Friday, 31 July 2015

Local Council By-Elections July 2015

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- June

* There were three by-elections in Scotland
** There were six by-elections in Wales
*** There was one Independent clash
**** Other this month included Llais Gwynedd (123), SSP (81), and Scottish Christian (33)

Overall, 46,430 votes were cast over 29 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. A total of five council seats changed hands. For comparison see June's results here.

July is usually a sleepy month, but by-election-wise it's been busy and fascinating in equal measure. First things first, the idea Labour is in some sort of meltdown is shown here to be the kind of accurate forecasting one can expect from dodgy polls. The only ones that really matter involve people going to vote, and there's no suggestion Labour's having an overly rough time considering it a) doesn't have a leader and, b) the stupid and desperate naysaying from increasingly unhinged right wing sections of the party. To come top of the polls and lose a single seat is no cause for concern at all. 11 of the 29 seats were Labour holds, while seven were Con holds.

The really interesting story for geeks is among parties the next tier down. After an age of lamentable results, could we be seeing signs of a LibDem revival? Yes, a couple of their results are in super safe seats, but to have netted three new councillors and be within spitting distance of 15% ... these are the kinds of results they were last getting back when Clegg was the newly-minted wunderkind. It's still too early in my book to say there's a revival underway, though I will say the pattern of LibDem results are changing. Whereas they used to be either very, very good or shockingly poor, we are starting to see more middle-range vote tallies come in. Watch this space.

Coping with the opposite problem is UKIP. Again, too early for trends and all that but these suggest the bottom is dropping out of their world. This month's vote average of 144 is a poor return considering the number of candidates who took the the field. Are some 'none of the above' votes transferring back to the LibDems, or is it periodic under performance as the main political story last month has been all about Jeremy Corbyn? We'll see next month if the swill flowing across the tabloids about Calais will have an effect.

In other news, there's no sign of the SNP slowing down, and no early warnings that Plaid is going to experience a similar take off. Greens are in their normal range, and TUSC put in an appearance for once. However, with the complete collapse of its political perspectives - the Labour dog having some quite lively lefty life in it yet - how much longer are the token challenges going to carry on for?

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Dear Yvette Cooper

Dear Yvette,

Re: Leadership of the Labour Party

I read extracts of your interview with the Indy with some interest as, I think it's fair to say, your platform for Labour leadership is considered the 'lightest' among the contenders so far. No one is in any doubt what Liz Kendall stands for. Ditto Jeremy Corbyn. And last night on Newsnight, Andy finally put more flesh on the bones of his National Care Service idea. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say he followed my advice, but it's stark that whereas your three opponents have defined themselves you are yet to do so. And that's a shame, because some big ideas are getting floated in the leadership election this time round, and you should be meeting like with like. If you win on the basis of being the least offensive to everyone you will be storing up future legitimation problems for your leadership.

Today's Indy interview goes a little bit of the way in setting out what you believe, but nowhere near far enough. Let's talk about Jeremy, seeing as everyone else is. You say:
Inevitably there is frustration and anger at the prospect of five more years of Tory government. It is really important we channel that anger into defeating the Tories. It is no use just shouting from the sidelines. It is no use being angry about the world. We have got to change the world.

I don’t think we want to go back to the 1980s and just be a protest movement ... Today’s four and five year-olds could have to spend their entire childhood under a Tory government if we are not determined and ready to win again.
That message isn't going to win over many Jez supporters now, especially when when the grating and the dud of the party's parliamentary/spad/journo establishment have articulated it in spectacularly panicky terms. And not being daft, you know this too. The only reasonable conclusion one can infer is that you're explicitly pitching for Liz's second preferences. Yet, as we know from Labour First's open letter to Progress, it seems some Liz supporters are bent on not lending their second preferences to either you or Andy. You've got to win them over rather than posing as a steady-as-she-goes default choice.

You do have some advantages here. From what I can gather, most Liz supporters see themselves as forward-thinking progressives. Tony Blair's silliness about the future being the only comfort zone is so much gibberish to some, but it chimes with how Blairites view their tendency. The left and the centre - which includes you and Andy - are yesterday's people. You fight shy of what they perceive as the real world and you offer little in the way of confronting and managing it in pursuit of economic efficiency and social justice, as they like to put it. Liz's platform, for instance, recommends itself to technocratic minds. Her plan to decentralise power, for example, is a good one that would keep the wonks and the geeks very happy. Her politics, however, have some very serious weaknesses that you do not share. There are breaches your campaign can step into.

