The average Tory lead in June’s Voting intention polls so far is around 5 points, with the Tories in the low forties, Labour up in the high thirties. The level of party support appears to have settled down since the fading of the “rally round the flag” effect in May.

Looking away from the coronavirus polling it is now almost two months since Keir Starmer became Labour leader, so we have an initial chance to see how he’s registered with the general public.

When I write about results for “who would make the best Prime Minister?” question on social media I often get comments along the lines of “its easier to look like a good Prime Minister when you are Prime Minister”. This is correct, but it doesn’t devalue the question. It is indeed easier to look Prime Ministerial when you are Prime Minister, and this is an advantage that the PM will enjoy in real life, and will enjoy come any election. It is not the case that Prime Ministers always lead on this question. When he was leader of the opposition Tony Blair was consistently ahead of John Major on this question, David Cameron often polled ahead of Gordon Brown. Therefore Starmer’s ratings in his first few months look promising – YouGov had him neck-and-neck with Boris Johnson earlier this month, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer has him two points ahead of Johnson as preferred PM.

Questions asking about Starmer in his own right also seem positive. He has solidly positive approval ratings from YouGov, Ipsos MORI, Survation and Opinium. YouGov’s questions on leader attributes give him strongly positive ratings on being decisive, strong, competent and likeable. By 40% to 32% people say he does look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It is a cliche to say that first impressions count, but that doesn’t mean it is untrue. History is littered with opposition leaders who really didn’t come across as being capable or substantial figures in their early months in the role and never recovered. Starmer became leader at an unusual time – the coronavirus outbreak very much dictated what he spoke about and concentrated upon. It gave him an immediate challenge of getting his response right to a major crisis. In one sense this is an opportunity – it is a large, serious issue where the leader of the opposition can show they are a serious politician with serious things to say. However, it also brings the risk of being ignored as an irrelevance, or being seen as opportunistic if you pitch it wrong (compare and contrast with the failed Tory leaders during their period in opposition – Iain Duncan Smith became Tory leader immediately after 911… and was ignored; William Hague shortly before the death of Princess Diana, and struggled to speak for the people in a way that came naturally to Tony Blair). Judging by his initial poll ratings, Starmer appears to have passed this initial test.

It’s worth noting that all the polling I’ve referred to here comes from before the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey. While that is certainly important for what it tells us about Starmer’s willingness to stamp his authority upon his party, I don’t expect it to make much difference to this figures (realistically the sacking of a shadow cabinet minister is not often something that produces any reverberations beyond the most seasoned Westminster watchers). But as ever, we shall see.

Right now Starmer’s popularity isn’t translating into a polling lead for the Labour party, but having a leader with a popular image who is seen as a plausible Prime Minister gives them the right foundation should the Government’s support falter. The Conservative Government has two huge challenges ahead of them (Brexit and Corona). Either would be daunting alone, let alone both together. For the past few years they have faced the luxury of being up against a not particularly effective opposition, riven by internal divides and with a leader whose support was deep rather than wide. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope with their challenges when they are up against a more substantial opposition.


Sky News have released a new YouGov poll of Labour party members and affiliated supporters for the leadership election. First preferences for leader stand at STARMER 53%, LONG BAILEY 31%, NANDY 16%. While on these figures Starmer would narrowly win on first preferences anyway, if you reallocate Nandy’s votes the final preferences would be STARMER 66%, LONG BAILEY 34%.

Compared to the previous YouGov poll conducted in January Long Bailey’s support is almost unchanged, while Nandy and Starmer are up 8 and 7 points respectively, presumably largely due to picking up the preferences of those who previously supported Jess Philips or Emily Thornberry. This is the first poll to include voters from affiliated trade unionists – Starmer’s support is slightly higher among affiliates than full members, increasing his lead slightly.

Looking through the demographic breakdowns Starmer leads among all age groups, among both men and women, and across all regions (though his lead is bigger in the South than the North, and bigger among older members). The most notable demographic difference continues to be in terms of social grade, with Starmer only having a lead of 4 points among C2DE respondents. The other interesting, if not wholly surprising difference is by length of membership – those people who joined the Labour party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership are more likely to support Rebecca Long Bailey, those who joined before 2015 or have joined since the 2019 election are far more likely to support Starmer.

