I’ve been on holiday for the last week, but hopefully haven’t missed too much polling in the August after a general election! One thing that did happen was the Electoral Commission recommending (and the government accepting) a change in the wording of the EU referendum, from a YES/NO question to a REMAIN/LEAVE question. This raises the question of whether or not the wording makes a difference.

At the end of May ICM ran a split sample experiment, asking the then Yes/No version of the question and the remain/leave question that the Electoral Commission ended up recommending. On the Yes/No wording the result was YES 47%, NO 33%, DK 20%; on the Remain/Leave wording the result was YES 43%, NO 35%, DK 22%. Results are here.

ComRes ran a similar experiment at the same time, they asked the then Yes/No version of the question, and a more general question on whether people would vote to stay or leave in a referendum (it didn’t use the exact wording the Electoral Commission have now recommended). On the Yes/No wording the result was YES 58%, NO 31%, DK 11%. On the Stay/Leave question the result was STAY 51%, LEAVE 33%, DK 16%. Results are here.

YouGov haven’t done a split sample, but since the general election they have asked the question in two different ways – one asking the old Yes/No referendum question, and one asking if people would like Britain to remain or leave the European Union. Using the Yes/No referendum question they have found an average YES lead of 8 points. Using a question asking if people would vote for Britain to remain or stay, they have found an average REMAIN lead of 6 points (figures are here, here and here)

The scale of the difference varies between 2 and 9 points and only the ICM poll used the actual question wording. However, the general trend is clear, a remain/leave question seems to produce a smaller pro-EU lead than a yes/no question.

However, what difference the wording makes in an opinion poll is not necessarily the same question as what difference the wording makes in a referendum. An opinion poll is getting someone’s instant reaction having bombarded them with a question they may not have had a firm opinion upon until you asked. A referendum takes place after several weeks campaigning on the pros and cons on each side of the argument and what the implications and consequences of voting Yes or No (or Stay or Leave) might be. I suspect in a referendum, as opposed to an opinion poll, there is very little real difference between Yes/No and Remain/Leave.

311 Responses to “The European referendum question”

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    “elected representatives” -sorry !

  2. A vote on military action in Syria may split the Labour Party.

  3. Are you seriously denying that the press have it in for Corbyn, and are twisting his words at every opportunity, Colin – did you see the Private Eye piece?

  4. JOE

    No -I don’t read any publications which criticise things I like. :-)

  5. Colin

    “don’t want unfettered immigration”

    I must admit that I hadn’t heard of the new initiative to fetter all immigrants.

    The Daily Mail WILL be pleased!

  6. WOLF
    “A vote on military action in Syria may split the Labour Party.”

    I doubt if. I expect this to e a free vote, and for the well-known differences within the party to be accepted as genuine and a matter of conscience.

  7. As previously mentioned, Survation have a poll for the MoS, mainly on the refugee crisis but with VI as well. Tables are here:


    Headline VI:

    Con 38% (-)

    Lab 32% (-1)

    Lib Dem 6% (-)

    UKIP 13% (-2)

    SNP 5% (-)

    PC 1% (+1)

    Green 4% (+1)

    Other 1% (-)

    Changes from previous Survation (12-13 Aug). As you can see it’s all MoE stuff, though it’s interesting that UKIP haven’t benefited from the refugee crisis as you might expect (fieldwork was 3-4 Sep, so time for it to have had an effect).

    This was also the first poll to ask the revised version of the Euroref question Imagine there was a referendum today with the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” How would you vote?

    After LTV the figures are:

    Remain 40.4%, Leave 42.6% Undecided 17.0%

    so pretty close still and indeed without LTV Remain was just ahead:

    Remain 40.4%, Leave 39.7%, Undecided 20.1%.

    Yes lead when Survation last asked a Euroref question in the old wording (29 Jun – 6 Jul):

    Yes 45%, No 37%, Undecided 18%.

    Which again suggest that the wording is important. Though the pro-EU camp is still much better off than it was a few years ago.

    Survation also asked if people preferred the new wording. 40% approved, 7% disapproved (44% said neither and 4% DK).