The largest of these is 'the future'. In your Indy interview, you discuss the opportunities presented by Green industries and you rightly castigate the Tories for treating it them as green crap. Good. But you need to go further. If the future is to see a renaissance of British manufacturing you have to bang the drum hard for onshore and offshore wind, wave power, solar power and, to make sure it's Team Yvette that's future-tinged, perhaps say a few words about nuclear fusion research. You also have to set your face against fracking for pretty obvious reasons: more carbon emissions, landscape and property blight, overstated claims of a jobs bonanza. A plurality of the public are opposed, and not a few of them live in seats we need to win back in 2020. The Tories have left an open goal on this one, particularly as they favour fracking for short-termist reasons.

You are also the only candidate consistently talking about science, the digital revolution, and preparing the economy for jobs that don't even exist yet. As I'm sure you know, one of the biggest policy challenges coming is a new wave of automation. These could render redundant a number of low skilled, low waged, labour intensive jobs. More importantly it could sound the death knell for a great many office-based jobs too. As Paul Mason points out in his new book dealing with this topic (among other things), business as a whole is laying off investing in this way for the moment. When the market is more buoyant and the big savings become clearer, it's going to happen. This can be dealt with in one of two ways. Pretend it doesn't exist and hope that these jobs are replaced like-for-like by the expansion of other industries. That seems to be the Tories' course and, as the 1980s and the so-called "jobs miracle" since 2012/13 tells us, that is simply not going to happen. Or some far sighted leadership can be shown now, and you're in the best position to do this. Be warned though, it might involve thinking some properly unthinkable thoughts.

By stealing a march on these things you won't just win over Liz supporters; there are floating Andy and - yes - Jeremy supporters who might be inspired by what you have to say. You can show the Labour selectorate that you know what's coming and you're the only one who's thinking about those challenges. It also puts the Tories on the back foot because of their short sighted and reckless approach to managing the economy.

Look, my politics differ a lot from yours. However, I recognise that you have a lot of experience, have the thick skin a leader needs, and these qualities commend you both to the position of the Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister. You will not get to see either of those offices unless you start distinguishing yourself from the others, and certainly not by trash-talking Jeremy. What's it to be?

Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Relax, There Is No Labour Meltdown

Another day, another bout of mischief making. In today's Indy we learn that things aren't looking too rosy for Labour. In a specially commissioned poll, it "shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband. Blimey, that doesn't bode well for 2020. They go on:
... voters think Labour has gone backwards since its crushing defeat under Ed Miliband. Only 24 per cent of people believe the party is more electable than it was in May, while 76 per cent say it is less electable.
The article also pours scorn on the idea of a core vote strategy as the route to electoral success. Drawing on Fabian research, adding up all the Green and LibDem voters to Labour's total still leaves the party trailing the Tories in the marginals.

Two points are worthwhile noting. Firstly, who is arguing for a targeting of Green and LibDem voters? True, some - but by no means all - in Camp Corbyn think Labour can win an election without having to bend over to attract Tory-leaning swing voters. Yet their analysis is more complex than the simplistic guff regurgitated here. They observe that to win back in Scotland, where the SNP are posing as an anti-austerity party; to see off UKIP - who ate into Labour's vote in 'safe' and swing seats; to win back Greens whose vote disproportionately hit Labour's and allowed the Tories to sneak through in a number of places; and to mobilise the missing millions who sat the election out, Labour has to offer something other than a colourless, technocratic pitch. Where it comes to Tory voters, some can be won on the merits of a platform offering a fairer, more secure capitalism and an end to austerity's dog-eat-dogism. A point made by Matthew d'Ancona, and emphasised in a missive from CCHQ last week telling Tory MPs and officials to knock off promoting Corbyn as it could shift politics to the left.

As it happens, I think pinning your electoral hopes on a coalition involving large numbers of abstaining voters. They are no more on the left than people who do vote, and their reasons for not particpating are - again - quite complex. The unavoidable road back to power takes us through lands populated by Tory voters who can be persuaded to vote Labour again. This however is not captured in the Fabian research because the question it's trying to answer is based on a false premise. Again, so there is no uncertainty, no one thinks we can win by cobbling together a coalition of Green and LibDem voters.

