Labour’s performance in polls and in mid-term elections has become a political football – not just the usual rather routine spinning of parties saying how well they are doing, but a key faultline in Labour’s internal leadership battle. A key argument of Jeremy Corbyn’s critics is that he is an electoral liability – therefore they highlight anything suggesting that Labour are doing badly. In contrast Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters brandish anything that can be presented as a sign that Labour are actually doing well.

Which side is right? A lot of what both sides say is exaggerated or unfair. Some of it is just downright untrue. For what it’s worth, this is an attempt to unpick the evidence and look at it as fairly as I can. I expect, therefore, that this piece will not make anyone happy. It’s not going to say that Labour polls are the worst for any party ever, nor that Jeremy Corbyn is actually the messiah. It’s also quite long, so if you’re hoping for either of those conclusions, perhaps give it a skip.

Labour in the polls

Polls in August so far have shown Labour between 7 and 14 points behind the Conservatives. However, this is probably not a fair yardstick to judge them upon given Theresa May is enjoying a honeymoon in the polls. A more reasonable point of comparison is to go back earlier in the year, before the EU referendum. Between the March budget and the EU referendum there was an average Conservative lead in the polls of three points.

There have been frequent claims that Labour were equal to (or even ahead of) the Tories before Labour’s leadership troubles erupted. This is a disingenuous claim at best, and seems to rest wholly upon cherry-picking individual polls. There was a single Survation poll straight after the referendum result that had the Conservatives and Labour equal, but an ICM poll conducted at the same time had a Tory lead of four points and the average position at the time was a Tory lead of about three points. At no point this year have the polls ever shown a consistent Labour lead (and the last poll to show Labour ahead was in April).


A typical opinion poll has a margin of error of +/-3%. That means if the actual position is a Tory lead of about three points, then random chance will sometimes spit out individual polls showing Labour neck-and-neck or even just ahead, or, at the other extreme, showing Tory leads of six points or more. Anyone seeking to honestly describe the state of the parties cannot reasonably just pick one of those outlying polls and claim it reflects the actual picture, ignoring the wider average. The only reasonable way of judging support is to take an average across many polls.

So, if Labour were on average 3 points behind the Tories, would that be good or bad for an opposition? The typical pattern of opinion polls is that oppositions open up leads in mid-term polls (so-called “mid-term blues”) and then governments recover as the election approaches. Obviously this does not always happen, but opposition parties that go on to win the next general election have usually opened up towering leads in mid-term polls. Oppositions that have not secured large leads in mid-term typically get hammered at the subsequent general election. On those grounds, an opposition that’s still three points behind mid-term is heading for disaster.

However, there’s an important caveat… oppositions that go on to win almost always have big leads mid-term. But that doesn’t mean they have big leads throughout the whole Parliament. In the first half of 2006 David’s Cameron’s Conservatives only had a lead of 2 points or so; in early 1975 the Conservatives were still behind Labour. In contrast, in early 1980 Labour had a healthy lead over the Conservatives. How well or badly a party was doing in the polls this early in the Parliamentary term is really not much of a guide as to how well they will end up doing at the next election – too much depends on the performance of the government in power and what triumphs and disasters fall upon them over the next three years.

Where the polls are more alarming for Labour is some of the underlying questions. Labour were ahead in voting intention throughout most of the last Parliament, but were behind on economic competence and leadership, which are normally seen as important drivers of voting intention (the ultimate explanation of this apparent paradox was, of course, that the voting intention polls were wrong). If we look at economic questions and leadership questions now Labour’s position looks bleak.

On who would make the best Prime Minister Theresa May leads Jeremy Corbyn by 58% to 12% with YouGov, by 58% to 19% with ComRes. YouGov currently give the Conservatives an 18 point lead on running the economy, when ComRes last asked in March the Tories had a 16 point lead. Looking at MORI’s long term approval trackers Jeremy Corbyn’s net approval rating is minus 41 – already pushing at Ed Miliband’s lowest of minus 44 (and those depths took Miliband years). Corbyn’s favourability rating in ComRes last week was minus 28, worse than everyone else they asked about but Trump.

Labour at the ballot box

The other way of measuring support are mid-term elections. Just like opinion polls there is a typical pattern of oppositions doing well in mid-term contests and then falling back come a general election. Oppositions that scrape wins in mid-term normally go on to lose the following general election; oppositions that go on to win have usually crushed the government mid-term.

Local elections

The results of the 2016 local elections were spun for all they were worth by both sides within Labour. Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn made much of Labour failing to gain councillors in 2016, but in fairness this was because Ed Miliband had already won the low hanging fruit when those wards were last contested in 2012. There were some social media memes claiming Corbyn did well in the local elections in 2016 because he got a higher share of the seats contested than Blair won in 1995 or Cameron won in 2006 – this is misleading because a different group of seats are up at each set of local elections (Blair’s first local elections in 1995 were the all-out district councils, including lots of Tory territory; Cameron’s first in 2006 were largely London and the Metropolitan boroughs, so were on very Labour territory).

