Why voters aren’t willing to write off Keir Starmer just yet

Exclusive polling for the New Statesman shows that nearly 40 per cent of voters are unable to make a fair judgement on the Labour leader. 

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More than a year has passed since Keir Starmer became Labour leader and according to exclusive polling for the New Statesman, many voters are still unsure about what it is he and his party stands for.

Almost four in ten (39 per cent) voters told a poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies across Great Britain on 19 May 2021 that they are unfamiliar with what the Labour Party stands for under Starmer’s leadership. Sixty-one per cent, meanwhile, say they are familiar.

While still only a minority of voters, this finding is not encouraging for Labour’s beleaguered leader in the wake of the party’s defeat in the Hartlepool by-election and the loss of 327 seats in the local elections.

[See also: Tony Blair: Without total change Labour will die]

Starmer’s shadow cabinet is also largely unknown by voters, with a majority of voters saying they know nothing about deputy leader Angela Rayner, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, shadow justice secretary David Lammy, and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.

Voters know nothing of the key figures in Keir Starmer's cabinet
⚫ - in cabinet; ⚪ - not in cabinet

Name recognition of Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Home Affairs Select Committee chair Yvette Cooper, by contrast, is much healthier.

But while the Conservatives’ large poll lead over Labour – as high as 18 points in a new YouGov survey – is troubling for Labour, the key point is that the situation does not yet appear terminal. 

The Redfield & Wilton poll found that not all voters are prepared to write Starmer off. Though 63 per cent say they feel able to make a fair judgement of the Labour leader, 37 per cent, a significant minority, do not. 

Voter certainty about Starmer is lowest in the south east of England, London, the north of England, and the West Midlands – all regions with valuable battleground seats that could determine Labour’s future. Among those who didn’t vote in the 2019 general election – some of whom backed Labour in 2017 – 65 per cent say they do not yet feel able to make a fair judgement of Starmer. 

Among those with an opinion, Starmer polls poorly. But voter uncertainty is high and many are actively unwilling to write him off. All of which means the Labour leader still has an opportunity to persuade them to vote Labour. 

 Ben Walker is a data journalist at the New Statesman

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