Saturday’s Times had the latest YouGov voting intention results, which were CON 40%(nc), LAB 42%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc).

It also had results from a poll asking about the media allegations about Jeremy Corbyn having met a Czech spy in the 1980s, which clearly illustrated why such things make very little difference.

To start with, most people pay very little attention to the day-to-day soap opera of politics. 40% of people said they had been completely unaware of the story until taking the survey, a further 31% said they had noticed it, but hadn’t really paid it any attention. That leaves less than a third who had actually taken it in. Obviously things that no one notices have no real impact, especially since those people who do watch political news stories will disproportionately be those who are interested in politics and have firm political allegiances.

Asked if they thought the allegations were true, the results were as you’d expect. A large majority of Labour voters thought that Jeremy Corbyn probably had a perfectly innocent meeting with someone he thought was a diplomat, and that he probably didn’t give any information to any Czech agents. The only people who believed it were Conservatives. This is typical of such allegations: people view them through the prism of their existing political allegiences. If it’s an allegation against a party you support, you are likely to view it with scepticism and give the politician concerned the benefit of the doubt, if it’s an allegation against a party you dislike then it will confirm all the negative things you thought already.

Finally, YouGov asked if the spy allegations and the way Jeremy Corbyn had responded to them had changed people’s opinions of Jeremy Corbyn at all. Only 8% of people said it had made them think more negatively about him (and they were mostly Tories to begin with). 6% said it made them think better of Corbyn (and they were mostly Labour voters to begin with). A hearty 64% said it made no difference at all.

Full results for the voting intention are here, and the Corbyn results are here.

1,679 Responses to “Why the Corbyn spy allegations made no difference to public opinion”

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  1. I think it will have affected public opinion – in Corbyn’s favour.

  2. Well you say it makes no difference, but just because polling doesn’t shift, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make any difference.

    Such a story might not make people think worse of Corbyn. However, as part of a concerted campaign the constant drip of such ad hominem stuff might over time stop some people from switching to Corbyn who might otherwise have done so because they like some of his policies.

    By constantly attacking his cred, people may choose not to vote for him even though they may like his policies.

  3. @TW – i think that all of the 11 have signed either amendment 1 or amendment 5 so maybe that is where the confusion arises. Regarding the MPs distancing themselves today it is quite possible that they are really just trying to distance themselves from Corbyn/Labour.

    The big unknown is how many other Conservative MPs there are out there who will vote for a Customs Union or some such arrangement but haven’t stuck their head above the parapet yet. There has been talk about there being 10s more but there is no way for us to verify that at the moment. I can easily believe that if one of the headbangers was to get in and go hard brexit then we would be dealing with a lot more than 11 rebels. I guess a lot will depend on circumstances and what it looks like May (or a possible successor) will try and go with.

  4. Carfrew

    “By constantly attacking his cred, people may choose not to vote for him even though they may like his policies.”

    If that’s in the news feed that most people get (primarily BBC News and its repetition of MSM press stories) then that may be the case.

    Though, I suspect, that many voters don’t personalise politics to the extent that the media assume (and drive the perception of that).

    Possibly floating voters are more affected by their peripheral glances at political news, but whether that effect would run into an actual election campaign is another matter altogether.

  5. Good analysis by Anthony about why most political events have little or no effect on polling. I think Carfrew’s got it about right (barring really major events), the constant drip-drip may have a cumulative effect. It does work both ways though. As well as the ‘Corbyn is anti Western civilisation’ theme, there is the ‘May is an ineffectual robot’ theme. As well, of course the ‘LibDems are irrelevant’ and ‘UKIP are a bunch of Loony racists’, ‘SNP are chippy ingrates’ etc.

    In the end it’s down to which overall impression settles in the public mind more.

    Even big events don’t always make much of a difference. The Iraq war was hugely unpopular on all sides. It started in 2003, but the Labour vote dropped by just over a million from 2001-2005 GE, and they still won.

  6. Interesting comment on the BES 2017 survey – at the 2017 election Tory remainers were still a bigger political force than Labour leavers.

  7. Irish Independent –

    The Irish Government and EU Brexit taskforce are “of one mind” on the draft legal text detailing the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, says Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney.