The fairest way of judging local election performance are the national equivalent shares of the vote calculated by Rallings and Thrasher – indeed, that’s the whole point of them. The Rallings and Thrasher figures are a projection of what the result would be if there were local elections across all of Britain, an attempt to even out the cyclical differences and make one year’s results comparable to other year’s results.

At the 2016 locals the R&T projection was CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 14%, UKIP 12%; a one point lead for Labour. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have presented this as a sign of Labour doing well, on the grounds they beat the Conservatives. The TSSA have presented it as positive because it is a four point swing from the R&T projection of support at the local elections in 2015.

These claims are flawed. Looking at historical comparisons, Labour’s performance in the 2016 local elections was pretty mediocre compared to previous oppositions. The graph below shows the main opposition party’s lead over the government at mid-term local elections since 1981.


It is normal for the opposition party to win local elections mid-term and a lead of just one point is a pretty poor result comparatively. It is not, as some of Corbyn’s detractors have claimed, the worst local election performance for decades (Ed Miliband’s Labour did a little worse in 2011 and William Hague did significantly worse for the Tories in 1998) but it is the sort of local election performance heralding failure at the next general election. It’s the same lead that IDS got for the Tories in 2002, hardly a happy precedent.

As with voting intention polls, if you look at oppositions that went on to win the next election, they won mid-term local elections hands down. Cameron and Blair both consistently secured double-digit leads at local elections. Oppositions that were roughly neck-and-neck with the government in local elections (like Labour in 1984, 1988 and 2011, or the Tories in 2002) went on to be defeated at the following election.

In summary, the local election performance from Labour this year is not the unprecedented disaster Corbyn’s opponents have claimed – others have done worse – but neither is it in any way positive news. It is a mediocre result, with far more in common with those oppositions that have gone onto defeat than those oppositions who have ended up winning the next election.

Scotland, Wales and London

On the same day as the local elections were the elections to Scotland, Wales and London. These were a mixed bag for Labour – in Scotland they were again crushed by the SNP and trailed behind the Tories in terms of seats; in Wales they largely maintained their position, losing a single seat; in London Sadiq Khan won the mayoralty from the Conservatives. On the face of it this is one bad result, one mediocre result and one good.

Labour’s position in Scotland is dire, but I think it unfair to blame it upon Corbyn: the way politics has changed in Scotland since the referendum is probably beyond the control of any Labour leader, and it began long before Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Wales is a devolved assembly where presumably many voters would have been passing judgement upon Labour’s performance in governing Wales – though the results were pretty middle-of-the-road for Labour anyway.

In London it is difficult to know how much voting patterns are down to the party and how much they are down to the politicians running for the mayoralty – was it a victory for Labour, or for Sadiq? Either way, the result is somewhat less impressive that it looks. In the first round, Sadiq Khan was nine points ahead of Zac Goldsmith,typical of other recent London elections: in the 2015 general election Labour came top in London by 9 points; in the 2012 London assembly election Labour won by 9 points. The anomaly was the 2012 mayoral election, when Boris Johnson won through some combination of his electoral appeal and/or Ken Livingstone’s lack of it. London is now a Labour-leaning city, and winning by nine points is just repeating what Ed Miliband managed in 2015. That’s not to be snooty about Sadiq Khan’s achievement in winning the mayoralty back for Labour, but it doesn’t indicate any gain in support since 2015.


The final bit of electoral evidence offered is Parliamentary by-elections. There have been four by-elections so far this Parliament and Labour won them all. However, all four by-elections were in seats that were already held by Labour at the 2015 election – three of them by extremely large majorities – so this is again not a particularly positive sign. Governments sometime lose mid-term by-elections, but it is the norm for oppositions to retain their seats in by-elections and nothing to get excited about.

Finally there are local government by-elections – including the bizarre case of Jeremy Corbyn citing a local parish by-election gain in Thanet. Citing local council by-elections is normally a festival of cherry picking – there are a handful or so each week and results vary wildly, so it is simple to pick out only those that paint a positive picture for a party. For example, in the three by-elections last week Labour’s vote dropped by between 7 and 11 percent, the week before the change in the Labour vote varied from a 7 point drop to an 11 point gain. If you take an overall view of Labour’s performance they seem to be holding their own, but not making any significant advance – of the 164 local by-elections so far this year (up to August 11th) Labour have made a net gain of 2 seats.

How deep is the hole?

Looking at Labour position in voting intention polls and their performance in actual elections since 2015 their position is poor rather than terrible. Putting aside Theresa May’s honeymoon bounce, running a few points behind the Conservatives is far from good, but better than the sort of horrific polling that the Tories endured in the nineties and early noughties. These are not the polling figures of a party on course to win the next general election, but neither do they point to imminent extinction.

Equally, while attempts to spin Labour’s mid-term election results as positive are unconvincing, so are claims they are uniquely terrible. They are on a par with the performance of the opposition under Iain Duncan Smith or Ed Miliband.

