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19 August 2016updated 09 Sep 2021 10:56am

If rallies are a barometer of popular support, why do the Tories win?

Millions of voters don't like drama or social change. 

By Anna Rhodes

We have watched, over the past couple of months, images and videos from the rallies being held by Jeremy Corbyn in various cities across the country – Liverpool, London, Manchester, the list goes on. From these photos and the gleeful support from the crowd and on social media, one would be led to believe that Corbyn is in prime position to win the Labour leadership contest, and indeed the next general election (if you listen to the cries of the crowd).

Yes, Corbyn is on track to win the leadership race – Owen Smith is trailing behind in support. However, when considering the general election, the situation is dire – Labour is trailing behind the Tories by 11 percent, with public satisfaction figures showing that 28 per cent are satisfied by Corbyn. Theresa May’s figures stand on 58 per cent satisfied, 19 per cent dissatisfied. There is also a fantastic table which breaks down these figures by social group and region. Shockingly, Jeremy’s support is stronger in the South and London than the North – the North typically being the Labour homelands.

I’m aware that we no longer trust the “experts”, but polling figures are a statistically viable way to understanding the lack of correlation between ground support and electoral support. We see individuals shouting “Jez we can!” in the streets. But consider the figures, and many of us wonder if he can actually do it.  

It is important here to examine the electorate. As of 2015, there were 44,722,000 eligible members of the electorate. Of course, not all of these individuals turn out to vote –  the EU referendum showed an all time high of 72.2 per cent turnout – but even that equates to approximately 32.2m voters. The Labour party membership has surged to 516,000, with the Conservatives sitting on 149,800 members. Yet, when it comes down to it, the party with the lower membership numbers succeeds at the general election. Allusions to Michael Foot are becoming very passe, but it is a prime example of when ground support does not convert into electoral victory. 

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So how do we understand this paradox –  so many people dissatisfied by Corbyn and Labour, yet so many individuals are out on the streets? Well, I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of the electorate wants an easy ride. They wish to place their vote, and move on – they do not have the will, the time or the inclination to be out on a Monday night crying “down with Thatcher 2.0” alongside the Socialist Worker’s Party. Any slight nudge to the left of the spectrum puts off many voters. They do not want the drama of political movements – they wish to place their votes, and leave the running of the country up to someone else. I include myself in this group – I have not the expertise nor the will to start dictating public policy in the park. 

And that is exactly where the Conservatives are winning. No rallies, no protests, no calls of mass social change. Instead, they offer consistency, and currently look like a very organised bunch, considering that they sorted their leadership crisis out in a mere two weeks whilst the Labour hustlings are still blighting us all with push news updates every day. In times of crisis, particularly post-Brexit, many will be looking for a safe pair of hands to lead the country, stay strong against the bureaucrats of Europe and keep us afloat. Does the Labour Party really offer this stability when they can’t even organise themselves, let alone the country? 

These rallies held by Corbyn are also occurring in Labour heartlands. They drum up support from places where the Labour majority is a constant. But this does not reflect the mood of the country. These rallies, if they really are to be pulling strong support, need to be expanded to Tory strongholds. After all, if Labour genuinely intends on winning the next election, it needs to win votes from said Tory areas. So far, Theresa May’s approval ratings are soaring – it doesn’t seem as though the plan to convince swing voters is going well. 

Does Corbynite Labour really want to win the next election? There has been a lot of chatter on social media that the movement is more important than victory at an election. But how can the party really implement mass social change when they’re stuck on the other side of the dispatch box with a limited amount, if any, power? 

These rallies will continue to pop up, and it will continue to seem as though Corbynmania is sweeping the country. But when you see a rally of several thousand supporters, don’t forget that figure of 44,722,000 voters. That’s your benchmark.