its reach beyond western Canada, both the NDP and the Trudeau-era Liberals are national parties with long, proud histories in Canada that stretch back far into the prior century.

Trudeau himself has argued to the incompatibility of the Liberal and NDP traditions:

But this debate is less about electoral calculations than about Trudeau’s assessment of congenital incompatibilities on the left of the Canadian political spectrum. In an interview last year with Maclean’s, he contrasted the unification of the right, as accomplished by Harper in 2003, and the notion of symmetrical coming together of Canadian progressives.

“The right didn’t unite so much as reunite,” Trudeau said. “I mean, Reform was very much a western movement breaking away from Brian Mulroney. But they broke away, then they came back together. The NDP and the Liberals come from very, very, very different traditions.”

But that overstates the case — keep in mind that the most successful leader the Liberals have had in the past decade, the current interim leader Bob Rae, is the former NDP premier of Ontario.  Mulcair, the current NDP leader, was a member of the Québec Liberal Party during his career in provincial politics.  Though it’s important to keep in mind that provincial parties aren’t affiliated with national parties, it’s fair to say that there’s a significant amount of cross-pollination between the two traditions.

Even beyond her controversial support for a broad center-left alliance, however, the center of gravity in Canada is moving in two directions — both westward in the geographic sense and toward a more globalized, diverse, immigrant-rich Canada in a demographic sense — and British Columbia (and Vancouver) is obviously at the heart of both of those trends.  Continue reading Despite Trudeaumania, Joyce Murray personifies the future of Canada’s center-left