In terms of public support Labour’s current position is poor, but not exceptionally so. Should the Parliament run until 2020 there would normally be time for them to turn things around. The problem is how they do it. Labour’s polling on underlying questions like leadership and the economy should be far more worrying for them – their ratings there are terrible. Furthermore, for as long as they are hamstrung by internal fighting, there is no obvious way for them to improve them.

The purpose of this article isn’t to apportion blame – when a leader is at war with the MPs is it the leader’s fault for failing to lead, manage and win their support, or is it the MPs fault for failing to back the leader? It takes two to have an argument. I’m also deliberately not suggesting Labour would or would not do any better under Owen Smith (given how little known Smith is to the general public I am deeply sceptical about any polling evidence along those lines… besides, we don’t know what would happen with the left of Labour and all those new members if Jeremy Corbyn was removed)

My own view is that Labour’s current position in the polls is poor, but that it doesn’t show the full extent of their problems. Polls are, as ever, only a snapshot. They could get better… or they could get worse. What happens if Labour’s internal warfare drags on for another four years? What happens if there are defections, deselections, a split? How does Labour put across its message with most of its known faces refusing to serve? How on earth would Labour fight an election in this state? The root of Labour’s problem isn’t with the wider public, it’s within itself.

319 Responses to “How badly is Jeremy Corbyn doing?”

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  1. MARKW

    I rest my case !

  2. Colin, you won’t.

  3. by the way i am not saying corbyn is good-or bad-just that we cant tell
    it is not healthy for a democracy if the leader of the main opposition is grossly misrepresented and viciously attacked by 80% of the media-this is the language used in these reports
    one does not have to support corbyn to see this

  4. TULLY

    Dead Tree Press is dying-the circulation of DM/Sun/DT/DE/Times/G/Iny is around 5m.

    There were more than 60 million internet users in the UK by 2016, nearly 93% of the population (Internetlivestats). Around 72% of adult internet users have a social media account (Ofcom, 2015).

    This is where people get their news & political stuff. So your going to need to produce evidence that Online reportage of Corbyn is biased against him.

  5. Colin, social media is a growing force but clearly it is not a bipolar argument as you like to frame it.

    Many forces are at play hence my note on complexity. Your point amplifies mine.

  6. Also Colin, the papers do pick the agenda, other media outlets often follow the headlines, shaping the narrative, yes even on social media.

    See how your attempts to look at this simply are misjudged?

  7. MARKW

    @” social media is a growing force but clearly it is not a bipolar argument as you like to frame it.”

    Well I sincerely hope not !!!!!!

    I know that UKPR can become obsessional, but bipolar tendencies would be a great shock to me. :-)

  8. PETE B

    Does [the Irvine byelection result] suggest that the Unionist voting preference overcomes even traditional animosities between Lab and Con?

    The answer (typically) is “Yes – and No”. If you look at the details of how the Irvine transfers went:—Irvine-WestBreakdown.pdf

    It’s a very similar pattern to other by-elections we have seen over the last 18 months or so, with about 30% of Conservative votes transferring to Labour to keep out the SNP[1]. In this case, as in a few previously, it was enough to get Labour the seat.

    It’s not quite the overwhelming unionist solidarity that some seem to be hoping for. In the few cases where Lab votes might transfer to Con to keep out the SNP, that doesn’t really happen. Such votes are balanced by Lab transfers to the SNP with the longer-standing intention of keeping out the Tories. Though even this marks a change as analysis of the 2012 locals:,_2012#Analysis

    shows that transfers were more likely to go the SNP then. But even that change may be because the people voting Labour then SNP are now putting the SNP candidate(s) first.

    In the even-rarer cases when the Lib Dems might benefit from intra-unionist transfers, they do tend to gain from both Lab and Con. We saw this with tactical voting in 2015, where some Scottish Lib Dem MPs had very low swings against them, and in 2016, where the Lib Dems gained a couple of constituencies.

    [1] Nett it’s probably even less (in this case 20% usually maybe 20-25%) as there are always some Con to SNP transfers. Local elections are local and people will express their preferences for various personal reasons as well.

  9. I wouldn’t disagree with the argument that JC gets an unfairly bad press and that this has a negative impact on his personal ratings and LP popularity. BUT if the LP want to form a government they have to win a parliamentary majority. Polling data are about the best indicator we have of their chances of doing do and at the moment they suggest the LP has a lot of work to do. So if the LP think the bad press is the main problem they have several options:

    (1) Find ways of bypassing traditional and mainstream media. Lessons can be learned from other polities and other parties on how to do this. It’s certainly possible.

    (2a) Choose a leader the press like. We know the compromises this involves. It’s worth asking which bits of the media are worth worrying about.
    (2b) Embark on a charm offensive to try to convince powerful media figures that JC and his LP are the answer to the UK’s problems.

    (3) Forget about the ballot box as a route to power. There’s actually a respectable, if pessimistic case for choosing this option, given the hollowing out of government and the power of transnational corporations. But if you’re a parliamentary party it’s not a route that’s open to you. There’s plenty of precedent for movements – some very successful – that have had a parliamentary wing and a non-parliamentary wing, but it’s important not to confuse the two roles.

