Wednesday, August 3, 2016

YouGov poll has a painful message for the Labour plotters - they actually need the radical left if they are to ever win power

One of the main justifications for the moral compromises of Blairism was/is that Labour "have to live in the real world", and can't win elections without putting forward policies that appeal to Middle England.  Well, here's a dose of reality that isn't going to be quite so welcome for the anti-Corbyn plotters : a new YouGov poll provides powerful evidence that the Corbyn wing of the party is not, as the plotters like to tell themselves, a trivial and dispensable part of the Labour coalition that currently wields wildly disproportionate influence.  In fact, there doesn't appear to be any path to victory without the radical left.

YouGov asked hypothetical voting intention questions based on the assumption that Labour would split into two parties, with the Corbyn wing remaining at the helm of one.  No matter which way round the split occurs, the left-led party attracts significant support, and the bulk of it comes from the current Labour vote.  If Corbyn and co retain the Labour brand, they hold on to 21% of the vote, but even if it's assumed that they break away and set up an entirely new party with a new name, they still get 14% - almost half of Labour's support.  In both scenarios, the plotter-led "moderate" centre-left party would receive less than 20% of the vote, and would thus be left in territory familiar to the Liberal Democrats prior to their disastrous decision to install David Cameron in Downing Street.

It's interesting to ponder whether a radical left party could have attracted 14% or 21% of the vote if Corbyn had never become Labour leader.  But even if that support is largely driven by Corbyn's new-found celebrity and status, it doesn't make any concrete difference - the plotters can't wind the clock back and erase the last year from history.  As bad as poll respondents are at answering hypothetical questions, it seems inconceivable based on these findings that "moderate Labour" would not at least suffer a big electoral hit as a result of any split.  The radical left are clearly now an essential part of any winning coalition of Labour voters, and the plotters are therefore going to have to somehow make peace with Corbyn if they mean what they say about being motivated by a single-minded pursuit of victory.  (They don't, of course.)

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Helen Lewis has been castigated in some quarters for dubious claims about the SNP in her latest New Statesman piece about Corbyn, but for my money the silliest part of the article is when she implies that the Labour leader is guilty of hypocrisy for criticising the plotters over their refusal to serve in the Shadow Cabinet, given that he himself declined to serve in Blair's Cabinet.  I'm sorry, but in what reality did Tony Blair ever offer Corbyn a job on the lowest rung of the ministerial ladder, let alone in the Cabinet?  It may well be that Corbyn would have refused to serve even if he had been asked, but you just don't get to score points about the refusal of a job offer that was never made, and would never have been made in a million years.