Commons Confidential: Frodo Baggins joins Ukip

Plus: Waiting for the union bus.

Gone a long way, Kingston and Surbiton’s Ed Davey – all the way to the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair. As the Energy and Climate Change Secretary he has acquired lots of wealthy associates, and so the Liberal Democrat’s constituency fundraiser on 6 June was held at a posh hotel in central London instead of a dreary local restaurant. My snout with the back of an envelope calculated 40 tables at £1,500 a pop must’ve raised £60,000 as heads of the power industry paid homage to the cabinet minister. Nick Clegg cracked a gag about Davey working in a pork pie factory and the porky minister scoffing them ever since, before an auction that included tea with Paddy Ashdown and a copy of the ConDem suicide pact signed by Clogg.

TUC bigwigs are wriggling to get off the General Strike hook after private advice from the lefty lawyer John Hendy, QC that “one out, all out” would be an unlawful action against the ConDem government. To protect union funds from sequestration under draconian laws banning political walkouts, the participating workers would each need to take a day off. “The General Holiday” isn’t a blood-curdling threat likely to vex Cameron.

A telling little right-wing moment outside a TV studio, involving Justine Greening and Nigel Farage. The International Development Secretary introduced herself to the Ukip leader instead of Farage greeting Greening – illustrating how, on the right of politics, it’s Ukip calling the shots over the Tories.

So, the Daily Express political hack Patrick O’Flynn will be standing for Ukip, as this column predicted, at next year’s Euro elections. The likeable if frighteningly Europhobic O’Flynn tortured a Fellowship of the Ring metaphor in his coming-out speech at a Ukip bash in Surrey. Tolkien is not an uncommon obsession on the right-wing fringes, but it appeared lost on Little Britain’s O’Frodo that the Fellowship was a coming together of peoples from diverse backgrounds in Middle-earth.

The servants’ quarters in the ancestral pile of Richard Drax MP – or, to give his full name, Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle- Erle-Drax – offer another insight into the world of Cameron’s toffs. Drax and his wife won an employment tribunal against a lesbian housekeeper. But the number of gossiping Tory MPs who were freely naming Drax in Westminster bars before then, while reporting restrictions were still keeping his name secret from voters, exposed the class war in a party split between the strivers and the inheritors.

Trade union anti-austerity buses will start touring Britain from 17 June to mobilise opposition to spending cuts and lower living standards. Unite is running two buses, with one each scheduled by the TUCs in London, Wales and Scotland. You wait ages for a union bus and then five come along all at once.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Montage: Dan Murrell/NS

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
Show Hide image

Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.