    (4) Keep pointing out the media coverage is unfair and expect someone else to do something about it.

  10. Colin, that is tangential to the point that the media and the way news is reported is a powerful and arguably antidemocratic force in some circumstances.

    That seems to be what you are trying to avoid discussing.

    As I am going round in circles it’s time to walk Chloe and Duchess.

    Sorry Col, I just don’t think your serious about this discussion.

  11. @joe – “Alec seems to be somwhat blinded by his opinion of Corbyn, to the exclusion of all other unique factors at play in this tumultuous time.”

    No, I don’t think so.

    The first point to make is that I was actually refering to real electoral events that pre dated Corbyn’s leadership, so equating that with being blinded by prejudice is a little odd.

    Additionally, if you recall some of my previous posts, you will see that I have predicted something of a Lib Dem revival against the Tories, so I am somewhat ahead of you there I think.

    Where we may differ (and I only say ‘may’ as I don’t know your views) is on the significance for Labour of such a revival. By implication, you seem to be suggesting that if the Lib Dems took seats back from the Tories, then this could feed into the idea of a progressive alliance. If so, then I suspect you are falling for a fallacy.

    Yes, Lib Dem gains from Con would make it harder for a Con majority – that’s a given, so the question is then what happens next. The argument seemingly put forward by the pro Corbyn people is that this would represent some kind of coalition against the Tories, but my suspicion – not entirely unconnected with recent history – is that Lib Dems are as likely to back a Con PM as a Labour one, and I really do struggle to see Corbyn managing to persuade Lib Dems post 2020 to join with him in a coalition.

    There are great changes and uncertainties, that’s a given, and it isn’t wise to assume the next election will be fought on the same basis as the last, but I have two central thoughts on talk of a progressive alliance with Labour at it’s heart.

    The first is that this idea was seen as a weakness for Labour and led to significant electoral losses in 2015, along with strengthening of the Tory vote, and the dynamics of Scottish politics doesn’t look like changing much by 2020.

    My second thought is that the Labour left seem to continually fall into the binary politics trap – that everyone who stands against the Tories is somehow part of the Labour alliance. They are not. The Lib Dems will be looking to slash Labour majorities and take Labour seats, and I suspect that under Corbyn they will stand quite a good chance of a decent revival in both orange on blue and orange on red seats. In Scotland, the SNP wishes to destroy Labour (again!) so I really cannot see any advantage in leading a coalition from the left for Labour.

    I suspect that this is, again, part of the dreamy idealism of the left – ‘if only people realised that we are all against the Conservative forces we could have a rainbow alliance etc etc’.

    The truth is that, if anything, many parts of this putative alliance are actually more against Labour than against the Tories. Both the Lib Dems in Westminster and the SNP in Edinburgh have history in collaborating with Cons, and as a result I think Labour needs to focus on making itself as electorally strong as possible, without thinking about alliances and coalitions.

  12. Colin, Thank you for this useful and even handed analysis. However I still have a critical question. Notwithstanding Labour’s difficulties in Scotland to what extent is it true that elections in this country (first past the post and all that) are won and lost in 100 marginals? And how is Labour doing in those marginals? Going on the basis that a Cabbage would be elected for the Conservatives in Arundel and a Lettuce elected for Labour in Rhondda it seems Labour has to sweep the marginals if it is to win power?

  13. @Mark W – I think it’s quite reasonable to ask whether JC is doing badly, because this is a polling site and he is doing badly. Measuring the degree of this is what UKPR is about.

    I think it’s also true that the press is biased against JC. The question is what you do about it.

    The press were pretty biased against the SNP, but they reacted by crafting a blisteringly effective message and delivery, and while they did sometimes retreat to the ‘everyone’s against us’ argument, they didn’t do that very often and they didn’t ever abandon their efforts to mount an effective media operation. Where they did complain about bias, they used this effectively to enthuse their base, using the perceptions of bias as a weapon, not wearing it like a cross.

    Corbyn – and I sincerely hope people do not read this as indicative of my own bias, because this is just what his former allies have said repeatedly – from day one simply abandoned any pretence of having a media strategy. The entire Labour presentation for the last eleven months has been shambolic, and that is nothing to do with plotters and everything to do with the leaders office.

    If you are seeking to persuade the electorate but face a generally hostile press, the only answer is to seek to be very, very good at managing the press. This is not what Labour have done this last year or so.

  14. ” including the bizarre case of Jeremy Corbyn citing a local parish by-election gain in Thanet”

    ‘Bizarre’? How very dare you AW, Thanet is a bellwether I tell you, a bellwether!

    That was the seat formerly held by Vince Munday, a Kipper. Who, erm, emigrated. I suspect JC’s emphasis was on the Labour vs UKIP narrative.

  15. MARKW

    @”Sorry Col, I just don’t think your serious about this discussion.”

    Oh I am-but only have “popping in ” time this morning I’m afraid.