    Oddly enough the small difference between those who want to remain in the EU (50% v 12%) and those who want to leave (41% v 14%) suggests that the pro-EU group, despite the resultant suppression of the pro-EU vote, are if anything more enthusiastic about the change and also that they more engaged with the process – not the usual view. Given the usual way that the undecided will break for the status quo, the odds are on remaining in, but that could change with a Corbyn-led Labour Party that takes against Cameron’s renegotiation package.

    Most of the polling on refugees is confused and some is biased in wording or order, but one question should be noted:

    You may have seen a picture in the newspapers today of a dead syrian child who washed up on a beach after drowning trying to flee Syria to Europe. It has been suggested that the UK could intervene militarily in Syria to try and resolve the conflict there that is causing refugees such as this boy to flee the region. Which of the following statements is closest to your opinion?

    Britain should intervene militarily in Syria 29%

    Britain should not intervene militarily in Syria 48%

    Don’t know 22%

  8. I thought the boy came from Northern Iraq. Anyway I think many people think that whatever we do will just make things worse.

    One or two words of caution on the ‘refugees’. Judging from the pictures on TV, the vast majority are healthy-looking young men, not starving women and children. Sky News had pictures of an Austrian car which had just picked up an Afghan family.
    And how many of the young men are actually IS activists?

    So portraying them all as helpless families fleeing from Syria is dangerously misleading though of course I am sympathetic to the genuine refugees.

    Many people realise all this, which is why the polls are not overwhelmingly in favour of throwing open the borders.

    Someone quoted a poll yesterday which said that C2/D/E people were less likely to welcome the migrants. This is because they are by and large the ones who will have to compete with the migrants for housing, jobs etc.

  9. Some analysis on poll reporting and party strategies in the general election to be published next week.



  10. PETE B
    “Someone quoted a poll yesterday which said that C2/D/E people were less likely to welcome the migrants. This is because they are by and large the ones who will have to compete with the migrants for housing, jobs etc.”

    In that case do you think that a substantial increase in financing for house building, and for job creation might be called for,.along wth recognitiion of the need for accepting these healthy and very likely well educated (under UK overseas aid) young men to meet the growing deficit in skilled and semi-skilled labour in the UK job market?

  11. @PeteB

    Do you have to be women or children and starving to be a genuine refugee? In practice given the journeys which need to be undertaken it is most likely to be younger, healthier people with some previous cash/assets which will make it. It is most likely that IS activists are infighting in Iraq and Syria and they would hardly need to disguise themselves as refugees if they want to get into Europe. They could simply travel on this own passports.

  12. Millie

    “What happens, I wonder, when constituency parties start to deselect their MPs?”

    I wonder how many will resign.

  13. @ Joe,

    The press don’t need to “have it in” for Corbyn. They simply can trawl through his many unguarded comments, platforms he has shared with dodgy people, dodgy politicians he has invited to parliament and present them. Some journalists may try to twist his words, but pretty much any journalist worth their salt is going to try and put him on the spot on these things (from BBC to Sky) and get a “gotcha”.

    I simply can not understand where this idea that he is “straight talking ” and “full of integrity” has come from when you see him wriggle around explaining himself on some of this stuff.

  14. Millie

    Corbyn’s problems may not be with reassuring the centrists and Blairites and keeping them on board.

    He may have more problems with a triumphalist hard left hellbent on taking over the Party.

    I’m not really sure that is true. Daniel Boffey’s Observer article entitled “Labour leadership election: MPs prepare to resist Corbynistas” was certainly up to the hysterical (in both senses of the word) standards we have come to expect from that quarter[1], but if you examine his evidence for the implication that the hard left will purge everyone without the right sort of Mao hat, it consists of:

    [a] the “spokesman” of the “Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy” calling for more democracy in the Labour Party.

    [b] “one Corbyn supporter and Unite member”[2] writing a letter to his local paper. Which is obviously exactly the same as the workers and peasants storming the Winter Palace.

    [c] “The Corbyn team deny aspirations for such blood-letting but they are certainly looking at how to convert those who have paid £3 to vote in the Labour leadership election into full members, with voting rights.” How evil can you get? Some of them may not even live in the right parts of North London! Of course the whole point about the £3 supporters was that they might then be persuaded to join as full members. (John O’Farrell had great fun with nonsense like this in a Guardian column entitled “Swing left or tack right, Labour will be sunk without unity”).