    The text will spell out in legally binding format, the agreement made by the EU and UK last December which protects the invisible Irish border.

  8. I await the grovelling apologies to Corbyn from the rags.
    On a separate note I wish Tom Bradby just read the news instead of using it as his personal editorial.

  9. ON
    “The text will spell out in legally binding format, the agreement made by the EU and UK last December which protects the invisible Irish border.”

    If that’s true, doesn’t it mean we can’t control immigration, because anyone wanting to get into the UK just has to go to Eire first?

  10. Now Robert Peston referring to the very left wing Labour Party. Outrageous bias.

  11. Pete B

    Since the text of the WA will just reflect the agreement made by May with the EU in December, if that’s what she agreed then, yep.

    Of course, reasonable people like yourself, as well as the hordes of xenophobes who detest foreigners entering the sacred island will be distressed, but (as the saying goes) “Tough”.

  12. The reason that the needle hasn’t shifted over this is pretty much the same as the reason the needle hasn’t shifted much at all since the election – most people aren’t paying attention, and those that are are already partisan one way or the other.

  13. ON
    I detect a bit of sarcasm, but if we can keep to the effect of these things on polling, I believe that the ability to control immigration to the UK from the rest of the EU was a significant factor for many Leave voters (about 1/3rd cited it as the main reason according to Wikipedia). If no party now espouses that position, there will be a lot of disgruntled voters.

    Will they abstain from the next GE? Will the shambles that is UKIP revive? Will some other party start up? Who knows, but around 6 million voters unrepresented by a party of any substance should be a concern for our democracy.

  14. PETE B

    I don’t think even the Moggster is proposing that EU citizens should have to get a visa to come to the UK on holiday.

  15. Pete B

    Whatever happens “there will be a lot of disgruntled voters”.

    The calculation that party managers have to make is where their advantage lies in that.

    As to your concerns for “our democracy” (well mainly yours) due to sticking with FPTP, there are consequences that result from daft voting systems.

  16. Pete B: Yes and no. Is it a concern for democracy that no political party wants to bring back the death penalty or nationalise the banking system, even though both of these ideas, at the opposite extremes of political ideology, have considerable public support? Or are they stupid ideas that shouldn’t be encouraged?

  17. As some other points worth remembering, the common travel area between Ireland and the UK has existed since long before the EU was even a twinkling in a bureaucrat’s eye, and Ireland isn’t in the Schengen Area (it would probably be an even bigger strain on the GFA for them to join it than it would be for us to put up a hard customs border). Movement of people across the NI/Eire border is a total non-issue.

  18. Interesting point from David Allen Green

    In commercial law, the party who produces the first draft of any agreement will always have the advantage.

    The European Commission issuing their draft text of the Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday is going to be, well, significant.

    (If UK had been competent, it would have produced its own draft}

  19. Garj
    Neither am I.

    Yes there are consequences. In the long run it is dangerous for political parties to ignore significant portions of the electorate.

    “Or are they stupid ideas that shouldn’t be encouraged?”

    Who decides that they are stupid? That’s very patronising. And why should these ideas not be represented? I am in favour of PR in some form. I believe that this would give a voice to more diverse opinions on all sides, and would actually help social cohesion. If for instance a party in favour of the death penalty had to go into coalition with one that wanted too nationalise banks (to use your examples), might that not lead to greater understanding between them? It might also make voters holding extreme views realise what a small minority they were, and thus tame them a bit.

  20. Garj

    “Movement of people across the NI/Eire border is a total non-issue.”

    True – just as long as they aren’t driving cars or lorries, or carrying bags, or moving animals from one field to another.

  21. I do not think the reports of Jeremy Corbyn’s involvement with the Czech regime’ in the 1980’s has damaged Jeremy Corbyn’s standing one jot: The young and metropolitan Voters who back Jeremy Corbyn either don’t care because it was a long time ago or they just think it is another desperate attempt by what they call “The Right Wing Press” to discredit their hero- and this 40 to 45% of the electorate become more doggedly determined to support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour!

