If Labour splits…

Over on the YouGov website I’ve written about an experiment we did looking at how the votes might fall in the event that the Labour party did split (the tabs are here). As I say in the article, this needs a thousand caveats – in what proportions has Labour split? Which party is the main opposition with all the publicity that implies? Who is the leader of the anti-Corbyn Labour party, and what sort of policies are they following? How did the split happen? Respondents don’t know, so this can only be a straw in the wind.

The important things to take away are these:

One – there is a sizeable chunk of the Labour vote who are brand loyalists, in the event of a split they would keep on voting for Labour, regardless of whether the left has split away or the right has split away. Just as the faction that is left controlling the Labour party will get the party’s property and assets, they’ll also get that base loyalist vote. Looking at this poll, it seems to be about 28% of the current Labour vote (so about 8% of the national vote)

Two – a lot of Labour voters would go with the left if the Corbyn was somehow ousted and his supporters left. A smaller group of current Labour voters would go with the right if they left, but they’d pick up more support from don’t knows, current Lib Dems and so on. A Labour splinter group of either side would start with around-about 13-14% (again, there are a thousand caveats to this, so don’t take that as set in stone).

Three – the sum total of the support which the two rival Labour parties would be slightly more than the current Labour party (between them they’d get about 34%, compared to Labour’s current polling figures that are around or just under 30%). Under a proportional voting system this might be a good thing. Under First Past the Post this would likely be disastrous for them, splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Conservatives (or UKIP, or whoever) to gain more seats from them. Exactly how bad it would be we cannot tell without knowing how their votes would be distributed geographically, whether individual Labour MPs would be able to retain the Labour vote in their own constituencies. It is likely to be pretty nasty though.

Finally, given the purpose of the exercise was to see what proportion of Labour voters would stick with the “Labour brand” in the event of a party split, we were faced with the problem of what to call the splitters in each scenario. We wouldn’t call them the “anti-Corbyn Labour party” or “Corbyn Labour party” or whatever as the whole point is that they would NOT be the Labour party, we had to give them a new made-up name. But what? In the end we tried it out with various different names to try and cancel out any effect from choosing a compelling or duff name – “Momentum”, “People’s Party”, “Moderates”, “Progress”, “Radicals”, “Social Democrats” – none of the names seemed to make much difference, whatever we called it, the splitters got around 13-15%.


The Times tomorrow has fresh YouGov polling of Labour members suggesting Jeremy Corbyn is comfortably ahead of both challengers. Asked their first preference Jeremy Corbyn leads with 54% to Angela Eagle’s 21% and Own Smith’s 15%. Corbyn easily wins in a head-to-head run off against either – he beats Eagle by 58% to 34% and Smith by 56% to 34%.

The poll is of Labour members who joined before January 2016, so will be eligible to vote in the contest, but obviously doesn’t yet include people who sign up to be registered supporters in the short window this week. Sam Coates is tweeting more results.


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ICM have a new poll in the Sun on Sunday with topline figures of CON 39%(+1), LAB 29%(-1), LDEM 9%(+1), UKIP 14%(-1), GRN 4%(nc). This is the first poll conducted since Theresa May became Prime Minister, so may be expected to show a typical “new leader” bounce in government support (when Brown took over in 2007 and Major took over in 1990 the governing party went from being behind to having double-digit leads). The Tory lead is up a little, but not outside the normal margin of error, that said ICM’s previous poll already had an eight point Tory lead, so they were already at a high base.

ICM also did some hypothetical voting intention questions asking about varous leader match-ups. A control question, asking how people would vote if Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn were still leader at the general election has voting intention figures of CON 43%, LAB 28%, suggesting either a significant positive effect from mentioning May or a negative effect from mentioning Corbyn.

