Friday 12 February 2021

On Labour's Poll Collapse

You've seen the poll, I've seen the poll. After some lacklustre showings of late with our YouGovs and Ipsos MORIs, Survation were waiting in the wings to drop the big one: Tories 39%, Labour 33%, down five points. What a shocker. This could prove an outlier but in the context of other polling it has a certain truthiness to it. Keir Starmer recovered the position, ran the Tories close, and now appears to be disassembling Labour's coalition again.

Panic stations? Not quite, but considering the centrist bullshit thrown at Jeremy Corbyn for not opening a double digit lead it's telling this quarter of politics are uncharacteristically quiet. Perhaps they're waiting for Andrew Rawnsley and John Rentoul to tell them what to think in this weekend's Observer and Indy. As for the jitters, they're only going to get more jittery.

Just what the bloody hell is going on? The country's political economy hasn't changed since 2016. The mole burrowing under the edifice is throwing up mounds of dirt piling up at polar opposites to one another. On the right we have the largely united coalition of voters clinging to Boris Johnson as their Brexit champion, the smiter of Coronavirus, and the maestro delivering the vaccine roll out in record time - a roll out they're the first to benefit from. The difficulties with trade are out of sight and out of mind, even if the government are quitely renegotiating some terms of the deal with the EU. And the appalling reality of 116,000 dead (more if you use the ONS measure) doesn't figure, partly because the Labour leader refuses to contest the politics of the crisis. With Nigel Farage's grift out of the picture for the time being, and parking the long-term decline of the Tory vote, the problem lies on the other side of the equation.

The Tories are united and the opposition are divided. The Liberal Democrats destroyed themselves in the Coalition years, while 2017 saw them squelched again as the Corbynist juggernaut rolled up votes from them and the Greens. In Scotland, there was no huge uptick in Labour support. Indeed, the party pulled in just 10,000 extra votes. But they fell exactly the right way to give the appearance of the start of a comeback. In 2019, the alliance forged two years earlier disintegrated. About 300,000 Labour leave votes went to the Tories (when is Keir going to apologise for his part in that one?), 1.3m to the Liberal Democrats thanks to their remainy stop-the-world-we-want-to-get-off, and another 300,000 to the Greens. Plenty have concentrated on the Labour leavers, but few have looked in-depth into why Labour lost voters to the yellows, the Greens, and the none-of-the-aboves who stayed at home.

Since taking over, Keir began putting the coalition back together. But with a huge strategic blindspot. His Mr Competence, the Tories are rubbish, the abstainia, and "constructive" non-opposition saw his new leadership squeeze the LibDems and the Greens. For some soft supporters, the nice hair, suit, and conventional-sounding politics did the trick. But for most, his success in the polls came thanks to occupying the space as the de facto anti-Tory repository. Once this trajectory was underway it was inevitable at some point Labour would catch the Conservatives, and this is where the miscalculation kicked in. With former anti-Tory Labour voters drifting back, Keir could start applying the Blue Labour/Claire Ainsley snake oil to party messaging - reaffirmed by another bunch of friendly consultants. Problem one, plastic patriotism can never work in lieu of a policy void. The public still don't know anything about Keir Starmer, so flag waving looks desperate and try hard. No one likes a pleader.

And problem two, which underlines the terrible calibre of the leader, his lackeys, and the "sensible" running dogs yapping for attention, is the complete misunderstanding of who Labour's core vote are. This is 2021, we're more than a fifth of the way into the 21st century and we've had four elections showing the party's core vote are not older workers/retired home owners. Labour should be thinking about and trying out strategies to win them over of course, but not at the expense of alienating the core vote. This was flagged up back in June, and in other recent reflections on polling how this could be helping a new green surge along. Because, as socially liberal voters, Labour's failings on spycops, disinterest and dismissal of complaints about black and anti-Muslim racism, and the crass flag nonsense gives off the sorts of culturally conservative vibes many of them find repellant. And second, while detailed policy at this point in the electoral cycle would be strange, there is no direction connecting Labour to the interests of our core voters. In other words, why vote Labour? At least the Greens take the climate crisis seriously, at least the LibDems are still (residually) anti-Brexit and are, therefore, imperfect vehicles for aspects of our core vote's interests. Under Keir Starmer, the leadership couldn't even bring itself to back teachers when they had public opinion on their side.

Here is your explanation then. The Tories are benefiting from unity on the right, while Keir Starmer is fostering disunity among the opposition to them. It's a failure of leadership against the worst government since Suez mired in the gravest crisis since the 2nd World War, which has been made more dire by Tory short-termism and recklessness. Under these relatively benign circumstances for a competent opposition, you've got to wonder what lies ahead when things get tough.

Image Credit


Shai Masot said...

It will go lower.

Graham said...

It has often been said that generals are always fighting the last war.