    If the Tories really want to erode support for Labour, they need to reassure these same Voters that they will increase funding for Public Services whilst offering some radically appealing policies of their own like Big Tax Cuts and two million new homes for first-time buyers at just £40,000 a pop. Funding it would require slashing Foreign Aid, Green subsidies, EU bills and risking a Gilts Strike by borrowing more.

    The Tories don’t have long to decide whether a Credit Ratings Downgrade from Fitch or Moody’s is less bad than letting Jeremy Corbyn get into power to sabotage Brexit and that nasty “Right Wing Press”. They need to decide- and Fast!

  22. Pete B

    “In the long run it is dangerous for political parties to ignore significant portions of the electorate.”

    True. That’s why Scotland got legislative devolution, because SCon/SLab ignored the autonomy wish of so many for so long, and then panicked because they lost votes.

    But under FPTP, you need a large number of voters with a common aim to coalesce behind a single party to force the behemoths to change their cosy arrangements.

    That’s quite hard to achieve. Good to see you supporting some kind of PR for England (or Westminster), but from experience here, it took the electorate a few electoral cycles to work out how best to use it.

    As with everything else, it isn’t an instant solution.

  23. ON

    The lumbering and cumbersom EU being more quick of foot than the UK.

    Says a lot about the quality of government in the UK these days.

  24. OLDNAT

    Well that’s a question of how the two sides of the border decide to go about customs checks. I find it stretches credibility to suggest that there will be a major issue with people smuggling across truckloads of vacuum cleaners from the UK which don’t meet EU standards (or even vice versa), it’s things like cigarettes and alcohol which end up being smuggled due to differential taxes across a border. That’s certainly the issue on the Norway/Sweden border thanks to the highly restricted Norwegian booze market, and it already happens across the Irish border, except nobody cares about it because we’re all part of the same trading area. It’s not like the EU or the UK have impermeable outer borders as it is anyway, far more dodgy stuff will arrive in Felixstowe or Rotterdam in an afternoon than could ever go through NI in an entire year.

    Resolving the matter of customs checks at the border is about deciding who you check and how vigilantly you do it. It could be a very light-touch regime indeed if both sides can agree.

  25. Prof Howard

    I suspect that the failure to be proactive in determining the WA wasn’t accidental,

    On one level, it can be seen as incompetence.

    Perhaps, at a deeper level, it should be seen as encouraging the constraints on independent activity that the Leavers most yearn for. – “We’d have loved to do more, but it simply wasn’t possible”.

  26. I always feel that cases of accusations like this depend as much on the perceived credibility of the accuser as much as of the accused. While most of these ‘big’ stories don’t shift anything, as much as there is a risk of the drip drip effect on Corbyn, there is equally the risk of a diminuation of his accusers credibility.

    To me, this had the smell of a concerted big hit, with mutliple news organisations and Tory MPs – even the PM – piling in. Indeed, it was informative to scan the DT columnists – there was scarely a single regular contributor that didn’t run an angle of the story.

    It flopped, so badly that a Vice Chair of the party was forced to scurry back in retreat for fear of litigation, with no discernable public impact whatsoever. Perhaps this shows that the print media has passed it’s peak influence?

  27. Garj

    But there are things called WTO rules which require checks on origin of goods at customs borders.

    Interesting though, that your example postulated the importation of dodgy, sub-standard goods, from the UK to the EU – and not the other way around.

    I’d much prefer not to have those crap products on sale here, either.

  28. @oldnat

    “If that’s in the news feed that most people get (primarily BBC News and its repetition of MSM press stories) then that may be the case.

    Though, I suspect, that many voters don’t personalise politics to the extent that the media assume (and drive the perception of that).”


    Well yes obviously those that don’t see the news item may not be affected by it. But it doesn’t end there, because even if they don’t really process the news fully, they may just register “something bad about Corbyn again” without attending to the specifics.

    Then you have people who might be influenced by other opinion formers who DID pay more attention to the news.

    And then there was my point that it needn’t be a particular item but the total effect of lots of attacks adding up. If you have enough attacks, it needn’t matter if you miss a few, you may still be influenced by all the others.