Asking how people would vote if Owen Smith or Angela Eagle were Labour leader does not offer any improvement. With Eagle the figures would be CON 43%, LAB 26%. With Smith the figures would be CON 42%, LAB 27%. I should add a heavy caveat here – hypothetical polls like this are popular in advance of leadership elections, but how useful they are is a different question. Respondents don’t necessarily know what the alternative candidates stand for, what they will do or announce, how they may or may not change the party. I add those caveats when the alternative leaders are well known to the public, like Gordon Brown, Boris Johnson and so on. In the case of someone who is as unknown to the general public as Owen Smith, I expect most don’t know who he is or what he even looks like. Nevertheless, the figures will be influential in the debate – rightly or wrongly Corbyn’s supporters within the Labour party will now be able to say there is no polling evidence that his rivals would do any better.

Note that ComRes also have a poll in the Independent/Sunday Mirror, but they are not currently publishing any voting intention figures while they review methods.


I’ve had a break from the blog over the last few days, so I missed a YouGov poll of Labour members last week which suggested the first cracks in the hitherto solid support for Jeremy Corbyn among Labour members.

Back in May 72% of Labour members thought Corbyn was doing well, 27% badly; 60% wanted him to lead the party into the next election. Now 51% think he’s doing well, 48% badly and only 41% thought he should lead the party into the next election. However, for Labour MPs seeking to unseat him, their success of any leadership election is still questionable. 50% of members say they would probably still vote for Corbyn in a leadership election, 47% that they would probably not, and even that 47% relies upon finding a candidate who all those members unhappy with him could unite behind. Asked how they would vote in head-to-head contests between Corbyn and some potential challengers Corbyn still wins: he is ahead of Tom Watson by 50% to 39%, Angela Eagle by 50% to 40%, Dan Jarvis by 52% to 35%.

These figures are also just for fully paid up party members – an election would also include £3 supporters. Those £3 supporters from the last election would still break heavily for Corbyn, but in the case of an actual leadership election there would obviously be efforts by both sides to recruit new £3 supporters – we cannot tell how successful they’d be.

I can claim no particular insight into the mind of the Parliamentary Labour party, but I suspect one reason that none of Corbyn’s critics has yet triggered a leadership is that (as of last week at least) the polling of Labour party members did not suggest they could be sure of a victory in a leadership contest. Since then, of course, there has been another week of infighting and stand-off, and sooner or later there has to be some sort of resolution…

The tabs for the Labour leadership polling are here.


The next part of YouGov’s poll of Labour party members for Ian Warren is out here, dealing with the party leadership. Approval of Jeremy Corbyn among Labour party members remains solid – 72% of party members approve of him, 17% disapprove. So while there is a rump of unhappy party members, there’s a solid majority with a positive opinion (figures are similar for John McDonnell – 57% of members approve, 19% disapprove). 63% of party members want to see Corbyn remain party leader and contest the general election.

At the time of Corbyn’s election polls suggested that his supporters were far more concerned about his beliefs than whether he would lead Labour to electoral success. This poll seems to confirm that’s still the case. At this stage support for Corbyn among Labour party members doesn’t really seem conditional upon how well the party does electorally. Less than half (47%) of members think the Labour party will win the next election under Corbyn, yet his support remains high. In the event that Labour do badly in the Scottish, Welsh, London and local elections 53% of Labour party members think he should still remain leader and contest the next election (the survey leaves it open to respondents to imagine what performing “badly” might mean… a bad performance in Scotland seems almost assured, but London polls so far have Sadiq ahead for the mayoralty).

If Corbyn was challenged, the data still suggests he’d hold onto the leadership. The poll had a “who would be your first preference as leader” question with a very long list of candidates in which Corbyn got less than a majority of support, but on a mock ballot paper against Hillary Benn, Dan Jarvis, Lisa Nandy, Angela Eagle and Tom Watson he wins comfortably on the first round (62% support, with Benn in second place on 15%). If Corbyn goes and McDonnell stands in his place he would be ahead on the first round, but only by 29% to Benn’s 20%, so perhaps he wouldn’t win overall.

Full tabs are here.