The Biblical account of Jonah tells of a ship in danger of breaking up in a violent storm on account of the behaviour of one of the passengers who was trying to run from God. His fellow sailors asked him ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’ ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you’.
The opening weekend in GE2017 has seen a slew of polls each confirming the same fundamental point: Jeremy Corbyn makes Labour as unpopular as it was in 1983 under Michael Foot.
ComRes yesterday published its first poll (for the Sunday Mirror) conducted since Theresa May’s shock announcement last Tuesday. That poll contained a shock of its own – a 50% vote share for the Conservatives, a level not achieved by any party since April 2002, and not achieved by the Tories since January 1991.
CURRENT VOTING INTENTION
Conservatives 50% (+4)
Lab 25% (NC)
Liberal Democrats 11% (NC)
UKIP 7% (-2)
SNP 4% (NC)
Green 3% (-1)
Other -% (-1)
BEST PRIME MINISTER POST-ELECTION
(nb adds up to 101% due to rounding)
This is proving to be less the ‘Brexit Election’ and more the ‘Leadership Election’. Theresa May’s personal ratings are more than those of the other party leaders combined. It is perhaps unsurprising then that six in ten voters (59%) believe Labour cannot win a General Election with Corbyn as leader. That presents a clear danger for the Conservatives that some of their own voters will be tempted on 8th June to stay at home and let others deliver the outcome of which they are so confident. Fortunately for the Tories, their core voter demographic are the sort of people who do turn out and vote. But nothing can be taken for granted.
For Labour, the hope must be to avert total disaster. That won’t be easy. London is likely to be more resilient than other parts of the country, thanks more to Khan than Corbyn. In Scotland the Party looks to be set to come a poor third after the SNP and Tories. There is much talk of the threat to Labour from UKIP but this lacks evidence; if anything that threat is because UKIP votes have gone en masse to the Tories. In this weekend’s ComRes poll only 2% of Labour’s 2015 vote has gone to UKIP; by comparison 13% has gone to the Tories and 11% to the Lib Dems. Even though this weekend’s stellar Conservative lead was not at the expense of a change in Labour’s vote share, the Party seems to be diminishing as a credible challenger for power.
The Lib Dems look set to increase significantly their numbers in the House of Commons (a ‘Corbyn Dividend’) but the scale of their demise since 2010 has been so large as to render it difficult to regain the number of MPs seen in recent years. In 2015 the Party came second in 63 seats (compared to 253 for Labour and 120 for UKIP) which will make the comeback task all the harder. Twenty to 30 seats looks possible, but 50 to 60 appear over-ambitious.
UKIP themselves meanwhile look increasingly like a busted flush. If they struggled to win seats with Nigel Farage as leader, under Paul Nuttall the job becomes nigh on impossible. Their decline is evidenced by the fact that more of their 2015 vote, 48%, has switched to the Conservatives than has remained loyal to UKIP (43%).
For the sailors facing drowning, the raging sea grew calm only once they threw Jonah overboard. It is difficult to see how any event between now and 8th June, of any magnitude, would be sufficient to change Labour’s prospects. As John Rentoul of The Independent noted, even if Labour won most seats Corybn couldn’t command a majority in the Commons.
Despite the overall outcome appearing to be in little doubt, this is not like 2001 or 2005 – the two most predictably dull elections in living memory. There will be some epic battles ahead – for the Tories in Scotland, for UKIP in the north of England, for the Lib Dems in the South West.
ComRes is planning a series of regular polls to both track the progress of the main parties as well as illuminate some of the other battles taking place. We will also be in field with surveys of a new panel of MPs immediately post-Election so would advise booking space early on that wave.