As soon as the YouGov poll was released I was quick to remark that even as “Corbyn’s biggest fan” I was fairly surprised that a poll lead had come this early. Though I do fundamentally believe that Labour’s alternative can transform into a winning formulation, I also believed that it would take longer than six months to transform into an electoral reality. This is something that I lamented as early as the Oldham by-election: “perhaps one of the greatest problems of socialism is that an opinion always requires an explanation.” But something else I have also spoken about for some time is that the Labour party could really do with some sort of Tory implosion. It would appear that Christmas has come early for me.
While many will dismiss this poll as a one-off and an outlier, it is important to assess it in light of recent polling. Some may contend that a trend is only starting to emerge, and this is an assessment I would largely agree with, but a general direction is certainly emerging. The last three opinion polls show the Tories bleeding support while Labour gathers pace. When the ICM poll earlier this week showed that Labour had levelled with the Tories many commentators refused to accept the result, decrying the poll as an outlier that demanded further evidence. Even after the YouGov poll seemed to confirm such suspicions, many are still unsure of the direction. But I have some sympathy. As aforementioned, it seems incredibly early for a politician as polarised as Jeremy Corbyn to be taking the lead in the national polls.
But why does this surprise us? We live in a time of political and economic uncertainty. The Chancellor has just delivered a budget very different to the one he predicted just four months ago when the sun just wouldn’t stop shining. The public have denounced the latest budget as sincerely unfair for the first time since 2012 as the Tories move to take from the disabled so as to continue to support the rich. Even Osborne’s rhetoric could not save him this time, and while the sugar tax may have dominated the front pages his budget of obvious unfairness has been ripped apart. After claiming that this was a budget for the next generation, the Children’s Society noted that it only served to fail the next generation. Though Osborne claimed that Britain was strong enough navigate the rough climate ahead the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested that should the predictions be correct we should all be worried.
But we should not be too triumphalist in our assessment of the current situation. What is important is that Labour capitalises on the political turbulence the Tories find themselves within. Labour must now make clearer than ever that the Tory party stands for inequality and unfairness while the Labour party exists to stand up and not simply stand by. Jeremy’s passionate response to the Tory announcement of failure in the budget must be sustained; not just by the leader himself, but by his supporters. We must all play our part in ensuring that Labour maintains its lead, not just in the polls, but also in controlling the national narrative. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but the early signs of possible victory appear to be emerging. Rather than knocking each other down, let us build on this position of strength in showing the Tories for what they really are while also demonstrating what a true Labour alternative can achieve.