    So there really isn’t much sign that those around Corbyn want any sort of purge. If anything the Blairites are ‘projecting’ – assuming that other want to do the sort of things they would do themselves.

    I suspect most Labour MPs and certainly most members[3] will rally round whoever is elected. Our own MrNameless (Robin Wilde) makes this point in the comments on the article. The more noisy and intransigent Corbynistas will probably not join the Party, probably not do the hard slog of turning up to meetings if they do, and, as Spearmint has pointed out, will certainly flounce out at the first ‘betrayal’ of their principles. Generally the new people will be welcomed as fresh blood or old friends returning- as no doubt many have already.

    The only MPs at threat of deselection[4] will be those not seen as pulling their weight, either at Westminster or in their constituencies. Although Corbyn’s ‘disloyalty’ has been over-played by his opponents[5], it will make ‘principled’ revolts easier. But there may not be that many such that the anti-Corbyn MPs can do and of course it always looks worse voting with the government against your Party than voting with the opposition against them.

    [1] The Observer was always fanatically Blairite – it supported the Iraq War for instance and employs columnists such as Cohen. So in the Labour contest, the anti-Corbyn stuff it has been producing has been even more deranged than the stuff its sister paper the Guardian has come up with. Which is saying something.

    [2] I suspect this means he isn’t even a full member. This is a sort of guilt by association, where one side is somehow responsible for every possible interpretation of everything ever said by everyone who might be deemed to support them. Obviously those using such blaming tactics are not quite as comprehensive with their own side. We saw a lot of this nonsense in the Scottish referendum and after, and it ended up being counterproductive. Once again some in Labour seem to be drawing the wrong lessons from the referendum campaign.

    [3] One constant in all these laments and plots from the Blairites and their media chums is believing their own propaganda rather than what the polls (or for example legal rules) actually say. So the new members and supporters are not much different in their views and who they support from existing ones, yet to read any of the stuff being churned out, you’d think they are all teenage Trots, demanding the public beheading of anyone who speaks disrespectfully of Corbyn.

    These departures from reality appear to be sincere. They genuinely don’t know what is going on, but prefer to believe their own rhetoric rather than find out.

    [4] The deselection issue may be complicated by boundary changes being implemented or not or partially. But that’s a whole new layer of complexity.

    [5] Especially in implying that this meant voting with the Conservatives – usually he was alongside smaller Parties while the Tories abstained.

  15. @Hireton – “Do you have to be women or children and starving to be a genuine refugee?”

    You are missing the point.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for the developed countries of the world (including the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan) to get together and each agree to take some refugees directly from the camps on the Syrian border (thereby providing some relief to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who have been inundated). I understand that is how the world handled the Vietnam boat people, it wasn’t just left to people across the sea to deal with.

    However what Merkel has done is say she will accept anyone who ends up on German soil.

    Essentially she is saying that she will only take people trafficked refugees and the rest can go hang.

    And that she doesn’t care that her policy of prioritising trafficked refugees is putting pressure on all of Germany’s neighbours as these people trample borders to get to Germany to fulfil the “on German soil” bit.

    We’ve been talking a lot about Greece and it’s financial problems – do you think they have the spare cash to deal with a bunch of trafficked people who’ve been invited to storm them on the way to Germany?

    And what about those with no money to bribe the traffickers? Or children who can’t march 100 miles or swim the Med? Do they not deserve a go?

    And what about the morality of encouraging people traffickers? Some of that money is funding ISIS. Wouldn’t it be better to let these refugees keep their money so they can use it to make their new lives? A policy of only taking people from the camps would allow them to do this.

    No matter which way you look at it, Merkel has screwed up. She shouldn’t have unilaterally made a decision without consulting her neighbours. Especially when it impacts them all so adversely.

    This is similar to her knee-jerk decision to shut down all of Germany’s nuclear reactors following Fukushima, despite the fact that Germany doesn’t have much of a coastline so was in no tsunami danger. Especially given Germany’s carbon emissions are about ten times that of France and the UK’s, so they needed those reactors. It has thrown off Europe’s ability to meet it’s own emissions targets.

    Add in her cack-handed handling of Greece (which could have been solved at a fraction of the cost in 2010 if she’d grasped the nettle) and she has to be one of the worst leaders Europe has had in modern history.

