YouGov’s latest poll puts the Tories at 43 per cent and Labour at 39. What more proof do you need of Corbyn's incompetence?by Oliver Kamm / February 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
Theresa May entered Downing Street owing to the political self-immolation of her predecessor and the inadequacies of her principal rival. By declaring and losing the European referendum, David Cameron will ever be remembered, like Anthony Eden, for a single catastrophic misjudgement. By making inflammatory comments in an interview with my Times colleague Rachel Sylvester and then falsely claiming to have been misquoted, Andrea Leadsom demonstrated her unfitness for public—let alone prime ministerial—office.
Hence we are where we are, with an enfeebled prime minister at the head of a destructive, divided and intellectually chaotic government embarked on a rupture not just with Britain’s EU partners but with all our allies simultaneously.
And it’s still ahead in the polls.
YouGov’s latest survey puts the Tories at 43 per cent against 39 per cent for Labour. ICM has the Tories on 41 per cent, one point ahead of Labour. Asked who would make the best prime minister, voters (according to YouGov) give Theresa May a six-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn (35 per cent to 29 per cent). And both party leaders lag “don’t know” (at 36 per cent), which would be my choice.
This is a salutary corrective to the idea that Labour under Corbyn is doing well. It isn’t. For Labour to be unable to overhaul the worst government in living memory is a terrible indictment. For the party not even to be aware of its failings and of the widespread distrust of its leader is a betrayal of the people who Labour ought to be representing.
Unfortunately ,the people who now control Labour evince little interest in or loyalty towards the party’s values and traditions. For them, it’s enough that they’ve vanquished their internal critics, like Claire Kober, the Haringey council leader who has just announced her resignation after months of bullying invective from Corbyn’s supporters within the borough and the implicit backing given to them by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.
Labour has never been in this position before. Sure, it’s sometimes had ineffectual leaders, notably the absolute pacifist George Lansbury in—of all eras when nonviolence was an obviously futile policy—the 1930s. But even in its most notable flights of fantasy, as with its lurch in the 1980s towards a command economy and an anti-nuclear defence policy, it’s contained sufficient diversity of opinion for its mistakes to be retraced and corrected.
No longer. Momentum, the internal pressure group established in 2015 to bail Corbyn out of his difficulties with the parliamentary party, has managed to establish itself at grassroots level by the simple expedient of threats and intimidation.
While conventionally thought of as a movement of the left, Momentum and the circle around Corbyn evince attitudes that are deeply reactionary. The sexual politics of these activists seems to have bypassed every decade since the 1970s, with their talk of “absolute boys” and “absolute babes.” John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor and a rebarbative mediocrity, continues to be notable only for his refusal (once more on BBC television last month) to retract his infamous “joke” about lynching a female Tory MP. Corbyn’s own nativist and anti-immigrant rhetoric puts the party way to the right of, among others, the Times newspaper.
Most lamentably, there is the Brexit issue. ICM found last month that the idea of a second referendum, on the terms of a Brexit deal, commands a 16-point lead among voters (58 per cent to 42 per cent). In the part of London where I live, the sitting Labour MP Meg Hillier won a majority of 38,000 at last year’s general election. In the borough of Hackney, which includes her constituency, almost four out of five voters supported Remain in the referendum.
It was on that issue, and because of her opposition to triggering Article 50, that I publicly backed her. In policy terms, Labour is out of step with these voters. The day after the referendum, Corbyn urged that Article 50 be triggered immediately; during the referendum campaign, he famously went on holiday rather than argue the pro-European case. He actually spoke at fewer events than I did. Labour doesn’t have public support, for the very good reason that it hasn’t earned it.