A lesson that the Indy could do with learning when it next commissions a poll. So 76% of people think Labour are less electable now than three months ago. Colour me shocked. In case their editorial office hadn't noticed, Labour doesn't have a leader and therefore the results uncovered are utterly meaningless. Most party members I know would conclude, right now, that Labour is unelectable on this measure alone. That's before you factor in the almighty row caused by the caretaker stepping outside of her remit, and the leadership debate's forays into the gutter. Meanwhile, in actual elections taking place every week in local authority by-elections, the results can hardly be described as a meltdown.

Once again, it needs reiterating that the press - even The Indy - don't have Labour's best interests at heart. Some are overtly striving for a Die Linke/SPD-style split, ensuring the permanent marginalisation of the centre left; and others will contribute to the narrative because it generates clicks and coverage at an otherwise dull and sedate time of year. And some are prepared to make themselves look quite stupid in the process.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and Hard Left "Infiltration"

The press are not neutral arbiters when it comes to the Labour leadership contest. If they can use the debates between party members as a way of deepening divisions in the party, they will. At the forefront of these attempts is the so-called quality "paper of record" The Times, which of late is transforming itself into a straight propaganda sheet. Earlier this week, a fairly innocuous piece by Charles Falconer setting out his support for Andy Burnham was spiked with the headline "Women are not tough enough to lead Labour". It was misleading bollocks as he said nothing of the sort. Nevertheless, it had the desired effect. The 'Burnham is sexist' meme got a lift before, the day after, The Times issued their mea culpa.

And now they're at it again. The front page legend goes "Hard left plot to infiltrate Labour race", with the subby "Harman urged to halt leadership vote". It reads "140,000 new activists are projected to have joined ... with many signing up to back the hard left candidate". And "The Communist Party of Great Britain has called on supporters to join and back Corbyn as part of its revolutionary "strategy"". Then we we "Labour MPs say" their CLPs are being flooded with lefties (of course, these sources go unattributed). Let's unpack some of this.

First off, taking my very old friends the cpgb as evidence of any movement at all is the thinnest of thin gruels. Here's a 30-strong collective who've spent over three decades peddling their politics to little effect. They've also participated in practically every left regroupment project going, managing to alienate virtually everyone they've ever come into contact with. By far left standards, that's some feat. The Times also goes on to say that some TUSC candidates have also signed up. That may be the case, but some proof would be nice. Furthermore, the two main forces on the far left - the rape cover-uppers in the SWP, and my increasingly stop-the-world-we-want-ti-get-off erstwhile comrades in the Socialist Party are standing aloof from what's going on. Any real political movement of tens of thousands of politicised people is a real risk to their coherence as organisations. There's that and the fact the organised "hard left" outside of Labour would be hard-pressed to muster 6,000-7,000 members and supporters. The numbers we're talking about dwarf that pretty pitiful figure.

On that flood of new members, it says a great deal about the mindset of The Times and the briefers quoted. They cannot grasp that real people have all kinds of views, and that some might be attracted to a party when a menu of different options are unveiled. They cannot conceive how anyone would join Labour of their own volition to support a candidate without some plot or shadowy clique behind the scenes manipulating things. I can only speak for my CLP, but since the start of 2015 about 100 people have joined sturdy old Stoke Central and 70 of them signed up after the election. From those that have come to meetings, most are not there just to vote in the leadership contest. They've joined because they want Labour to win nationally against a cruel and stupid government. Some of these are Jeremy Corbyn supporters, but by far and away the most important - and numerous - contingent of that constituency are established members. If the doomsayers want either Andy, Yvette, or even Liz to win they need to shut up and try and understand where the Jez supporters are coming from.

Half-way in we get to John Mann MP, the one "urging" the suspension of the Labour leadership contest. Acting as the party's cut-price Simon Danczuk while he is temporarily indisposed, he says it's "becoming a farce" as long-standing members are getting "trumped" by people who don't care about the Labour Party. Too right, John. We can't let any old any old swamping the members, can we? Except, according to this piece John penned for Progress, he'd go even wider and let anyone choose the party's parliamentary candidates, including - presumably - "people who have opposed the Labour Party and want to break it up". What a tool.