    And on top of that, yes, as you say, floating voters may pay more attention…

  29. @Alec

    “It flopped, so badly that a Vice Chair of the party was forced to scurry back in retreat for fear of litigation, with no discernable public impact whatsoever. Perhaps this shows that the print media has passed it’s peak influence?”


    Well it may well have done with younger people, but it still predominates with boomers, who still have voting clout. The writing does seem like it might be on the wall though. There are lots of blogs where the analysis is in a different league, and frankly although as AW notes there is some wailing and gnashing, nonetheless numerous BTL comments routinely outperform the Journos.

  30. In early 2018, when most Voters are tiring of Austerity, many see Labour as offering them a way out of hardship and (for students) debt. Money Talks, and no matter how grubby the past shenanigans of a particular Party leader (which avid supporters just deem to be a horrid slur against their hero); if he offers lots of goodies he will win votes and support!

    This is what the Tories are up against: Fiscal Responsibility is not not a Vote-winner, so the Party has to decide how it can offer the biggest b

  31. “However, as part of a concerted campaign the constant drip of such ad hominem stuff might over time stop some people from switching to Corbyn who might otherwise have done so because they like some of his policies.”

    I think the ad hominem stuff can have the opposite effect too, and I think there’s some evidence this happened last year.

    It can create in the politically disengaged an impression of a caricature that is so extreme that when the light of the campaign is shone upon it, it can’t stand up to scrutiny. This overplayed hand can end up doing more harm to the attacker’s credibility than to that of the attacked.

  32. Continued)- Bucks to the largest number of Voters. This is how the Tories will win the next Election.

    Ian Pennell

  33. Re: the poll, one point is that it has not really affected my view of Corbyn but it has reinforced my (negative) view of the right wing press and conservative party, thereby making me more likely to vote for him.

  34. ALEC

    There’s a bit of the boy who cried wolf about it all. After scare stories about the likes of ‘Red Ed’ going back decades people have grown a bit mistrustful of press accusations about Labour leaders. The irony with Corbyn of course is that a lot of it is true, but the electorate discounts it as exaggerations. He does poll very poorly among people old enough to remember the USSR, winter of discontent, and IRA bombing campaigns on the British mainland. It may be that the stories have traction with older voters (perhaps some of the reason why Tory VI is holding up so well), but the young(ish) Labour voters see it as the distant past and just don’t care.

  35. Still digesting the day’s news, and I can’t help get the feeling that Cons have been pushed back politically by Corbyn;s speech today.

    In truth, he is wanting his cake and to eat it also, but the political arguments just seem easier for Lab tonight. I remain, as I always have done, highly suspicious that the clarion call for rights to negotiate our own trade deals is going to fire up voters. By contrast, Labour’s talk of protecting what we have just seems an easier sell. For each free trade call Labour can shout ‘chlorinated chicken and the NHS’.

    Indeed, Cons are getting somewhat convoluted in their arguments now. Rees Mogg is tonight saying that Labour’s plans means that we wouldn’t be able to prevent a TTIP style deal attacking the NHS. To voters, this gets confusing. Brexiters want free trade deal, which will bring propsperity and freedom, but Labour’s also wants free trade deals but this means an end to the NHS? Once you have to stoop to arguing whether my free trade deal is bigger than your free trade deal, I suspect it’s a fair bet that you will have lost voters interest.

    Cons seem nervous now, but much will depend on May’s speech and also the reaction of the EU. Previously they have behaved as if they are operating an instant rebuttal system every time HMG speaks, but tonight there seems to be silence. Perhaps they won’t respond to the opposition, but their reaction will be instructive. If May presents another speech on Friday with unrealistic demands and poorly fleshed out ideas, then I think she will be in trouble, so the real question is going to be how she responds to this new point of pressure.

  36. Carfrew

    ” But it doesn’t end there, because even if they don’t really process the news fully, they may just register “something bad about Corbyn again” without attending to the specifics.”

    I wouldn’t disagree with that. After all, it’s the main way that opposition parties campaign outwith actual elections.

    Plant sufficient anti-government stories in a compliant print media (and have them highlighted on the BBC news) has been standard practice for those parties that have sympathetic ears in the compliant print media (and, therefore, the BBC), and they assume it will have a negative effect on VI for the governing party.