Starmer is still fighting the last election and thibks he can win back the red wall.
He cann't and as you point out his attempts to do so alienate the younger section of potential Labour voters.

The second war Starmer thinks he is refighting is Blair against the left.
Unfortunately he has none of Blait's charisma and the public aren't buying it.

Alasdair Ross said...

The vaccination bounce is a big factor - most people still do not know someone who died - the 100,000 figure means little to them - some are pleased with furlough/ vaccine - not helped by EU being so far behind on vaccines- however one must hope that when this is over like in 45, the public see through the hype and vote for change

John osman said...

The vaccine bounce isn't real.
This is about Labour losing support, not the tories gaining it.

Unknown said...

Over 10 million people voted for Jeremys Corbyn's labour party .
One thing is for sure the public don't like schemers and bullies .
The labours party has been exposed as a breeding environment for bullies and deceit and the public are aware of what they did to Corbyn.
I expect they will vote with their feet in a general election.

Getting rid of Keith and reversing his changes with be a first step for recovery and the only solution to this issue

Mike said...

I'm a lockdown sceptic but also left leaning and socially libertarian. Which gives me noone to vote for.
I look at Starmer's Labour and can't see anything positive about them. They still pursue a majoritarian mentality whereas they should accept the need for a more pluralist politics. Electoral reform via a pact with other parties. That's what I want.

BCFG said...

A lockdown sceptic, what a dick brain.

I mean do you doubt that lockdown causes the r number to go down or slows the spread of mutations?

When you say a lockdown sceptic, what you really mean is, would you please allow this deadly disease to rip through humanity as it is really interfering with my shopping and crazy social life.

In other words you are a selfish, sociopathic twat.

Lockdown sceptic my arse!

Anonymous said...

BCFG, I am another lockdown sceptic and do not take kindly to the catastrophising that yor unpleasant response to Mike, who was making a very pertinent point about Labour's poll collapse. Not everyone who is sceptical about Covid is a rightwing death-monger, some of us simply believe:

1) The ‘virus’ has a blurry definition and has a survival rate of over 99% – no more deadly than some recent flu strains.

2) The PCR tests DON’T work and are a fraud.

3) The reported ‘deaths’ are often people dying of other things and having ‘covid’ added to their CoD based on the test that doesn’t work or on financial incentive.

4) The vaccine is NOT a vaccine. It’s experimental mRNA gene manipulation which will need decades of testing over generations before it can really be pronounced safe.

Anonymous said...

John Osman

Incorrect, polls have consistently showed the Tories gaining support in the last month as the vaccines have been rolled out.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous "lockdown sceptic",

It is not Labour's job to pander to every passing crank, or "sceptic". Such people may not identify as "death mongers" but in effect that's exactly what they are. If they got what they wanted (no lockdown, no masks, no vaccine, etc....) the inevitable and totally predictable result would be to rapidly increase the rate of infection and the number of deaths.

We've seen this happen, because the Tory government have been quite "lockdown sceptic" themselves with the result being 116,000+ deaths. How many would be sufficient to convince you?

Angela said...

Starmer is alienating another important part of the equation: Labour activists. He has done this by means which don't attract much comment in the press as the are "internal party" affairs. Most people don't care about leaked internal reports (although imagine the press headlines if a Corbyn supporter had made jocular comments about someone Jewish being set on fire). As the person whose burning was the subject of these merry jest was just a left winger, MSM editors saw nothing of public interest.
Likewise reoranisations of personnel on the NEC, and internal emails about what is competent branch business and directions about what may not be discussed at CLP meetings is not widely reported.
But Starmer has failed not only to understand not only who his core voters are, but also how they are retained.
The collapse of the red wall had less to do with Brexit than the collapse of local structures. In some communities voting Conservative would have been considered an an act of betrayal.
Blair weakened these structures as he rewarded the faithful and unconditional support of local people with parachuted-in Southern solicitors as MPs who avoided their activists as much as possible because the activists were "barking mad". (I think at least one MP made comments along those lines about the people who delivered his leaflets, for free.)
Starmer has continued to take his activists for granted, whilst going far further than Blair in imposing party "discipline".
The Labour Party is not yet losing its grass roots support, but it is losing its unpaid organisers. These are the politically aware, sometimes well educated, almost always well-informed, people who attend meetings, hold office within the branch, and run things at a local level. Although the party employs regional organisers, the role of the volunteers within the local community is significant.
Keir Starmer has no history within the Labour Party, has no understanding of what local members do, and is trying to reorganise the party as a dictatorship.
At the moment activists are the only people who care about this. They are voting with their feet. Keir Starmer will only find out if they were important when they have stopped doing whatever it was they did.
Draping a flag about will not undo a failure to recognise that Party workers and voters need to be accorded human respect, and should be communicated with as equals, not servants, in a democratic socialist Party. Something Labour has ceased to be.

Boffy said...

