Ed Miliband speaks to supporters at Redbridge on May 1, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour nine points ahead in new poll of Tory marginals

The party would win all 10 of the target seats polled. 

One of the transparent calculations behind Boris Johnson's decision to return to parliament is the possibility (or even probability) that the Tories will be defeated in 2015. With nine months remaining until the general election, a new Survation poll of 13 Conservative marginals (10 Labour targets, three Lib Dem) confirms the party's unpromising position. It puts Labour on 41 per cent (up 10 points since 2010), the Tories on 31 per cent (down eight), Ukip on 17 per cent (up 14) and the Lib Dems on just 4 per cent (down 17), a swing of nine per cent to Labour since the last election. 

On a uniform swing, these figures would see Labour win all 10 of its target seats (Amber Valley, Warwickshire North, Broxtowe, Lancaster and Fleetwood, Brighton Kemptown, Lincoln, Morecambe and Lunesdale, Sherwood, Thurrock, Cannock Case) and more than 100 Tory-held marginals nationwide. By contrast, the Lib Dems would fail to win any of their target seats (Camborne and Redruth, Truro and Falmouth, West Dorset) after a swing of four points towards the Tories. 

It's important to remember, though, that this is a snapshot, not a prediction. In October 2009, a marginals poll suggested the Tories would win a majority of 70. Just seven months later, they didn't win one at all. But thanks to the defection of Lib Dem voters to Labour and the defection of Tory voters to Ukip, the opposition is in a strong position to be the largest party. The swing achieved by Labour in the marginals (9 per cent) is greater than the national average (5.5 per cent), supporting Labour's claim that it is "winning voters where it matters". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader agreed to back down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while he would hold a free vote, party policy would be changed to oppose military action, an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote. Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, members made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbot and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory"approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet. There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.