It was the NS wot got it . . .

We were first with the story of the "secret ballot" plot

So, who broke the story of the failed coup yesterday? The Guardian and the BBC have both jumped to claim it as their own.

The Guardian does so on the basis that, at 12.15pm, it had a ticker line at the top of its website saying that a statement was due from Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon. It didn't report the full story till later in the afternoon.

With rather less justification, the BBC last night said it had broken the story at 12.30pm (actually, according to Guido Fawkes, the Beeb had it at 1pm).

Guido joins in, too, to say that he had the story straight after the Guardian, "just after half past".

Well, sorry, everyone -- as Sunny Hundal concludes at Liberal Conspiracy today, the story was actually broken by my colleague James Macintyre.

He published his story online at 12.17pm -- a full account of how the gruesome twosome were co-ordinating a letter to MPs calling for a secret ballot on Gordon Brown's leadership (as opposed to the Guardian's one-line teaser). James's piece was certainly the first Iain Dale had heard of it.

Why the two-minute delay our end? Well, having been sitting opposite James at the time, I can confirm that he received the tip-off around 11.30am but was told to hold off until after PMQs. The full story was sitting, ready to go, and we hit publish as soon as we saw that the Guardian were on to it, too.

Case closed.

 

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.