Jeremy Corbyn predicts Labour victory as he avoids hung parliament questions

The Labour leader faces the challenge of dramatically heightened expectations.

NS

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After the polling debacle of 2015, many said that political surveys had lost their transfixing power. But like addicts reaching for another hit, the media have proved unable to resist them. The papers have routinely led on polls and today's YouGov survey for the Times is the most startling yet, showing the Conservative lead down to four points. An accompanying daily projection suggests the Tories would fall 16 seats short of a majority, giving Jeremy Corbyn the chance to form a government (ComRes and ICM, by contrast, anticipate a Conservative majority of 100+).

In light of recent experience, the only sensible stance is to treat all polls with scepticism (and to draw on alternative indicators). But they will help shape how the parties approach the final week. At this morning's Labour press conference on public services, Corbyn and shadow cabinet members Jon Ashworth and Angela Rayner (who I recently profiled) were pressed on the party's intentions in the event of a hung parliament (an outcome that CCHQ is now preparing for).

I asked Corbyn, who has ruled out a coalition with the SNP, whether he was opposed to any deal with the party to ensure a Labour administration. He replied: "I think you spend too much time in Westminster, if I may say so [my constituency profile of Birmingham Edgbaston will appear in this week's NS] ... What you would see outside is a very different story, the enthusiasm, the step change and the whole ambition of people to win this election for Labour, to elect a Labour government with a majority to carry out what would be an agenda that would radically improve the lives of so many people ... I invite you to join us when we celebrate victory. Is that alright, George?"

Though Corbyn was wise to avoid the question, his prediction of "victory" is striking (he could have replied "the only poll that counts is on 8 June"). Like Theresa May at the start of the campaign, the Labour leader now faces the challenge of dramatically heightened expectations.

Earlier asked by the Daily Mirror's Jack Blanchard how Labour would respond to a hung parliament, Corbyn replied: "I never comment on opinion polls but this election campaign is going very well." Whether or not it has gone well enough to enable a Labour victory, it has significantly improved Corbyn's chances of retaining the party leadership. Before the election, a YouGov poll suggested that 68 per cent of members wanted him to resign in the event of a defeat. After recent weeks, that figure is likely to have reduced.

George Eaton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.