Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has rightly taken a hammering since Labour lost Copeland on Thursday. As we pointed out last week, Labour’s average by-election performance under Corbyn has been consistently worse than the Party’s 2015 General Election result by around 10 points. Corbyn’s response to the defeat was to angrily affirm his determination to lead the Party into 2020, while his deputy was forced to deny that keeping the leader in post was not ‘a suicide approach’.
Bear in mind the context: we are almost two years into a Conservative Government that has lost a referendum, changed leaders, continued with austerity, and survives on a tiny majority. Yet Labour is 15% points behind the Conservatives and, notwithstanding Diane Abbott’s continuing promise that her Party will be ahead ‘within 2 months’, the prospect of a Labour victory in 2020 appears total fantasy.
ComRes was commissioned by the Sunday Mirror to conduct a snap poll on Friday to gauge voter responses to Labour and to Corbyn’s leadership. The results make for ugly reading.
Among voters for any party other than Labour – in other words voters the party needs to attract to lift itself off the floor – 77% believe the Party doesn’t have the right leader, 73% think it doesn’t have the right policies and 71% think it has lost touch with the working classes.
Even current Labour voters themselves are split over Corbyn’s leadership – just a third (32%) think he is the right person to lead the Party into 2020 with a further third who do not, and the remainder do not know.
A third of the public overall (31%) say they would be more likely to vote Labour if the Party was not led by Jeremy Corbyn, compared to just 10% who would be less likely.
Importantly, as Labour loses votes to the Lib Dems and, to a lesser extent UKIP, a massive 57% of Lib Dem voters and 24% of UKIP voters would be more likely to vote Labour if the Party ditched Corbyn.
The most popular alternative leader to Corbyn tested was Sadiq Khan, for whom 19% overall would be more likely to vote Labour but 23% would be less likely to. Second is Hilary Benn whose impact would broadly be neutral with as many being put off voting Labour as being more inclined to.
Among all non-Labour voters overall, the prize for most popular alternative leader is shared between Hilary Benn and Sadiq Khan, both of whom would attract 18%, although Hilary Benn would put fewer voters off than Sadiq Khan would.
A further factor putting voters off Labour is that the Party is seen as too left-wing, in contrast to Dennis Skinner’s tweet on Friday that ‘the glaring lesson to be learnt from yesterday’s results is that (Labour) isn’t left wing enough to motivate the electorate’. In contrast to that claim, half of non-Labour voters (49%) believe the Party to be too left-wing, while only 17% do not agree. Significantly perhaps, some 44% of Lib Dem voters – and even one in five Labour voters (18%) – also think that the Party has become too left-wing.
If Labour’s woes rekindle speculation over an early election, there is little appetite among voters for one: only 30% agree that Theresa May should call one, whereas 41% disagree. Somewhat inexplicably, the party whose voters are most enthusiastic for an early election are Labour supporters (43%). The only explanation I can offer is that many of those Labour voters possibly want the pain of defeat to be behind them and the opportunity created to replace the Party’s current leadership.