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Has Jeremy Corbyn really lost 4m voters? Labour’s election chances in numbers

What you need to know about the Fabian Society report.

It’s not a happy start to 2017 for Labour. A report by the Fabian Society has deemed the party “too weak” to win an election – even if it doesn’t happen until 2020. It argues Labour’s best chance is to govern in coalition with other progressive parties. 

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has had to field off a new attack, this time from Unite chief Len McCluskey. The prominent Corbyn backer told The Mirror that if the polls were “still awful” in 2019, everyone – including Corbyn – would have to “examine that situation”. 

So how dire will the coming years be for Labour? Here are the numbers you need to know from the Fabian Society report:

20 per cent

Labour’s current poll rating is between 27 and 28 per cent of the vote, which is slightly below what it polled in the 2010 election. But since the party has previously underperformed its mid-term polling, this could sink to 20 per cent in an election. 


There are 231 Labour MPs in Parliament today. If a general election was held, this number could fall to as low as 140, based on current polling. 

44 per cent

These are the 44 per cent, or 4m, people who voted for Labour in 2015, but a year and a half later say they would not vote for the party today. Some of this group have switched allegiance to other parties. Roughly 2m say they are undecided or will not vote. Labour’s loyal voters amount to just 5.1m people. So is it Corbyn's fault? According to this YouGov poll, conducted at the height of the Labour leadership contest, it would seem so. However, Labour in Scotland was also decimated in the aftermath of a referendum


Labour’s support doesn’t actually look that different from 2010 (when it lost its majority), but here’s the crucial fact – this statistic only applies in England and Wales. Despite losing to the Conservatives nationwide, Labour actually gained seats in England and Wales in 2015. So what's the problem, you ask?


The first problem is Scotland. Labour lost all but one of its MPs in 2015, while the SNP cleaned up. Current polling suggests if there was a general election tomorrow, the party would have zero Scottish MPs. And as for the second...


On current polling, Labour looks likely to reverse some of those 2015 England and Wales gains, to the tune of losing 39 seats (plus one in Scotland). This is worse than going back to 2010 – 24 seats worse, in fact. 


Among those who say they will vote Labour, an estimated 2.1m are “soft” voters who haven’t chosen one of the main parties in an election before. Whether or not they get out of bed on the day and  make their x in the box is yet to be seen.


Labour has lost roughly 400,000 votes to the Liberal Democrats since 2015, compared to 200,000 each to the Tories and Ukip. This suggests Ukip is less of a threat than commonly believed. On the other hand, the Lib Dems will take Labour votes while the Tory party, second in many marginal constituencies, will snap up seats.  


If Labour were to gain a majority at the next general election, the party would need to not only reverse the current losses predicted, but win 94 more seats (at the last election, that number was 68). 


But if this wasn’t grim enough, the bad news for Labour is that only 48 seats are considered genuinely marginal (i.e. a 5 per cent swing would be enough to win), compared to 74 in the last parliament. 

8.7 per cent

The national swing Labour would need to win an election with a majority of one is 8.7 per cent. By contrast, in the 2015 election, Labour only needed a 4.6 per cent swing. In other words, if you thought 2015’s election campaign was tough, the party is nearly twice as far from winning this time round. 


If Labour accepts it can’t win the next general election, and agrees to work with other anti-Conservative parties like the SNP and the Lib Dems, it could kick the Tories out with a shared majority of 30 seats. 

According to Andrew Harrop, the general secretary of the Fabian Society and author of the report, this is the glimmer of hope.

He said: "Labour may end up winning only 140 to 200 big city and ex-industrial constituencies, but it will have a platform from which to rebuild. On the other hand, if Labour’s fortunes recover sooner, while there is no chance of a majority, the party might be able to gain sufficient MPs to govern in partnership
with other parties.

"That should be Labour’s goal."



Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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