  16. New YouGov saying similar things to Survation. No desire to take in migrants, despite the pressure (I’m not normally a BBC basher but there’s barely a mention of anything other than pro-migrants). Immigration now the major concern (over 70%!?!?). So, unless the electorate should be ignored a la the Iraq War, no desire for John Pilgrim’s proposal.

    Bombing Syria is favoured, contrasting with Survation’s desire to not get involved militarily. I presume one is positive as it only means airstrikes, whilst the other may be interpreted as boots on the ground.

  17. @Starry

    Personally I think the YouGov question was very biased and given that the Sun then used it in a headline ‘52% say Bomb Syria Now” beside a picture of little Aylan, it is actually pretty disgraceful from the Sun and YouGov.

    The Question
    “Would you support or oppose Britain playing a greater military
    role in…?
    Bringing an end to the war in Syria”

    Now of course on past performance the intervention is hardly likely to end the war so the question is extremely misleading, and angling for a Yes answer, who wouldn’t want to bring the war to an end?

    On taking the Syrian refugees: Only 14% thought we shouldn’t take any with 60% wanting to take the same or more, take more (36%) or same (24%). Again a dubious question does anyone actually know the numbers we were planning to take?

    On the question of how many Syrian refugees to allow in to the country 56% very reasonably didn’t know but that doesn’t stop YouGov giving the figures excluding ‘Don’t Knows’ which surprise surprise gives 50% saying None. Now of course in reality that is only 22% of the sample.

    IMO The poll is ridiculous and I am surprised at YouGov,

  18. Starry

    “Bombing Syria is favoured”

    I didn’t see that option in the Sun/YG poll.

    “Greater military involvement” to bring the war to an end and stabilise Syria and Iraq was favoured – but nothing about bombing.

    That lots of people want the humanitarian crisis to end, I understand – but who do they want to attack (if anyone)?

  19. Excellent breakdown of the situation Roger?

  20. Ignore superfluous question mark!

  21. John Pilgrim
    “In that case do you think that a substantial increase in financing for house building, and for job creation might be called for,…”

    presumably paid for with Corbyn’s magic money tree?

  22. Thank you Roger for that well argued bit of sanity.

  23. Thinking of Carfrew’s Bird & Fortune link as to how our military equipment doesn’t work in the desert anyway, I have a cheaper option.

    Why don’t we just bomb the Iraqis, Syrians & Kurds who are already in the UK? Saves a lot in fuel, and we could use the Foreign Aid Budget to rebuild the houses and sell them off to rich immigrants.

  24. “Would you support or oppose Britain playing a greater military
    role in…?
    Bringing an end to the war in Syria”


  25. Another scurrilous report :-

    “Tom Watson, the frontrunner in the Labour deputy leadership contest, will warn on Monday that plans by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn to force every Labour MP to face a reselection battle would amount to a “charter for internecine strife”.

    In his final speech to Labour members before the close of ballots on Thursday, Watson will say that the mandatory reselection of MPs would lead to disunity and act as a “destructive and destabilising force”.

    The intervention by Watson, a veteran of Labour’s internal battles, came after reports that Jon Lansman, a Corbyn supporter who acts as the spokesman for the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), is planning to table a motion at the party conference calling for the reintroduction of the system. The mandatory reselection of MPs was introduced by supporters of the late Tony Benn in the 1980s – before being abolished by Neil Kinnock – as a way of weeding out MPs opposed to the hard left.”



    Watson is misreported by this right wing rag


    Watson will soon learn the meaning of real democracy.


  26. Colin

    I have to say the behaviour of Labour MP’s and the party in general is hilarious at the moment. They seem intent on political suicide.not that this worries me very much. The idea of a Conservative government after the next election with the main opposition being formed by UKIP in England and Wales and the SNP in Scotland is quite attractive for me.

  27. COLIN
    “Another scurrilous report ”

    The report seems perfectly reasonable to me, Colin, though I haven’t checked for its accuracy, and we shall see whether Tom Watson actually says what it predicts.
    As a matter of democracy, there is no reason why reselection at successive elections should be automatic, in any party.