    It may well have such an effect, but it doesn’t mean that those votes will transfer to the opposition party that has the support of the compliant media.

    We don’t know what percentage of the electorate is so easily swayed by such factors – probably more than most of us would wish to be the case.

  37. Regarding the Trade Bill amendments I think it’s a reach to describe Umunna’s position as consistent.

    When it was a means to parade his disagreement with Starmer, Umunna’s “principled” stand was that it must be THE CU, a parallel one would not do. When it is proposed by a Conservative, it’s suddenly OK after all.

    You can argue the difference is substantive, in which case he’s changed position. Or you can argue the difference is mere sophistry, in which case his public disagreement with his party’s front bench was mere mischief making. But in neither case can you argue a consistent point of principle.

  38. @oldnat

    “It may well have such an effect, but it doesn’t mean that those votes will transfer to the opposition party that has the support of the compliant media.”


    Well quite. Hence my argument was more about dissuading people from switching, as opposed to getting them to switch.

    It’s just another component of FUD really.

  39. @Ian Pennell

    You don’t really get how the Millennials think. They are really not very money motivated. I tend to get caught out by this myself.

    For example, last week, chatting with one of the guys at one of the coffee shops round the corner, we were chatting about the music he’d just released. I started talking about ways to make money from music now that things have changed rather, and he was rather adamant that it’s not about the money. This is pretty typical.

    As for fiscal responsibility, I shan’t go into it, but given the young read more widely than the household economics of the mainstream press, good luck making that case to people who know what happened to the growth figures with the cuts!!

  40. OLDNAT

    I’m no trade lawyer, but my understanding was that WTO rules only apply in the instance of us not making a trade deal. It goes without saying that crashing out onto WTO rules would result in a hard border, but if any kind of deal is struck (be it Canada+, Norway-, EEA or whatever) then that would take precedence and we (that is to say us and the EU27) would be able to devise a suitable border arrangement which would be fine under WTO rules. It’s a matter of will more than anything.

  41. In terms of the media effect on voting choices, has anyone got any details on whether Liverpool was a big anomaly in the EU referendum when demographics were taken into account? I remember that at the time it seemed so. Liverpool had a 58% remain vote which was comparable to Manchester (60%, which i would have thought was a little high in itself) but much higher than what i would have thought would be other comparable cities in the North and Midlands. The reason i ask is that the Sun has a very very low circulation on Merseyside and an anomalously large remain vote could be due to this. Obviously i realise that a data point of one could have many other reasons behind it though!

  42. Garj

    Well few, if any, of us on here are trade lawyers, but my understanding is that any FTA would need to cover origin of goods issues.

    It’s quite hard to see how anyone would sign up for a FTA that had the potential to allow goods to flow across a border without hindrance – unless that border was simply an administrative line within a wider customs union and single market – in which case no FTA would be required.

  43. “For each free trade call Labour can shout ‘chlorinated chicken and the NHS’.”

    If at some point they might say summat about synths, that would be good…

    Anyways, regarding Cakeism, Martin Rowson was on form with his take on the cake thing, crumbs from the table etc. (Suitably cynical, common elements of Rowson’s work are present, the furcup, the fat cat in the background very happy with how things are going etc…)

  44. ben bradley’s apology to corbyn has been shared more than every tory party tweet of 2018 combined.

    why they thought this smear had any legs defeats me. Corbyn had meetings with senior sein fein/ira members – people who were carrying a campaign of deadly violence in the UK – in the 80s. This was trumpeted by the media incessantly through out the election campaign – yet labour still made considerable advances.

    Corbyn (unwittingly) meeting a czech (not even russian) spy is very small beer in comparison. The czech regime was never high up on anybodies list of enemys – even amongst those who remember the cold war in any detail.

    All it has done has made people even less likely to listen to the next “scandal” they want to hang round corbyn’s neck.

  45. Reggieside

    “Corbyn had meetings with senior sein fein/ira members – people who were carrying a campaign of deadly violence in the UK – in the 80s”

    So had Thatcher’s and Blair’s government officials, so that comment isn’t as dramatic as it might sound.