    I refered you to data on News consumption because that gives at least some basis for considering you asertion that Newsprint Media defines political agendas . I don’t think it does.

    As to your more central point of bias & “antidemocratic force” , we could swap anecdotes & opinions on this till the cows come home -& get nowhere.

    I generally cleave to the premise that politicians get the Press they themselves engender.
    I also firmly believe that the voting public ( at least the majority non-aligned voting public with busy lives to get on with) do not passively receive “instruction” from Political News Coverage .

  16. Alec

    But if labour could offer the libdems the one thing that the Tories can’t or won’t offer. We are not talking about a closed room stitch up after an election but a pre election pact with a defined platform including a commitment to PR. The libdems, the greens and the SNP are all committed to PR, all that’s needed is a change of policy from labour. I think there is a good chance of the labour membership voting for a policy of PR at conference in the next few years.

  17. I think consistent polling <30% is a good sign of a drubbing at the next election. <28% probably landslide territory.

    An opposition needs a leader popular with voters, and hard economic times that cannot be blamed on them, probably because people largely have forgotten what happened during the last time they were in power.

    Both these things take time. Time is needed to go through a process of choosing a succession of duff leaders, and then probably more time is needed for the above "forgetting" process to work. In short, "time for a change" needs… time. Not enough of it has passed for Labour to win. And I'm pretty sure another serious election defeat needs to happen.

  18. @CR

    A pre-election pact on PR is fine in theory, but then you have the issue of which of the many flavours of PR should be adopted.

    Even those currently in favour of PR, and I include myself in that, can’t agree on which version is the fairest. Any system which allocates seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the percentage of overall votes cast, risks alienating the link between voters in a constituency, and the MP who is supposed to represent them.

    So not only would they need a pact, but they would need a clear agreement on which version of PR to campaign for.

  19. what you are not addressing is the issue of whether extreme media bias-and the bbc are also indicted itv not as bad-is unhealthy for a democracy
    your arguments seem to be that the media-controlled by a few very wealthy individuals-get to choose leaders of parties and pms- and the membership have to surrender to that
    now that may be the reality
    but is it the sign of a thriving democracy?
    alec and colin read the reports they clearly state they think this is not a good thing
    anyway enough i too am well enough to go and walk my dogs today so am off out

  20. @CR

    Dream on. There is zero chance ot the LibDems forming a pact with Corbyn. It would be electoral suicide for a second time. They’ve already alienated 50% of their constituency by joining the coalition. Forming a pact with Labour would alienate the other half. The only way forward for the LibDems is to try to reestablish a (perceived) position of even-handed distance from both Tories and Labour. A pact would go entirely against that.

    The Greens are perhaps a stronger possibility, but a lot of their vote is concentrated in Labour seats, so I suspect this isn’t going to be of much use in a general election.

    Perhaps someone has to hand the figures for how many seats might have gone to Labour in the last election if every Green vote had gone to Labour (or vice versa where appropriate)?

  21. @Robin

    I don’t think that there are enough Greens willing to vote Labour at the moment to make any major difference to Labour’s chances.

    Within the Green Party there is much discussion of a ‘progressive alliance’, but with Labour as they are at the moment, there is little trust that Labour would deliver.

    Any working together would need to meet the ‘Green’ lines that I think members would insist on.

    First and foremost would be the introduction of PR. GP policy is for STV in Parliamentary seats, but most flavours would be acceptable. (please note that AV is not PR and would not be acceptable.

    It could not be just the ‘lending’ Green votes to Labour. Labour would need to give something back the other way.

    Then there is Labour’s support for Trident that would be an issue.

    I think most Labour-leaning Greens have jumped ship already to Labour, when Corbyn won the leadership. Of those Greens left, Labour would need to deliver something much better than anything that seem possible or likely at the moment.

    I think it’s a non-starter personally.

    I would support a grouping to introduce PR, win an election, bring in the legislation and then quickly dissolve Parliament.

  22. @Tancred- “The typical British working class person could not care less about communist ideology.”

    Not just the working classes, but middle England as well. People will be rolling their eyes and wondering why Corbyn is obsessed with dead Russian people from a century ago. They’ll chalk it down to his general weirdness and it’s just another reason why He Must Never Be Allowed Near Power.

  23. @CA – I do understand what you are saying, but I don’t see what value it would bring to Labour.

    I doubt the Lib Dems will want to formalise anything pre election – for the same reasons @Robin suggests. It also might reduce their bargainng power if there is a hung parliament. Overall though, it would simply convey a message to voters that Labour has given up on securing a majority, and i suspect that the idea of ‘strong government’ would be used by the Tories to reinforce the idea that Labour see themselves as losers.

  24. David

    I don’t think its necessary to decide before the election which type of PR should be introduced nor is it tactically a good idea, a binding commitment to introduce PR within the Parliamentary term should be enough.