  28. Colin

    How about a third option:
    The mandatory reselection proposal is not supported by any of the leadership candidates, not supported by most Corbyn supporters, and unlikely to be supported by many CLPs. If the CLPD actually table it at conference it’ll lose without much trouble. Watson’s willingness to pretend that it is a major issue and his apparent belief that playing it up will reduce internecine strife confirm my suspicion that he is a bungler and vindicates my decision to put him 4th on my deputy leadership ballot.

  29. STARRY
    ” no desire for John Pilgrim’s proposal.”

    I should clarify that what I have outlined is drawn from the EC Agenda Programme, which does have my support for three main reasons: It is research and evidence based; it is comprehensive and includes interim measures to deal with the migrants in transit, as well as long term factors within countries of origin and in transit arrangements, and with meeting the needs of the long-term demographics of destination countries; and it has the backing and resources of the EU and of most members countries.

    While the UK Government may have the legal right to opt out, doing so does not necessarily accord with the interests of this country, especially with its demographic and labour needs in an aging society and thus with common sense. My real fear is that politically it drives a wedge between Britain as a wealth and self-centred country and a core of more enlightened humanitarian EU nations which should be determining an enlightened international community.

  30. Colin

    Well if Watson is elected as Corbyn’s deputy then it’s probably just as well that he agrees with views that Corbyn expressed on 14 August


    though personally I can’t see anything that much wrong with reselection. After all they have to face the electorate every so often, what’s wrong with the Party making sure they get the best person available? It’s amazing how many people seem to be in favour of the market ruling – except when it comes to themselves.

    Of course this is just example of the ‘guilt by association’ that Corbyn is being subjected to, where he is deemed to share every view of everyone he has ever appeared in photo with. It’s all rather reminiscent of a bunch of 13 year-olds bitching in a playground, but then so much political coverage is.

  31. John, Britain’s ageing population is rapidly sorting itself off. Babyboomers are dying off and the birthrate has significantly increased.

    The situation in Europe is volatile and likely to become more so quite quickly. Germany may seem all love and flowers at the moment but does anyone really believe this will be sustainable through the months and years it will take to accommodate and assimilate such a huge and ongoing influx of people from very different cultures? There’s serious trouble ahead and a majority of the British public has wisely signalled in polls and to constituency MPs that it wishes to keep it at arm’s length.

  32. Watchit

    “Babyboomers are dying off ”

    Many of us are hale & hearty, thankyou.

    Indeed, getting off to the best possible nutritional start under rationing, free orange juice, milk etc, we may well live longer than our childrens’ generation [1].

    We have also ensured that we have accrued a higher level of wealth, which we are spending on our own comforts and enjoyment – including using inheritances to pay for our own old age and preventing their onward transmission to subsequent generations.

    Your comment is a triumph of hope over reality.


    [1] Having fed our kids on junk food.

  33. OldNat

    Not hope over reality at all but facts. Britain’s birthrate has increased by 18% over the last decade. Existing immigration levels are the main reason (most immigrants being of reproductive age) but there’s also been a small increase in the birthrate among British-born Britons. The baby boom generation is between 50 and 75 years old so, unless you’re all vampire immortals, your numbers will fall away to nothing as you die off. That’s life. And death.


    Good oh-pleased the G got it right for once then :-)


    Pleased to have helped with your voting intention-if inadvertently.


    Yes-its terrible isn’t it?-never mind we will soon be watching the real thing rather than made up version :-)

  35. TOH

    I can’t wait to see how the PLP settles down after JC is crowned. As you say it has big implications .

  36. @Roger Mexico

    The NEC is instrumental in deciding re-selections. and with the boundary changes they will become even more powerful.

    Corbyn will appoint his shadow cabinet and the shadow cabinet have three places on the NEC. At the moment the NEC is finely balanced between left and right BUT the likelyhood is Corbyn’s appointments will change that complexion to Left. So fun and games at selection time.

    I have no doubt Corbyn genuinely believes that the party members should hold the power.

    IMO party members and in particular activists are the worst people to give power to if you want to win elections but Corbyn has a completely different view, so I have little doubt he will use his leadership to empower party activists.

  37. Watchit

    The comparatively recent extension of “baby boomers” to those youngsters born in the early ’60s, is to be thoroughly deplored. Properly it should maintain its original meaning of those of us born in the immediate post-war years.