    Sensibly both governments also had meetings with senior UDA/UVF members, who were also “carrying a campaign of deadly violence in the UK ”

    I’m sure you meant to make a point, but I’m unclear as to what it was.

  46. the point was that the IRA attack line was many times more potent then the czech spy one – and was still ineffective.
    I wasn’t passing a personal view on the troubles or corbyn – more a reflection on how many people view the historical actions of Sien Fein/IRA as opposed to the supposed evil-ness of the former czech communist regime.

  47. @OLDNAT

    .A.G was one of the few reasons why a persisted with the Financial Times. The FT is a weird paper it seemed to want to do the right thing and then when it came to it got dragged back and voted Tory with often the lamest of excuses

    @PETE B

    The Iraq war split the labour party. If anything it was Labour’s ‘Euro W4nk’ as Cameron would put it. For the Tories voting to go to wars was a easy for them as it was for the SNP and Liberals to vote against going to war. it was the Labour party that was torn they lost at least 80 MP at each an every vote on the war.


    Obama campaign squashed the negativity in term so news every early and very hard, I spoke to someone close to the campaign and they said if you let the negative news dominate the cycle it becomes the truth. if you remember the woman on QT saying part of the reason that she voted leave was the banana regulations ind basically tells you how negative news (god I had this on the doorstep so many times) becomes popular myth and then becomes ‘alternative fact’

    Considering that Labour was 2.4% away from the Tories and lost some seats that they needed to hold in the North any negativity that sticks could cause them real pain. You could hear a Tory campaigner on the doorstep ” Well they say he not a spy but there is no smoke without fire is there”, type selling point and remember sometime it does not even need to make intellectual sense. Obama was accused of being a muslim and a attending a racist church and being born in Kenya. yet 40% of republicans believe one of these stories according to one poll and I have never seen it the number go below 30% in any poll that I searched for.

    it was interesting today that Asa Bennet of the telegraph complained that some only had read the headline on a piece by him on Corbyn. The title ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit shift shows he’s more determined than ever to seize power’. it was pointed out to him that he could have said Corbyn bows to his voters and members on Customs Union. which would be an accurate headline and he may have

    Asa then writes this in response to a person questioning him on the articles meat ” But, as a so-called man of principle, it is striking how happy he is to throw his lot in with Remainers as soon as he smells the prospect of power”

    Asa goes on to talk about Corbyn not being a man of principle etc the real difference now is that most people do not get their news from papers so the damage is less, but the news papers are aired every day on TV in the morning and we often have the headlines read to us on Newsnight. So an Up yours Delor’s becomes the only thing that is heard or whatever the headline on banana regulations.

    Now just imagine doing that for 5 straight years and what you soon get is what happened to Ed Miliband. basically successful character assassination.

  48. Corbyn is proving much more difficult for the Tories than most people would have thought, when he was first elected as Labour Leader. Corbyn is an intelligent campaining politician and even if you don’t share some of his politics, you can understand the clear argument he makes.

    Labours new stance on a customs union with the EU is sensible and I think this is where Theresa May really wants to be. I am not convinced that May will be unhappy with losing votes in Parliament that mean she has to negotiate a customs agreement with the EU. I doubt May really wants to be implementing Boris, Gove, Fox and Rees-Moggs version of Brexit

    In regard to polling and electoral impact of Corbyn’s announcemnt, I very much doubt it would make a difference. Labour might lose some anti-EU voters who want nothing to do with the EU, but they will make up for this, by attracting voters who just want a sensible deal that protects jobs, as well as Northern Ireland interests.

    My prediction, is that there will be another referendum at some stage, because I think Parliament and the country will still be split on the future vision for the UK. The 2016 referendum was based on just an idea that had not been worked out. The next referendum could be to postpone Brexit for say 3 years to allow a longer negotiation with the EU on a trading relationship that protects UK interests.

  49. Bearing in mid the Daily Telegraph were leading the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, there were headlines several days running, I do find it telling that I can find no reference of them covering the apology of Ben Bradley.
    To give so much coverage to the original story and little or nothing to this says a lot about what is wrong with certain sections of the press.

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