    If the Dems were prepared to sell their soul to the Tories for a referendum on a ‘miserable little compromise’ wouldn’t they be prepared to sell their grannys for a guarantee of a PR system? No matter how much damage a pact with labour could do, with a PR system it can be repaired

    A pact with the greens could free up campaigning resources by turning marginal seats into safe seats.


    Trust is an issue and that has to be built up, fortunately we have some time to build that trust, unfortunately there are many in the labour party that may try to undermine it. Im not sure that labours commitment to trident will continue for much longer but even if it does it shouldn’t make a pact impossible. Compromises will have to be made by all sides.

  25. CambridgeRachel – “What we don’t know is if corbyn will be leader of the labour party in 2020. His chances of remaining leader this year seem to be quite good, but reelection does not mean that he won’t face a challenge again next year. I still think its likely he will decide to pass the baton on. ”

    All of Corbyn’s heroes – Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Arthur Scargill – made themselves Leader for Life.

    Given that Corbyn has started hinting that he’ll stay on even if he loses the next general election, you need to reconcile yourself to having him lead what is left of Lab for the next decade or so, longer if he is in good health.

    The key leadership election was actually last year’s. The left of Labour should have nominated someone with clean hands who was into Parliamentary democracy and hence wanted to win general elections, and hadn’t subscribed to the whole “monarchy of the left” leader for life malarkey. Instead they went for Corbyn with his terrorist connections and attraction to every rotten dictatorship on earth.

    It’s too late now. If he wins, he’s there for the foreseeable future.

  26. @Candy – fully agree re the EDM about Trosky. Yes, in was back in 1988, but it is precisely the kind of irrelevant, barmy nonsense that Labour voters can’t understand and puts Corbyn in a very poor light in most people’s eyes.

    On inflation:

    Inflation figures out today and show a slight rise, but now clear Brexit impact, according to the ONS.

    However, others differ in their interpretations. The separate Producer Prices Index, which measures factory prices, tell a different story. Almost entirely due to the fall in sterling, the fuel and raw materials prices rose from -0.5% in the year to end june to +4.3% in the year to end july – pretty much a 5% rise in a month.

    Output prices also rose by a similar amount, posting the first increase in a year, although still only +0.3% in the year to end July.

    Inflation matters potentially quite a lot to voting intention. If, as seems likely, the labour market is weakening, and we simultaneously enter a period of external price inflation cause by devaluation, then real incomes become squeezed. Tory support in the last parliament tended to mirror household incomes, with some time lag, so this could be quite significant.

    The inflation numbers also suggest that the materials price rises will be taking the shine off the benefits felt by exporters. With a devaluation of around 13%, theoretically meaning a 13% fall in export sale prices, the increase in raw materials costs of 5% knocks potentially quite a large hole in the overall benefit.

  27. The fairest way of judging local election performance are the national equivalent shares of the vote calculated by Rallings and Thrasher – indeed, that’s the whole point of them.

    […] At the 2016 locals the R&T projection was CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 14%, UKIP 12%; a one point lead for Labour.

    As with the equivalent Projected National Share (PNS) from Curtice and Fisher, this is a bit of a mystery to me. If you look at the change in the national equivalent vote (NEV) from 2012 to 2016, then there are big changes. But there seems to be surprisingly little effect on the seats changing hands:

    Party: NEV 16 / NEV 12 / Diff / Seat change

    Con: 32 / 33 / -1 / -48

    Lab: 33 / 39 / -6 / -18

    Lib Dem: 14 / 15 / -1 / +45

    Other[1]: 21 / 13 / +8 / + 21 (+25 UKIP)

    When you consider that a drop of one point for the Conservatives[2] lead to a loss of 48 seats[3], then for Labour to only lose 18 for a drop of 6 is a real puzzle.

    Some of this has been attributed to the way R&T treat Scotland[4], but this must only be responsible for a point or so. The only other explanation I can think of is that Labour is losing lots of votes to UKIP in its safest wards, but only rarely losing enough for the seat to be lost. There is some hint of this in the results from individual LAs, but it’s still a big drop for so little effect and needs explaining. It can’t just be the individual model because the PNS shows the same problem.

    But what must also be happening is that Labour must have held on to nearly all the gains that it made in more marginal wards in England[5] (534), mostly at the expense of the Conservatives. Given that 2012 was Miliband’s best year for LA results (as Anthony’s chart shows), holding on to them is a real achievement. If we are to attribute this to Corbyn, then they are pretty good results – and better than Anthony seems to think.

    Whether the same thing could be replicated in higher-turnout elections is another matter of course (are all those new members aiding the GOTV?). But there’s certainly something to be explained as to the discrepancy between projection and polling and the actual effect of the votes cast.

    [1] No separate figure for UKIP in 2012 when they were just starting their rise in the polls and made a nett gain of zero seats.

    [2] R&T usually issue a forecast a month before local polling day and they actually expected modest Con gains:

    with a prediction of Con 33% (+50 seats), Lab 30% (-150), Lib Dem 16% (+40), UKIP 12% (+40). So Labour certainly performed better than expectation, though R&T’s predictions may have some structural problems. Mark Pack has pointed out how they always over-estimate the Lib Dems by a couple of points (presumably because use by-election results in the model where Lib Dems over-perform).

