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7 June 2017

Will Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister after the 2017 general election?

Can Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn win the 2017 general election? 

By New Statesman

In recent days, the opinion polls have been tightening – with one putting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour just five points behind the Conservatives. On average, Labour is now seven points behind the Conservatives in the polls. 

Unfortunately for Labour supporters, it is still highly unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn could be the next prime minister after the general election on 8 June. After less than two years as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn is leading the party into a snap general election. Labour behind in the latest general election polls and underperformed badly in the recent local elections. Since the election was called, Labour’s position in the polls has been improving. But there’s a big question: can we trust the general election polls?

Can Jeremy Corbyn become prime minister after the general election 2017?

This isn’t the first vote of national significance since Jeremy Corbyn’s election, however, since he was in office during the 2016 EU referendum. It’s also not Corbyn’s first serious challenge: after the Brexit vote, his MPs voted “no confidence” in him and Owen Smith challenged him for the leadership. Corbyn saw off that threat to his position convincingly, so can he pull out another electoral triumph and become prime minister? 

Do the polls predict a Labour victory?

Since May 2015, the Conservative Party has consistently led in the polls. The latest polls give Labour ratings in the mid 30s, while the Conservatives are on the mid-40s. (In 2015, under Ed Miliband, Labour scored 30.4 per cent.) Recent improvements in Labour’s standing still leave Jeremy Corbyn a long way from becoming prime minister.

However, if the Tories fail to get an overall majority, as YouGov is projecting, there is a scenario where Jeremy Corbyn could be the Prime Minister of a coalition government.

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But should we believe the general election polls? Glen O’Hara, professor of modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes University, points out that the polls have been wrong before, and could be overstating Labour’s collapse. However, a gap of this size is far outside the margin of error. A Corbyn win would be an unprecedented upset.

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What is Labour’s record on elections?

At the 2016 local elections, Labour did not gain any councils and lost 18 seats and 4 per cent of the vote. James Schneider, the co-founder of Momentum who is now Corbyn’s head of strategic communications, said this showed Labour was on the right trajectory, but it’s a disappointment for an opposition to make no gains. And at the Copeland byelection this February, Labour lost the seat to the Tories – the first government gain in a by-election since 1982.

Can Jeremy Corbyn become prime minister? The verdict

Jeremy Corbyn’s path to power would be one of the greatest surprises in British politics. But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible. It would take some extraordinary events, but it could happen.