Of course, John - and also-quoted Labour donor/David Miliband groupie Assem Allam and Lord John Hutton - are being useful idiots for Conservative/Murdoch ambitions. They've seen Scotland, they've seen how it is possible to completely rout the party in its traditional core areas. And they want to repeat the same in England and Wales. Their inspiration here is German politics, how the left is split between Die Linke and the SPD. The former contains the radical, anti-austerity elements and the latter the so-called moderates. In practice where national politics are concerned, it has doomed the former to perpetual opposition and the latter to shoring up Angela Merkel. It would suit Murdoch and the Tories if such a scenario could be imposed on British politics as it makes the possibility of the centre left ever forming a government again incredibly unlikely. If Labour MPs and other senior figures want to avoid this, they'd do well to stop fanning hysterical attacks on Corbyn, they'd do well not to give the Murdoch press and its Express, Telegraph, and Mail allies reasons to put the boot in. Because they're not only - yes - scabbing on the party, they're putting their own careers on the line too.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

What I've Been Reading Recently

Nicking this idea off Mark Carrigan, here's what I've read these last few months.

The Enigma of Capital by David Harvey
The Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Talcott Parsons: Theorist of Modernity by Roland Robertson and Bryan S Turner (eds)
Sperm Wars by Robin Baker
On the Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds
Prostitution and Feminism: Toward a Politics of Feeling by Maggie O'Neill
The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
Joining Political Organisations by Laura Morales
Voters and Voting by Jocelyn Evans
Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes
Krushchev's Russia by Edward Crankshaw
Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds
The Cambridge Companion to Marx by Terrell Carver (ed.)
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Preparing for Power by the Revolutionary Communist Party

Friday, 24 July 2015

Paul Mason Debates Post-Capitalism

Paul Mason's coming book on post-capitalism sounds fascinating. Building on Yann Moulier Bouteng's brilliant Cognitive Capitalism (itself very heavily influenced by Toni Negri's autonomism and turn to empire), Paul is looking at how the antagonism central to global capitalism - between capital and labour - has in its suppression led to a proliferation of contradictions and cracks in the system that allow for glimpses of a possible world to come. As Marx observed all those years ago, the beginnings of the new grows in the womb of the old.

Here's an extract from a debate in front of a Graun audience a couple of nights ago. There might be more postings on this theme over the next week.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Remembering Charlie

Sadly, our feline comrade left us today. What can I say about Charlie? In the 15 years he shared our lives he terrorised our ankles, wrecked a few sofa covers, and smothered us in a welter of ceaseless purring. Our Charlie, sometimes affectionately known as 'monkey' and 'shitbird' among other epithets not suitable for a family-friendly blog, was always a lively presence. In fact, he's one reason I began blogging. Many moons ago he too toyed with the idea of writing a blog - Charlie was to concentrate on the frivolous, nonsensical stuff while Gerald, his tail (don't ask), was going to weigh in on heavy duty political issues. However, as Charlie and Gerald had certain limitations, such as lack of opposable thumbs and facility for language, we had to step in and make their dream real.

The house doesn't feel the same without him, but he'll always be here. 20 years from now his cat hairs will still be turning up.

Goodbye Charlie. We're going to miss you very much.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Some Advice for Andy and Yvette

In a world that gave us Milifandom, should we be shocked that Jezmania has become a thing, that Camp Corbyn has powered ahead in YouGov's poll of Labour members? Well, some of us are. And by 'us' I mean sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party and self-styled sensible people. You've had ex-Jim Murphy advisor John Mcternan castigate Jez supporters as "morons", to which Margaret Beckett - one of Jeremy's PLP "enablers" - labelled herself as such for allowing him on the ballot paper. That's not likely to go down well in Derby South CLP, who just so happened to nominate Jeremy too. And this morning we've had Tony Blair chime in with yet another of his frequent "infrequent" interventions. Out came the same old on the centre ground showing scant awareness that its time as a meaningful filter for understanding politics is long gone, and warnings about comfort zones and the like. All ammo for the Corbyn tommy gun, if you ask me.

Yes, there are palpable senses of panic and most of it emanates from the space around Liz Kendall. After all, it wasn't supposed to be like this. She was the "fresh face" no one had heard of who'd take the party back to the best of New Labour and start winning again. Her lot definitely was not to languish in fourth place and act as a strange repellent pushing members and supporters to her polar opposite. In the camps of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper there isn't panic, but there is some unease. Both can find solace in their strong CLP showings (73 and 62 to Jeremy's 76 nominations), but if either are to be leader they need to start upping the game. It's Corbyn, not Kendall that has set down the challenge and only by responding to it can they win. They can do this in a number of ways. Whether they do or not is up to them.

