Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both have lower approval ratings than ever before. Both of them are less popular than their respective Party which means that both are a drag on their Party rather than an asset to them.
Just 26 per cent of the public currently have a favourable opinion of Theresa May, and 65 per cent have a negative opinion, giving her a net score of -39.
Things aren’t much better for Labour, with pollster YouGov suggesting that “Brexit is a sinking tide that lowers all ships”. Both leaders have lower ratings than ever before with Jeremy Corbyn’s favourability with the public lower still. 18 per cent of people surveyed holding a favourable view of him, compared to nearly four times that number (71 per cent) who have an unfavourable view. This means his net score currently stands at -53, down from -29 in October last year.
In both cases, a lot of the recent drop has come from supporters of the leader’s respective party. For Corbyn, perceived indecisiveness over Brexit was one of the key drivers of the downward trend, despite a surge in support during the last general election.
Who should be prime minister? Theresa May saw her popularity drop after losing her majority in 2017, but has stayed reasonably stable in the polls since until recently when her handling of Brexit has caused a drop. Last October, 67 per cent of 2017 Conservative voters had a favourable opinion of Theresa May, compared to 27 per cent. The most recent poll shows them more evenly divided, with 51 per cent having a favourable view and 45 per cent having an unfavourable view.
At the same time last October, 62 per cent of 2017 Labour voters had a favourable opinion of Jeremy Corbyn, with 31 per cent having a negative view. The most recent poll showed Labour voters were overall negative towards their leader, with 42 per cent having a favourable opinion compared to 52 per cent who now have a negative opinion.
How long can such a deficit in public opinion continue? The honest answer is that I don’t know and I suspect anyone that tells you that they do is either a fool or a charlatan! All this has been compounded by a huge drop in support of both main Parties. In the Euro Polls Labour are at 15/16% with the Tories at 9%. The big gainers are the Brexit Party which has just swallowed up the UKIP vote and the Lib Dems who are consistently outpolling Labour and the Tories and are clearly the biggest Remain Party. Green are also doing well in the Euro Poll.
This is not just a Euro election phenomenon. All the polling for Westminster indicates both Labour and Tories stuck in the early twenties with Labour averaging about 24% and the Tories about 22%. Brexit Party drops to about 20% with Lib Dems on 17/18%. This would be enough to give us 97 seats in Parliament. The Greens drop back to 6% which would still mean 1 MP because of our ‘First Past the Post’ system of elections. Change UK would get no MEPs or MPs at present polling levels.
In a way we have seen this before. European elections have always given different results than subsequent General Elections. Polls have also surged after a run of by-elections or very good local elections. This time circumstances are very different:
- Never before have both Labour and Tory Parties gone so low. To be hitting less than 25% of the electorate between them is unprecedented.
- Never before have two elections come so closely together which can cement changed voting patterns. In the local elections there was a surge to the Lib Dems and to a lesser extent the Greens. Now just three weeks later there will be lifelong long Labour and Tory voters.
- Never before have leading Labour members such as Margaret Hodge MP and leading Tory members such as Lord Heseltine openly said they were voting for another Party and recommending that others should follow their example.
All this has been replicated by our door-knocking in Liverpool. I can’t really talk about the Tories because there are not many here but a few straws in the wind indicate that some of those few remaining Tories who have learned to vote for us in local elections because, let’s face it, there is no Tory Party in Liverpool have decided to also vote for us in a national poll.
What we can see clearly, however, is what is happening to the Labour vote. People from the ages of 18 to 35 who were Corbynistas in 2017 are totally disillusioned with Labour. Partly this is because of the policy of Brexit. They cannot understand why the Labour Party under Corbyn is selling their future down the river. Partly though they have come to detest Corbyn the man because of the way that he has handled Brexit. People now see him for what he is. He’s part of the Westminster system who believes that decision should be taken by people like him.
He is ignoring the wishes of Labour voters, members and conference decisions. He has always hated the EU and sees this as a chance to get the UK out of the EU so that he can create a socialist paradise. Unfortunately, as we see so clearly in places as far apart as Venezuela, Russia and China you need to get the right combination of socialism and capitalism to ensure that working people get what they need to live and live comfortably. That’s what we call liberalism.
Of course, some Labour members will say that Labour now does what its members want. That is partly true because so many long-standing Labour members have left the Party and one MP has suggested publicly that Labour is so far from its roots that it should change its name.
At least the Tories have a plan. May will soon step down because of pressure on her from her own Party. Whether that will actually make any difference is a moot point. The likely incoming PM is Bozo Johnson. A highly divisive figure in his own Party never mind lacking appeal to bring errant Tories back into the fold.
Such pressure exists in the Labour Party but the straw man of British Politics is as yet not announcing his return to the allotment. He and his supporters exert a Stalinist control of the Party’s levers of power which will mean that it will be difficult to remove him especially with all those traditional and hardworking people leaving the Party.
Lib Dems too will have a leadership election in June. But our circumstances are entirely different. Vince Cable leaves on a high after gaining 704 seats in the local elections; an as yet unquantified number of seats in the European Elections and the highest membership in our Party’s history. He believes it is time to make way for a new and younger Leader.
Perhaps Corbyn will reflect on this over the Summer and realise that for him also the time is up.