Much airtime has been given to findings of a new YouGov poll that Jeremy Corbyn may be re-elected Labour leader by a bigger landslide than in 2015. But no less extraordinary is what the poll reveals about Owen Smith, and how voters fancy his chances at a general election.
According to those polled, Smith’s future looks catastrophic. As does that of those partaking in the Labour Party coup.
Destination No. 10
Pollsters asked whether each candidate is likely to lead the Labour Party to victory at the next general election. 33% of those asked said Corbyn would do so. This is not a great result. But the current Labour leader has been pummelled in the press since his election, constantly briefed against by members of his own party, faced a coup instigated by those same members, and is now engulfed in a leadership contest. In that context, the result is unsurprising.
Smith has been subjected to none of those things. He has the backing of many in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and is given respect in most media coverage. Yet only 12% of respondents believe Smith is capable of a general election victory.
That is an extraordinary lack of faith considering he has yet to face any real establishment opposition. Imagine what ratings he might achieve as party leader once the Tories have put the boot in.
YouGov broaches the looming split
YouGov also asked about the possibility of a Labour Party split following the leadership contest. The question was posed exclusively to full Labour Party members, not union-affiliated or registered supporters:
Imagine that Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership election, the Labour Party split, and that some of those MPs who opposed Jeremy Corbyn formed their own party, do you think you would…
Of those surveyed, 63% said they would remain a Labour Party member with Corbyn at the helm. 18% would leave and join the newly formed party.
The same question was asked about a situation where Smith won the leadership election and Corbyn formed his own party. 42% would continue as members of the Labour party led by Smith. 32% said they would join Corbyn’s new party.
The Labour Party currently has around 600,000 members. But if Smith wins the leadership contest and the party splits, assuming those polled stuck to their claims, that membership could dwindle to around 250,000. That would take the party back to pre-2015 general election numbers.
In contrast, a Labour Party led by Corbyn would retain approximately 380,000 members.
So, according to these polls, a vote for Smith means regressing in popularity and 2020 general election oblivion. That is an excruciating price to pay to remove the current Labour leader. But it’s obviously one the PLP is happy to cough up in its quest for ‘anyone-but-Corbyn’.
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