1) The attacks on Jeremy from friends of Liz are completely and utterly counter-productive. They are hectoring, patronising, and arrogant. You might have thought a campaign placed in distant last should show humility as it talks about winning elections. This, however, is their groove now. Falling short of one of the other two 'mainstream' candidates keeling over, they cannot get back into it. Liz is toast. However, it would be a massive error on the parts of teams Andy and Yvette to start taking this rhetoric on as the polls approach. Members have heard this argument for over 20 years. Negative and lesser evil campaigning can have a place, but it need not be from the mouths of Burnham and Cooper. What they need to do is not just campaign in a comradely way, but set out their stalls.

2. Whatever you think of Liz Kendall's politics, you know where she stands. But as her diminishing machine is jammed on relentless negativity, there's an opportunity here for Andy and Yvette. Believe it or not, there are some good things in Liz's platform. Workers on company boards, big wage rises for the care industry, and a reversal of attacks on trade unions immediately spring to mind. She's left these in her bag while she berates the membership with a megaphone. Why not pinch them?

3. Rather than being this contest's Mr Angry, Jeremy today set out a big policy announcement on tax, the economy, and public spending. These are worth looking at in some detail. There's a call for a national infrastructure investment bank and a big clampdown on tax evasion and avoidance. One can quibble about the specifics, but in the grand scheme of things these aren't particularly "left wing". Actually, in the context of economic management, by using efficient tax collection to fund infrastructure, Jez is setting out a plan for a fairer and, if you want to be technocratic about it, more rational capitalism. His route to battling the Tories over economic competence is by setting out a different, superior plan for the economy. Andy and Yvette would be wise to take a similar route - the Tories will always out-fight Labour when we fight battles on the grounds of their choosing.

4. Andy and Yvette don't need to go left or right, they need to go big. Take a leaf out of Jez's book and be bold. Andy has long talked about the need for a National Care Service. Good. Let's hear more about it. And perhaps have a think about how it can be provided so old folk don't have to sell their homes to fund it. Yvette has mentioned in passing a National Child Care Service. Brilliant, talk about it some more. It might even be one of those "aspirational" policies middle class parents are going to quite like too.

5. "Our only comfort zone should be the future" were words uttered at today's Progress audience with his Royal Blairness. Meaningless guff, or is it? As it happens, he does have a point. You might say this is a roundabout way of speaking about hope. The lead in to 1997's crushing victory allowed Labour to accumulate about it all kinds of hopes and dreams. If you look at that year's manifesto, it was very much a safety-first document. No gaskets were in danger of blowing. All Blair projected was freshness and the promise of an alternative at a moment when any alternative would do. The next leader has to do better than that, and of Yvette and Andy it's Yvette whose marketed her campaign as the most future-facing. She has said a few words about hi-tech jobs and occupations that haven't even been invented yet, but much more needs to be done. Everyone knows the biggest future challenge is climate change mitigation and renewable power - much more needs saying here, especially as - once again - the Tories are burnishing their green credentials by undercutting support for green industries. A few words against fracking would be immensely helpful too. But also, there is a big, big policy challenge on the way: the coming wave of automation is set to make large number of low and middle income jobs redundant and their like-for-like replacement by new jobs unlikely. Showing a bit of leadership now on a coming problem will pay dividends later on.

6. On business, both Andy and Yvette would do well to specify that being pro-business doesn't mean they're going to bend over backwards for them, which is usually the understanding of Labour members from all wings of the party. For example, Jeremy's tax and economy pitch is pro-business in the sense British capitalism sans austerity and coupled with infrastructural spending would do far more for productivity and profitability than corporation tax cuts. They need to have a clear focus on security for everyone, not just because it's the right thing to do, it's the politically smart thing to do, and is ultimately in the long-range interests of business. The dog-eat-dog capitalism of the Tories stymies business and business opportunities, despite the rhetoric, and can have the perverse consequence of securing further terms in power.