The poll also suggests a clear winner in the deputy leadership contest. First round preferences are RAYNER 47%, BURGON 19%, ALLIN-KHAN 13%, BUTLER 12%, MURRAY 9%, with RAYNER likely to pass the fifty-percent mark once Ian Murray’s votes are redistributed. Redistributing all the votes would give a final round of RAYNER 73%, BURGON 27%.

Full tables are here.


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Today’s Times has some fresh polling of Labour party members. It was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday this week in the wake of the anti-Semitism row, though is also the first opportunity we’ve seen since the general election to take the general political temperature among Labour party members.

On that second point, the first thing to notice is the major shift in the level of support Jeremy Corbyn has among Labour party members. Two years ago this was still a party divided on the leadership and unsure of his future. Now they are solidly behind him. 80% of Labour members think Corbyn is doing well as leader, just 19% badly. 74% of Labour members think that Jeremy Corbyn should lead the party into the next general, and 64% of members think it is likely that Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister in the future.

This is a complete transformation of attitudes since 2016 – back then, Labour members were split on Corbyn’s performance, didn’t think he could ever win, most didn’t want him to fight the next election. Now, following Corbyn’s victory against Owen Smith and the party’s revivial at the election, Corbyn’s support in the party looks absolutely solid.

Looking briefly at two of the other recent decisions Jeremy Corbyn has made, his members also back him over both his handling of the Salisbury poisonings and his sacking of Owen Smith. 69% think that Corbyn has responded well to the poisonings, and by 50% to 37% they think sacking Smith was the right decision.

Now, moving on to the anti-semitism row that Labour have found themselves in.

19% of Labour members think that anti-semitism in the party is a serious and genuine problem that needs addressing. A further 47% of Labour members agree that there is a serious and genuine problem, but think that is has been exaggerated for political reasons. Finally, 30% think that there is not a serious problem of anti-semitism at all. Broadly speaking, two-thirds of members think there is a problem (though many of those think it is being exaggerated for political effect), just under a third think there is not.

In terms of Jeremy Corbyn’s own handling of the row, most of his members think he has dealt with it well. 61% say he has responded very or fairly well, 33% think he has responded fairly or very badly. It’s less good than his approval overall (implying there are some Labour members who approve of Corbyn’s leadership in general, but think he’s dropped the ball here) but there is still clear majority approval.

Finally, the poll asked whether Labour party members wanted to see Ken Livingstone readmitted to the party or not. 33% wanted to see him return, 41% did not.

I’ll put a link up to the full tabs when they are released.


Ian Warren of Electiondata had published a new YouGov poll of Labour party members. Overall, it looks as if Jeremy Corbyn’s suppport among the Labour membership is down a bit since last year… but that right now he’d likely be re-elected again. To some degree a fall in support among existing members has probably been mitigated by the gradual churn in membership as pre-Corbyn membership falls and newer, more pro-Corbyn members join. Back in August 2016, 53% of paid up Labour members thought Jeremy Corbyn was doing well, 45% badly. The latest figures are 51% well, 47% badly. The figures are not directly comparable because of changing membership (a substantial proportion of members joined post EU referendum and they were some of the most pro-Corbyn members). Nevertheless, the net effect is that Corbyn’s support really hasn’t fallen much.

If we go back and look at Corbyn’s historical ratings among party members the big drop appears to be at the time of the EU referendum and the attempted coup, but since then things have steadied. In Nov 2015 66% of Labour members thought Corbyn was doing well, by May 2016 that had risen to 72%. Straight after the EU referendum and Hilary Benn’s sacking it it fell to 51%, in July 2016 it stood at 55%, by August 2016 it stood at 53%, today it is back to 51%. Some of those ups and downs are because the polls were seeking to measure those Labour members entitled to take part in the election and there were back and forths about cut-off dates, but you can see the broad trend – a sharp fall, then a pretty steady position.

