Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
7 February 2018updated 28 Jun 2021 4:39am

Why Team Corbyn aren’t worried about the polls

Although the polls are deadlocked, the inner circle is not worried. Here’s why.

By Stephen Bush

Last Thursday, Jon Trickett addressed Labour’s twice-weekly spads meeting: the gathering of Shadow Cabinet staffers where the leader’s office plans and strategy are communicated to the rest of the party’s backroom staff. “We are are aiming to be a transformative Labour government,” he told them. Elsewhere, Peter Dowd, the shadow chief secretary, is conducting a review of government spending. A series of conferences and seminars on how public ownership should work are planned to put meat on the bones of the nationalization agenda.

All this by way of saying: the Labour leadership is worried about many things, but the polls ain’t one.

There are Corbynsceptics who regard the poll deadlock as a sign that the last election was a contest in which the Conservatives did everything to lose and still, just about, won, and that, absent a Tory leader as maladroit as Theresa May, Labour is destined to lose the next election. However, that isn’t a view that has any particular purchase at the top of the party.

Instead, there are two schools of thought as far as the polls go. The first – which is also well-represented in Corbynsceptic circles – is that the polls got Labour’s poll share wrong in 2015 and 2017, and that worrying about headline voting intention is a waste of everyone’s time. (One senior Corbynite likened poll-watching to “worrying about tealeaves”.)

The more widespread view is that the deadlocked polls are a result of the polarization between left and right: the last election realigned politics into two big blocs and that a combination of the breakdown of the prevailing economic model and first past the post means that it will stay that way.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Why, then, is the leadership not more depressed? On that reading, they realigned politics, but the realignment wasn’t enough to deliver a Labour government. The reason is a belief that time favours Labour. The government will have to deliver a Brexit deal that falls short of May’s rhetoric, the public realm, particularly the NHS, will continue to be under growing pressure, and the housing market will continue to shut out growing numbers of voters under 45.

And that’s why, even if the polls continue to show Labour and the Conservatives at level-pegging, you shouldn’t expect a great rethink or change of approach from the Opposition any time soon.