    I do not anticipate these young folk, currently in their 50s, to enjoy our situation, if only because of their poor initial diet, our destruction of their pensions and similar factors.

    I am puzzled by the extension of the term to those born during the war years – many of whom should properly be labelled as immigrants themselves – or, at least, the sperms which produced them could be so labelled. bloody Americans!

    Of course we will die off at some point, but that point is not yet.

  38. Old Nat

    Yes, I always thought it referred to the generation born up to about 10 years after WW2 but lately it seems to extend to 1964. Of course some baby boomers will live into their 80s, 90s, even 100s but there’s a steady ongoing die-off before that too.

    Hopefully you’ll be with us for a good while longer though!

  39. COUPER 2802

    @”I have no doubt Corbyn genuinely believes that the party members should hold the power.”

    That was my impression-for the simple reason that this is what he keeps saying.

    How much he wants to exert that power over the PLP is very interesting to anyone who follows UK politics-particularly if you were an adult in the late 70s / early 80s.

    Anyway-to misquote Lesley Gore- It’s their Party & they’ll cry if they want to……….

  40. Valerie,

    Slow news, I suspect. Also, Labour has historically been able to win a majority with smaller shares of the vote than Tories have needed, so if one didn’t know about some of the shifts in that respect, one might think that Corbyn is in with a shot if Labour wins 30-33%, and less if working with the Lib Dems/SNP.

    We could talk about Trumpmania in the US, where he’s not only dominating the Republican field (and apparently being bolstered by every critique) but now has started to even things up with Hillary Clinton in the polls. That may be less a measure of Trump’s popularity with moderate Americans than of their dislike of Hillary. Quite apart from how rarely US parties win 3 presidencies in a row, she’s had more skeletons come out of her closet than the spare room closet in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”.

  41. Actually Bill, I think it’s more straightforward than that. I would call it “Reds-under-the-bed” syndrome.
    Clearly, some people feel Militant Tendency and their ilk have been lying dormant since the 80s, waiting to seize their opportunity and JC is either a 5th columnist or an unwitting dupe. Echoes of The Manchurian Candidate come to mind. I know this is fanciful, but then so is the stuff I read in the Telegraph and on this board, of late.

  42. Corbyn would be the least subtle Manchurian Candidate ever.


    “Labour has historically been able to win a majority with smaller shares of the vote than Tories have needed,”

    I think those days are long gone, especially when the boundary commision has done it’s work and the HoC has been reduced to 600.

  44. @Valerie

    No one is speculating on what kind of PM Corbyn will be because no one thinks he has any chance of being PM.

    Mainly I am looking on with fascinated horror at the car crash that is the current Labour Party. TOH and Colin probably with some amount of glee.

    Don’t get me wrong I agree with Corbyn’s policies but he will be a total disaster as leader.

    It is interesting because we could see Labour in England going the same way as Labour in Scotland, which will be a major political event.

    In Scotland it was because Labour weren’t left wing enough, in England it will be because Labour are too left wing.

  45. A very interesting statement by DC on Syria in HoC.

    Corbyn’s question was eagerly awaited & loudly greeted. And it was tempting to put it in a different context when it came. :-)

  46. @Oldnat

    I’s a US term that isn’t really applicable here.

  47. Well my comments are all in moderation so I will leave you all to gorge on Labour’s entrails. Enjoy the feast

  48. And Couper when I read your venomous comments on labour
    “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is the phrase that comes to mind.

  49. @Valerie

    I find the first part of that quote more apt

    “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned”

    And “Revenge is a dish best eaten cold”, if we are going to post in clichés

  50. The dilemma facing many m.p’s with the expected coronation of Mr corbyn is truly hidious . Whilst someone like a Dianne abbot a committed Corbyn supporter with a large majority representing a traditionally socialistic constituency party can afford to roll in clover what of the m.p’s in lab/con marginal seats who whilst trying to maintain the renewed support of a largely centralist and noncommittal local electorate will be under constant pressure to toe the line of a leader with a stated aim to move the party to a position to the left of the policies which gained them there threadbare majority by means of the veiled threat of deselection via the utilising of the army of Corbyn disciples . Looking like difficult times ahead to put it mildly!

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