I suspect that the various sceptics are simply BCFG talking to himself again in an attempt to provoke a response as no one else is bothering to talk to this well known troll and idiot.

The fact is of course, that all of the data worldwide shows no correlation between lockdowns and per capita mortality rates. The data presented by Dr, Malcolm Kendrick on the New Zealand communist website Redline is an indication of that.

The most obvious illustration is, of course Sweden, which has imposed no lockdown, or intensive tests and trace system, but has a lower per capita mortality rate than Britain and most other EU countries. It made the same mistakes as other countries at the start in failing to isolate its old people in care homes, which is the major source of its deaths as elsewhere. Since July of last year, its new deaths have been minimal compared to other countries.

Lockdowns everywhere have failed to stop infections or deaths. By flattening the curve they have extended the duration of the pandemic, and created conditions in which new variants that can spread more easily were given an evolutionary advantage, thereby encouraging the growth of such mutations. Moreover, the largest single source of infections and deaths is not society at large but is the NHS itself. More than 25% of people being treated for COVID in hospital caught it after going into hospital for some other reason. In the six weeks over Xmas alone, 11,000 people being treated caught it after going into hospital. This is a repetition of what happened with the MRSA scandal.

Add in all the people in care homes infected, many of them as a result of the NHS negligently sending people back to them carrying the virus, and this accounts for the clear majority of deaths.

Izzy said...

To those anonymous sceptics posting: the longer the virus circulates, the higher the number of mutations and the greater the risk that no vaccine will be able to touch it.
Sensible countries, like many in the Far East, know the only sane response is to crush it completely.

Boffy said...

"Sensible countries, like many in the Far East, know the only sane response is to crush it completely."

Except its not possible to crush it completely. Those countries in the East, and like Australia have repeatedly seen new infections arise, which is inevitable unless the world is to operate under some form of North Korea style autarky for years. No doubt some proposing such a strategy are quite attracted to such a North Korean type outcome obviously.

Coronaviruses have been around for probably centuries, and there is no sign of being able to eradicate them, which is why we see people getting colds each year caused by coronavirus, rhinovirus and so on. The best that can be hoped for is that we can learn to live with COVID as we do with these other coronaviruses, and as we do with flu.

The most obvious solution now is to rapidly develop as widespread herd immunity as possible both by vaccination and by natural infection of the 80% of the population not at serious risk from it, whilst protecting to the utmost the 20% of the population, mostly the elderly, actually at risk from it.

The priority should be to take measures which should not need saying to insist the NHS stops infecting people, and starts actually isolating and protecting them, as well as that the rest of the social care sector does that in care homes, and in care provided to people in their onw homes.

The fact that the capitalist welfare state has so egregiously failed to do that so far is a total disgrace. The fact that large sections of the left have failed to call it to account is itself an indication of the bankruptcy of that Left, and its infection with the political virus of statism and bourgeois reformism.

Jimbo said...

To get back on topic

Labour tried soft left (milliband), hard left (Corbyn) and now centre (starmer). Nothing seems to have worked. I think we will have to face it, to be a labour supporter is a minority passion and we will always be banging our head against the wall.

Andy said...

Apart from all the different racisms of which Labour are supposed to be falling foul, the obvious visceral disagreement between so-called lockdown sceptics and lockdown non-sceptics (Boffy's comments are dispassionate and worthy of note) and whether Labour is Starmer's or Corbyn's party, not word's been said in the article about Labour's loss of Scotland and its impossible objective of being in government without those seats.
To use a very boring old trope; it's like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic AFTER it's already sunk!

Blissex said...

It would seem to me that New New Labour are indeed successfully pursuing a strategy of PASOKification, and are boldly aiming to ensure that UK politics is never again polluted by the extremism of "unrepentant social-democrats" like Hattersley or Corbyn or their fanatical supporters and voters. Hurrah for the future LibDem-New New Labour coalition. :-)

Blissex said...

«Shai Masot said... It will go lower.»

Our "Shai Masot" may already know that Keir Starmer has appointed one of his colleagues :-) to a role in the office of the Leader, and this may help achieve that prediction, if these "ridiculous" allegations are credible:

“Labour has appointed a “Social Listening and Organizing Manager”, even spelt like that, who is a veteran of the Israeli Unit 8200. That is a military intelligence operation whose members are noted for marking an X on their headsets each time that they killed a Palestinian, a practice known as the blood on the headset. And no one ever really leaves something like that. But this Israeli spy, Assaf Kaplan, had much the same job with the once-dominant Israeli Labor Party when it fell to a mere six seats; it now has three, and it is on course for none in March. He is in the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, where his repetition of that trick will be public money well spent.”
“That job was "advertised" in September of last year. One month later, Assaf Kaplan moved to London. Priti Patel's Home Office had issued him with a visa for this, a visa that he continues to hold.”