7. Andy and Yvette need a theme, or themes. We know they've both been round the block. Within the terms of mainstream politics, they both have potential to be good leaders of the opposition and potential prime ministers. But why are they in the race? What have they got that makes them the better choice over each other, and Jeremy and Liz? Because of Andy's flip-floppery this is a bit of an easier ask for Yvette. What the campaign needs is not more "passion" but more ideas. If either want to win, they're going to have to start talking about them - now.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Understanding Labour's Abstentions

I'm going to have a stab at understanding the gyrations of leadership candidates in recent days around the Welfare Reform Bill and how only 48 Labour MPs voted against it. But because this is the internet a qualifier is necessary. Labour MPs last night should not have sat on their hands, they should have voted against. Not only is it wrong, it's ruinously stupid. And no one in "real life" is going to buy it. Have a think, is there anyone settling down to watch a news bulletin later thinking "nice one Labour. You finally get it and I'm going to vote for you"; or are those same people more likely to say "what a spineless shower"? Yes, the electorate broadly likes the idea of social security recipients getting a kick or several, but that doesn't mean Labour is going to be rewarded for putting the boot in too. Illogical? Yes, but that's politics.

A good rule of playing the game in 2015 is if George Osborne lays a trap and erects a great neon sign that reads "this here is a trap", avoidance is probably the correct way to proceed. In this case, as Andrew Gwynne points out, the Tories had deliberately sugared the nasty pill with 'nice' things like more apprenticeships, help for troubled families, and cuts to social housing rents. Voting against the second reading of the bill means voting against those things too. But come on, that stance is pretty naive. Do you really think the Tories in the present climate are going to score points on cutting rents to people they've successfully painted as council estate detritus? Everything in the bill is overdetermined by cuts. That's what's being reported, that's what "normal" people are seeing. As with so many thing it's about perception, something that new MP Cat Smith gets. Furthermore, 22 Tory MPs also abstained - had the bulk of Labour not done so a morale-shaking defeat might have been inflicted on the government and spun them into crisis instead.

Moving to the leadership candidates, what's been happening here? There is some confusion as the Welfare Reform Bill doesn't deal with the issue of tax credits, which three of the four clearly opposed. Most of the ire, however, has been reserved for Andy Burnham. If his leadership campaign can be distinguished by one thing, it's not passion: it's flip-floppery. How many U-turns and contradictions can one man perform? We've had "Labour spent too much, but I'm not going to apologise for new schools, hospitals, etc.". We've heard him praise the 2015 manifesto as the best one he's ever stood on, only to have him criticise it in hustings as too narrow. He said on Sunday that he'd be happy to have Jeremy Corbyn in his shadow cabinet, only to have it ruled out a few hours later. And then, after abstaining in last night's vote he writes "If I am elected leader in September, I am determined that Labour will fight this regressive Bill word by word, line by line."

To be fair to Andy in this instance, he did qualify that with "if the Government do not make major changes to protect working families, children and the disabled, then, under my Leadership, Labour will oppose this Bill with everything we’ve got". In other words, if the amendments Labour put down on the bill don't get through committee (they're very unlikely to) then Andy will lead his troops through the no lobby when it returns for passage into law. Once again, especially in the context of his less than smooth record, Andy should have paid attention to perceptions.

There is, however, a very good reason why the three abstainers um, abstained that is unrelated to the specifics of this issue. It comes down to party discipline. Whoever wins is going to have to manage the party and ensure the PLP act in a (relatively) disciplined fashion. There are a number of ways this ongoing process can be accomplished, such as balancing out different trends and factions in the shadow cabinet. Ed Miliband, for instance, packed his first shadcab with Blairites not because he was a Blairite but because they were a weighty contingent in the parliamentary party. They had backed his brother by a wide margin and had to be accommodated. As the parliament wore on they were gradually whittled away and replaced by Milipeople. It helped ensure a high degree of party unity and also deferred the expression of divisions to now. An essential tool of management, the incoming leader is going to need to appeal to loyalty to the office and loyalty to the party. Do not underestimate how powerful this is - MPs who abstained last night aren't the only ones who've abided by the whip to do less-than-palatable things. However, for any leader to call on this resource they have to show respect for it themselves. Suppose Andy or Yvette as the two favourites win. They are likely to be victorious off the back of second preference votes and will face a PLP where approximately two thirds didn't nominate them. They are going to have to call on that party loyalty at some point, but it would be much harder for them to do so if they rebelled against the party whip on this occasion. Some readers are going to find this unprincipled behaviour, but it's par the course for parliamentary and party manoeuvres. Think back to Iain Duncan Smith in his time as one of John Major's 'bastards'. How did repeated disloyalty and back bench shenanigan-stirring work out for him when he was leader?

Once again, because it's the internet, this isn't a soft soaping of would-be leaders that excuses their abstention on a crucial political issue but an attempt at understanding why some key political actors do what they do. Understanding, after all, is the route to wisdom.