    [3] It may seem strange that the Lib Dems gain seats when dropping a point, but I think this is due to the large number of seats they lost in 2012 (190 in England). While they have puled back a little in their strongest areas (hence the 45 gains) there must have been a lot of personal and incumbent votes in 2012 in those seats they lost then which have since ‘unwound’.

    [4] Because there was no local elections (bar the odd by-) in 2016 they use the 2015 general result, but the 2012 to 2015 Labour drop is only about 8 points and that is only of 9% of the electorate.

    [5] There were also gains in Scotland (46) and especially Wales (231), but because of the clash with devolved elections these elections were deferred to 2017. Data from:

    though you need to hover over the map to link to the results by country.

    The public could be enthusiastic or suspicious, the conservatives may respond by trying to form there own alliance with ukip.

    I’m certainly no UKIP supporter, but they’re enthusiastic for PR. The idea of a “progressive alliance” is attractive, but as ALEC [1] and CATMANJEFF [2] point out, the Cons campaigned effectively in 2015 against a non-existant one, whilst the Greens have little or no trust in Lab delivering.

    OTOH, in E&W at least, the Cons are a Billy no mates party[3]. A one-issue Democratic alliance including UKIP, pledged to call a fresh GE as soon as the PR[4] bill has entered into law would be harder for Cons to counter. Should Lab split into two parties, both parts might feel there is little choice but to agree

    See the grauniad’s [2015-06-02] Why does it take Nigel Farage to make the case for electoral reform? including:
    The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has described the 2015 general election as “the most disproportionate in electoral history”. Three out of four votes cast were “wasted” while the majority of MPs were elected with fewer than 50% of the votes cast in their constituencies. The SDLP won the Belfast South constituency with a mere 24.5% of the vote – the lowest winning vote share since records began, according to the ERS.

    [1] The Tories believed they were heading for seat losses and a hung parliament, and the one card they played relentlessly, in an extremely effective and well targeted manner, was the Lab/SNP left wing progressive alliance. It destroyed Labour’s chances, and was the prime factor in enabling Cameron to completely butcher the Lib Dems in the LD/Con marginals.

    [2] Within the Green Party there is much discussion of a ‘progressive alliance’, but with Labour as they are at the moment, there is little trust that Labour would deliver.

    [3] In NI & Scotland they could probably count on some unionist support.

    [4] Probably STV, but the Jenkins Commission’s AV+ has much to recommend it if smallish constituencies are considered important.

  29. It will be tough for Labour to win in 2020 based on a Fabian report

    In contrast Electoral Calculus gives Labour 0% chance in 2020 see

    The betting odds are 4/1 against a labour win.
    Overall Labour has a lot to do between now and 2020 to win

  30. Camb Rachel

    “If the Dems were prepared to sell their soul to the Tories for a referendum on a ‘miserable little compromise’ wouldn’t they be prepared to sell their grannys for a guarantee of a PR system? No matter how much damage a pact with labour could do, with a PR system it can be repaired”

    You overlook one key point. They have to be very confident of winning as part of the pact for “the damage to be repaired”.

    Besides, if the LP’s attitude under the surface turns out to be similar to yours so cynically expressed (yes, I know it was a bit tongue in cheek, but even so) then I’m quite sure Lib Dems will steer well clear in any case. As far as the Lib Dems who are left are concerned, they made a lot of sacrifices for the country’s stability and good by going into coaltion government, and they probably wouldn’t take your comments too kindly. . .

  31. Jeremy Corbyn has been an MP for over 30 years, embracing a version of socialism which differs from recent Labour Party standards. To get on the (first) ballot to elect a party leader he needed the support of some MPs who disagreed with him.
    If he had good leadership abilities they would have shown up before now.

  32. ROBIN @CR
    There is zero chance ot the LibDems forming a pact with Corbyn.

    Are you aware of any polling that might help there?

    Even going on 2015 voting, in the old Cornish LD “stronghold”, instead of 6 Con seats a Democratic Alliance might have taken 5 seats with the Con scraping the 6th.

  33. Derek

    The fabian report has a glaring mistake in it! It forgets that the number of seats will be reduced to 600, it talks about labour needing 326 for a majority!

  34. No, the Fabian report addresses that point if you read it, Rachel (I at first thought the same as you).

    Not sure I agree with them ignoring it, but it seems they were trying to give Labour’s ‘best case’ scenario.

  35. CR
    ‘The fabian report has a glaring mistake in it! It forgets that the number of seats will be reduced to 600, it talks about labour needing 326 for a majority!’

    With respecy you are jumping the gun there. It is far from certain that the new boundaries will be approved. Tory rebels are very likely on the issue.

  36. BZ

    Just looking at a few seats in the libdem and labour target lists its clear that if voters can be persuaded to back an alliance that a majority is possible. Quite a few seats where the small green vote makes the crucial difference and of course its impossible to say how many Green non voters there are.

