There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph which shows a slight fall back in the Conservative lead to 14%:
Conservative 41% (up 1%)
Labour 27% (up 2%)
Lib Dem 18% (down 2%)
All the changes are within the margin of error and this poll is consistent with other recent polls.
I am grateful to correspondents who have sent me information about two more Lib Dems falling short of the high standards they so often demand from others.
The first is Councillor Shirley Brown (left), a Bristol Councillor, who was suspended for one month by the authority’s standards committee last month for using an offensive remark about an Asian Conservative, Councillor Jethwa. Cllr Brown described Cllr Jethwa as a “coconut”. That is a new term to me but apparently it means a person who has sold out on their culture, being black/brown on the outside but white in the middle.
Cllr Brown apologised but is now seeking leave to appeal against the suspension. Bristol was the one bright spot for the Lib Dems in last month’s local elections, when they gained 4 seats to take control of the Council, whilst at the same time losing control of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset County Councils. Cllr Brown’s suspension reduces the Lib Dem’s slender majority on the Council to just 1 vote.
I think she should be grateful that she has gotten off so lightly. Had it been a Conservative making a similar remark you can be sure that the Lib Dems would have been screaming for their instant dismissal by the Group Leader, David Cameron and anyone else they could think of.
The second Lib Dem Councillor is rather more senior than Cllr Brown. He is Cllr Ayoub Khan (left) from Birmingham. As well as being a Councillor he is also the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Clare Short’s seat off Birmingham Ladywood. He was found by a QC in an electoral court to have fabricated a smear against a Labour opponent. Cllr Khan has appealed against the decision through successive courts but has lost every time, culminating in a ruling by two High Court judges against an application for a judicial review.
Cllr Khan is a member of the Cabinet in Birmingham which is run by a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition. Now that he has exhausted all levels of appeal and the original finding stands, I hope and expect that the Leader of Council will remove Khan from his Cabinet portfolio of Local Services and Community Safety.
The cut and thrust of politics can at times be unpalatable to some but someone who has been convicted of smearing a political opponent should not continue to hold senior office in any party or Council. It will be interesting to see what action, if any, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg takes against the disgraced Cllr Khan and whether he remains a Parliamentary Candidate for the Lib Dems.
In case you missed it, there is a bizarre story doing the rounds that Gordon Brown will be replaced as Labour leader and Prime Minister by Peter Mandelson in advance of the next General Election.
In order for this to happen, a whole series of other things would have to happen first:
1. Gordon Brown has to leave office in order to create a vacancy. That could either be by choice or by his party forcing him out. I think it highly unlikely that Brown would go of his own volition and Labour does not have a history of forcing out incumbent leaders.
2. In order for Peter Mandelson to be a contender he would have to be in the House of Commons rather than the Lords as he is now. That would mean him resigning from the Lords and fighting a by-election to get into the Commons. At present Life Peers cannot resign their seats in the Lords, although legislation will shortly be passed to enable this. A seat would then have to be found for him to contest. Unless it was an ultra-safe Labour seat there would be no guarantee of him winning the by-election – just witness the results in Norwich North and Crewe & Nantwich.
3. If both of the above conditions were fulfilled Mandelson would then have to find nominees in order to stand, raise funds for a campaign, gain Union backing and support from the grass-roots membership, not to mention the support of sufficient Labour MPs to win the ballot. Whilst I don’t doubt he could raise the funds and find sufficient nominees, I seriously doubt that he would find many Union backers or a large enough coterie of MPs to elect him leader.
If anyone seriously believes that all of these things will happen they need their head examined. Peter Mandelson may have earned some respect within the Labour Party in recent months following his return to Government but he is still loathed by swathes of the Parliamentary Party and the wider membership. My Labour contact almost choked when I suggested to him that PM might become PM, then he laughed.
Does anyone also believe that Peter Mandelson would be a credible leader in the eyes of the electorate? He is seen as the master of spin and the dark arts of politics. He is also fanatically pro-EU. He comes with a huge amount of baggage that would be used against him mercilessly by the press and other parties.
July and August are traditionally the silly season in British politics when the most outlandish stories gain currency before they are quietly forgotten as the Party Conference season gets underway. I think this is one of those silly season stories.
I would certainly not rule out a challenge to Gordon Brown before the year is out but my sense is that Labour are resigned to defeat and will stumble on to the next election with Gordon Brown as leader. Most of the rest of the stories we will see between now and then are more about positioning for the expected post-election leadership contest, when the remaining rump of Labour MPs will jockey for the future direction of the movement.