Speaking via the inter web today with old friends who used to be very senior people in the Labour Party, one of the centre left, the other of the mainstream, conventional not-as-extreme-as-Corbyn left and both feel the same thing. The opinion polls are wrong. Things are much, much worse than the polls suggest. Current polling suggests the Tories are at around 50% with Labour on 25%. This doesn’t feel good to me.
I realise that this is all anecdotal, based more on gut feeling than actual statistics but all the feedback so far is that Labour in general but Jeremy Corbyn in particular is toxic on the doorstep, to the extent that even previously rock solid guaranteed Labour voters are either wavering or they’re donating their votes elsewhere and it’s not just to the Lib Dems.
Part of the Tory resurgence is, we can all agree, because of the collapse in support for Ukip. With Theresa May’s Tories lurching to the right at breakneck speed, embracing the far right vote, there’s no point to Ukip. They’ve got us out of the EU. What’s left for them? But in many areas, particularly in more working class areas where Labour support leaked away to Ukip, that support is not all coming back to Labour. It’s going to Theresa May.
“So things are worse than they seem,” I said. “What sort of Tory majority are we facing? 100? 150? 200? 250?” The view of both friends was the Tory majority was far more likely to be at the higher end of predictions. 250 was a real possibility. “And the number of Labour seats? 150? 125? 100? Less than that?” Yes, less than that.
The election campaign is not a week old yet and we are talking about Labour going into meltdown before the manifesto is even published. If Corbyn is toxic on the doorstep now, I was told, just wait until the Tories and their media friends start dragging up old quotes, old interviews, photographs of the old boy with terrorist sympathisers and out and out terrorists. Not to mention his disagreement with half of Labour’s policies, especially on defence. Yes, less than 100 seats for the Labour Party. Any less than that and the SNP will be the official opposition.
Actually, I was not really shocked by these apocalyptic predictions. Labour, for reasons best known to itself, has sent out the likes of Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry to face the media and none of them are effective communicators. Far from it. Every time Abbott and Thornberry are interviewed, I can almost feel votes slipping away from Labour. Worse still, they haven’t got a message for the electorate.
Theresa May has a message, even though it’s empty rhetoric. The need for “strong and stable leadership” which she most definitely not brought so far and describing the opposition as the “coalition of chaos”. It doesn’t mean anything, but people are actually starting to quote her, in the same way people talked about “taking back control” in 2016. It might be tosh, but it works.
An incompetent leader, no message for the voters, a hard right media – what could possibly go wrong for Labour? I’d say absolutely everything.
Labour’s problems are becoming existential and if they are not careful they could end up like the socialist candidate in the French presidential election, with less than 7% of the vote.
As I said the other day, Corbyn might be an idiot but not all of his team are and they will know, as well as we do, what a mess Labour is in. If they really care about the future of Labour and the future of the country, they would have a word with old Corbo, but the truth is they don’t. This is all going to end terribly, or wonderfully if you are a Tory supporter.