    I don’t see what choice the libdems, Labour, plaid and greens have. Its either an alliance with a guarantee of PR or another conservative govt which won’t be good for any of those parties or the interests they represent and those parties will be facing the same choice in 2025. Its a problem that’s not going away.

  37. William

    I thought it was a package deal, if the Tories rebel the whole thing falls down

  38. CR
    Not at all. Several Tories voted against boundary changes in the last Parliament. There may be more this time – including a few from Wales. The vote is not due until Autumn 2018.

  39. William

    But if the Tories rebel, will the election be fought on the old boundaries? Will there be any changes at all from the last election?

  40. If the proposals are rejected the existing boundaries will continue.

  41. Any election before late Autumn 2018 will definitely be fought on current boundaries!

  42. William

    Under existing boundaries its going to be very difficult for the Tories to hold on to a majority

    I don’t see what choice the libdems, Labour, plaid and greens have. Its either an alliance with a guarantee of PR or another conservative govt which won’t be good for any of those parties or the interests they represent and those parties will be facing the same choice in 2025. Its a problem that’s not going away.

    If UKIP are included in the alliance then I agree with you entirely. Every E&W MP holding an opposition seat being against them would make it very hard for the Cons to change the subject during the campaign.

    If it’s a progressives alliance, Con would use the “pocket” ads again, with variations on Lucase & Farron.

    Not at all. Several Tories voted against boundary changes

    I agree with you re boundary changes, especially if A50 hasn’t been triggered by then.

  44. Lucas NOT Lucase

  45. @ATTENTION Boris fans!!…

    ….and, well, everyone really.

    Front page of the Times sez…

    “Cripes! PM puts Johnson in charge for second half of holiday”

    …just let that sink in for a moment…

    “Yesterday he emerged victorious, not only politically rehabilitated but running the country. Downing Street said that Mr Johnson, who was installed last month as foreign sec., would be “senior minister in charge” this week, while Theresa May continued her holiday in the Swiss mountains.

    Mr Johnson is the first port of call to handle a crisis or lead unexpected meetings, replacing Phiip Hammond, who took the role last week”.

    Should please Colin no end. They’re gonna have to install a zip wire in number 10 or summat…

  46. Actually, it says he won’t move to number 10, he’ll remain working from the Foreign office, and they’ve prolly already got a zip wire in there. Panic over…


    Quite so re BoJo and the zip wire.

    This was, however, announced in yesterday’s section of the BBC’s Brexit Watch: At-a-glance day-by-day summer briefing that I previously linked to, with:
    The [PM’s]spokesman also said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the senior minister on duty in London this week, while Theresa May is on holiday in Switzerland, but he insisted the PM “is still very much in charge”.

    Today’s snippets include:
    After Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said that “putting Boris in charge of the country is like putting the Chuckle Brothers in charge of Newsnight”, the BBC programme did exactly that.

  48. CR – “Just looking at a few seats in the libdem and labour target lists its clear that if voters can be persuaded to back an alliance that a majority is possible”

    Has it occurred to you that the voters can’t be persuaded?

    LibDem voters LIKE capitalism – the main thing that separated them from Tories was social liberalism, not economics. The privatisation of the Post Office was a long time LibDem policy, it wasn’t a Tory policy. They’re going to run a mile from corbyn’s “lets nationalise everything and create a British version of Venezuela”.

    Remember that these people vote LibDem because they feel Labour has always been too left-wing to stomach. Even in the 1980’s when Labour split, the Liberals chose to ally with the more moderate SDP rather than with Labour.

    The LibDems were created by that split in Labour – are they really going to say to themselves, “Oh well, our moderation was a complete waste of time, lets join Corbyn and go full Trotsky”.

    The activists wont do it and their voters will run into the open arms of the Conservatives if they try to ally with the Corbynistas.

    Then there is the fact that Corbyn can’t even work with his own party, so any party imagining that he will stick to a coalition agreement will be taken for fools – and they’re not fools in general. Consider that Labour members voted at their conference to keep Trident and Corbyn simply ignored them. He’s likely to ignore stuff from all other parties as well, he simply isn’t trustworthy.

    You are UKPR’s candidate for believing six impossible things before breakfast!

  49. Bit more Brexit luv, from the Times…

    “Brexit Bureaucracy will infuriate Out voters”
    “As ministers try to expand their fiefdoms, the salaries of lawyers and trade experts could top £5bn in the next decade”

    “Oh the irony. The Brexiteers, who railed against the over-powerful Brussels machine, now find themselves presiding over a sprawling Brexit bureaucracy that will cost billions and further alienate voters. There is not one Whitehall Dept. but three responsible for managing departure from the EU.

    Already a vicious turf war is under way…

    …it’s all so complicated and contentious, which is just what the civil service loves.”

    (It occurs, that if we actually achieve Brexit, whatever it means, that some carefully nurtured empires may suddenly be surplus to requirements. Thus, the ideal, from the point of view of a department charged with achieving Brexit, might be to never actually achieve it…)

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