Neither has there been much change in attitudes towards Corbyn’s future. Opinion has moved a little against Corbyn fighting the general election and in favour of an organised transition. 44% of Labour members now think Corbyn should contest the general election (down from 47% last August, but up from 41% in June 2016), 14% think he should stand down at some time before the election (up from 6% in August). The proportion of members backing his immediate ousting has actually fallen, now just 36% (from 39% in August 2016 and 44% in June 2016)

If there was an election now, 52% of Labour members say they would definitely or probably vote for Corbyn in a fresh leadership election, 46% said they would probably or definitely not. To put this in context, when YouGov asked the same question in June 2016 50% of Labour members said they would probably or definitely vote for Jeremy Corbyn, 47% said they would probably vote against him.

In the event the leadership election that followed was not a close thing. By July 57% of Labour members were saying they’d probably vote Corbyn (40% probably would not) and Corbyn’s lead among full party members ended up being 18 percentage points. Of course, it may be that the 2016 leadership election could have panned out differently with a different anti-Corbyn candidate or a different strategy, but comparing these figures to the polls before last year’s leadership election does not suggest there has been any sea-change in Labour members’ support for Jeremy Corbyn.

So what, if anything, would change the mind of Labour members? Ian’s poll asked if Corbyn should stand down in various circumstances. A substantial majority (68%) of Labour members said he should go if Labour lose the general election. A majority (55%) also said he should go if he loses the support of Trade Union leaders, and 50% said he should go if he loses the support of the shadow cabinet.

The problem is these are theoretical questions. In practice people tend to see events through the prism of their existing support, so Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters will tend to explain away negative events and blame then on other people (that’s not intended as a comment about Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in particular, but on human nature in general. It happens in all other political parties too). There’s a lovely example of this in Ian’s poll – asked who or what was most responsible for losing the Copeland by-election, 85% of those Labour members who voted for Owen Smith said Jeremy Corbyn. Very few Labour voters who voted for Jeremy Corbyn last year put any blame on him though – among Corbyn’s 2016 voters the main causes of the Copeland defeat were seen as the media (46%) and Tony Blair’s speech (35%). Only 14% blamed Jeremy Corbyn. Don’t imagine that all those hundreds of thousands of members who have supported Jeremy Corbyn, who have been enthused by him and brought into the party by him will easily be disuaded from supporting him.


ICM’s regular poll for the Guardian came out today, topline voting intention figures are CON 42%(nc), LAB 27%(+1), LDEM 10%(nc), UKIP 12%(-1), GRN 4%(-1). There is no significant change since a fortnight ago and the Conservatives retain a formidable lead.

The poll also asked about expectations of Brexit. People tend to think it will have a negative impact on the economy (by 43% to 38%) and on their own personal finances (34% to 12%), but on the overall way of life in Britain they are slightly more positive (41% expect a positive impact, 36% a negative one). All these answers are, as you would expect, strongly correlated with referendum vote – very few Remainers expect anything good to come of Brexit, very few Leavers expect any negative consequences. Full tabs are here.

For those who’ve missed it, I also have a long piece over on YouGov’s website about the Brexit problem facing Labour and how to respond to it. Labour were already a party whose electoral coalition was under strain, with sharp divides between their more liberal, metropolitian middle-class supporters and their more socially conservative traditional working class support. Brexit splits the party right down that existing fault line and their choice on whether to robustly oppose or accept Brexit will upset one side or another of the Labour family.

More of Labour’s supporters backed Remain than Leave and a substantial minority of Labour voters would be delighted were the party to oppose Brexit. However, such a policy would also drive away a substantial chunk of their support. 20% of people who voted Labour in 2015 say they would be “angry” if Labour opposed Brexit. In contrast, if Labour accept Brexit but campaign for a close relationship with the EU once we leave then while it would delight fewer voters, it would also anger far fewer voters (only 7% of Labour’s 2015 vote would be angry). If Labour’s aim is to keep their electoral coalition together, then a “soft Brexit” would be acceptable to a much wider segment of their support.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. This is only how voters would react right now. Labour may want to gamble on public opinion turning against Brexit in the future and get ahead of the curve. Alternatively, they may think Brexit is such an important issue that Labour should do what they think right and damn the electoral consequences. That’s a matter for the party itself to decide, but in terms of current public opinion I think Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit may actually be the one most likely to keep Labour together. Full article is here.