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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Corbyn effect

In the interests of full disclosure nobody has actually mentioned Jeremy Corbyn to me directly on the doorsteps since we started canvassing in earnest for the local elections. However that does not appear to be the case elsewhere.

As the Guardian reports,on Thursday the Conservatives won a council seat in Middlesbrough, usually considered a Labour stronghold, in which Corbyn's leadership apparently featured strongly. Conservative candidate Jacob Young took the seat of Coulby Newham, with 38% of the vote, up 8.3% since 2015, while Labour saw its share fall by 8.2%, to 35.5%.

The paper reports that Tom Blenkinsop, the MP for South Middlesbrough and Cleveland, whose constituency contains Coulby Newhham, suggested Corbyn’s “far left” leadership had been a factor.

They go on to quote, Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, who has been campaigning for Labour’s candidate in the West Midlands mayoralty who said: “There isn’t a canvassing session where someone doesn’t say, ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life, but I can’t vote for you at the moment because of Jeremy Corbyn’.”

All of this is anecdotal of course and cannot necessarily be extrapolated across every council seat in England and Wales because of the local factors that will apply in each one. Nevertheless it does not bode well for Labour.

Opinion polls show Labour still trailing badly behind the Tories whilst even more damaging is research by Opinium that finds that fewer than half of Labour voters think Jeremy Corbyn would be the best prime minister.

The poll for the Observer also finds the Conservatives remain the most trusted party on all key issues except the NHS and suggests that given a two-way choice between Corbyn and Theresa May, 14% of voters would choose the Labour leader, compared with 47% for the prime minister.

Other polls have found that some of Corbyn's policy initiatives such as raising the minimum wage to £10 a hour are very popular. In effect we can read what we like into their findings.

The poll that really matters at the moment is on 4th May when people go and cast a vote in the privacy of the ballot box. Maybe then we will have a better idea of how the Corbyn effect is playing out across the country.

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