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New polling data shows the challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn

Exclusive YouGov research for the New Statesman shows how Corbyn's support base crucially differs from Labour's target voters.

Successful party leaders marry the enthusiasms of their supporters to the mood of the wider electorate. By this test, Jeremy Corbyn looks destined to fail. Exclusive YouGov research for the New Statesman finds that the two groups are divided by a gulf that is unprecedented in modern British politics.

Those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn overwhelmingly describe themselves as left-wing. They reject capitalism, and they admire Tony Benn more than they admire Tony Blair. Two-thirds of them want to abolish private schools and the monarchy, and favour higher taxes to pay for greater welfare.

Labour’s target voters think none of these things. Nor do many current Labour supporters. The table gives the main findings. The first column sets out the views of those who voted for Corbyn to be party leader. The final three columns are taken from a separate survey of more than 10,000 electors. Currently, just over a quarter would vote Labour; a further 20 per cent would consider doing so. To win in 2020, Labour must retain the support of almost all its present supporters and at least half its potential voters.

Our figures show how hard this will be. While 81 per cent of those who voted for Corbyn say they are “very” or “fairly” left-wing, a mere 15 per cent of potential Labour voters and 25 per cent of “weak” supporters do so. (“Firm” supporters are those who identify fairly strongly or strongly with the party: “weak” supporters would vote Labour now but don’t identify strongly with it.)

Should Corbyn tack to the centre and compromise on his long-held views? He has already performed U-turns on a number of issues, such as Europe. He accepts that abolishing the monarchy will have to wait.

However, if he abandons the beliefs he has embraced for more than 30 years, he faces a double risk. On the one hand, the people he needs to attract may reject him as a cynical leader, hiding his true feelings to win votes; on the other hand, those who voted for him may accuse him of betraying the very principles that he proclaimed so clearly in his leadership campaign.

Corbyn’s other option, of course, is to hold firm to his views, make the case for red-blooded socialism, and persuade millions of voters to back his crusade. If he truly believes in it, he should do so – and set out to prove me wrong.

The data
 

Peter Kellner was President of YouGov from 2007 to 2015. Prior to that, he worked as a journalist for Newsnight, the New Statesman, and others.

This article first appeared in the 24 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Revenge of the Left

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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