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New polling data shows the challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn

Exclusive YouGov research for the New Statesman shows how Corbyn's support base crucially differs from Labour's target voters.

Successful party leaders marry the enthusiasms of their supporters to the mood of the wider electorate. By this test, Jeremy Corbyn looks destined to fail. Exclusive YouGov research for the New Statesman finds that the two groups are divided by a gulf that is unprecedented in modern British politics.

Those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn overwhelmingly describe themselves as left-wing. They reject capitalism, and they admire Tony Benn more than they admire Tony Blair. Two-thirds of them want to abolish private schools and the monarchy, and favour higher taxes to pay for greater welfare.

Labour’s target voters think none of these things. Nor do many current Labour supporters. The table gives the main findings. The first column sets out the views of those who voted for Corbyn to be party leader. The final three columns are taken from a separate survey of more than 10,000 electors. Currently, just over a quarter would vote Labour; a further 20 per cent would consider doing so. To win in 2020, Labour must retain the support of almost all its present supporters and at least half its potential voters.

Our figures show how hard this will be. While 81 per cent of those who voted for Corbyn say they are “very” or “fairly” left-wing, a mere 15 per cent of potential Labour voters and 25 per cent of “weak” supporters do so. (“Firm” supporters are those who identify fairly strongly or strongly with the party: “weak” supporters would vote Labour now but don’t identify strongly with it.)

Should Corbyn tack to the centre and compromise on his long-held views? He has already performed U-turns on a number of issues, such as Europe. He accepts that abolishing the monarchy will have to wait.

However, if he abandons the beliefs he has embraced for more than 30 years, he faces a double risk. On the one hand, the people he needs to attract may reject him as a cynical leader, hiding his true feelings to win votes; on the other hand, those who voted for him may accuse him of betraying the very principles that he proclaimed so clearly in his leadership campaign.

Corbyn’s other option, of course, is to hold firm to his views, make the case for red-blooded socialism, and persuade millions of voters to back his crusade. If he truly believes in it, he should do so – and set out to prove me wrong.

The data
 

Peter Kellner was President of YouGov from 2007 to 2015. Prior to that, he worked as a journalist for Newsnight, the New Statesman, and others.

This article first appeared in the 24 September 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Revenge of the Left

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Will the Brexit Cabinet talks end in a “three baskets” approach?

The joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. 

It's decision day in the Brexit talks. Again.

The Brexit inner Cabinet will meet to hammer out not its final position, but the shape of its negotiating position. The expected result: an agreement on an end state in which the United Kingdom agrees it will follow EU regulations as it were still a member, for example on aviation; will agree to follow EU objectives but go about them in its own way, for example on recycling, where the British government wants to do more on plastic and less on glass; and finally, in some areas, it will go its way completely, for instance on financial services. Or as it has come to be known in Whitehall, the "three baskets" approach.

For all the lengthy run-up, this bit isn't expected to be difficult: the joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. There are two difficulties: the first is that the EU27 won't play ball, and the second is that MPs will kick off when it emerges that their preferred basket is essentially empty.

The objections of the EU27 are perhaps somewhat overwritten. The demands of keeping the Irish border open, maintaining Europol and EU-wide defence operations means that in a large number of areas, a very close regulatory and political relationship is in everyone's interests. But everyone knows that in order for the Conservative government to actually sign the thing, there is going to have to be some divergence somewhere.

The bigger problem is what happens here at home when it turns out that the third basket - that is to say, full regulatory autonomy - is confined to fishing and the "industries of the future". The European Research Group may have a few more letters left to send yet.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.