This week YouGov released some fascinating polling on Theresa May and her popularity. As we can see from the above chart it helps explains why Mrs May has such a colossal lead over Jeremy Corbyn on who would make the best Prime Minister and why if Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader at the next general election, the 2020 general election is going to be the electoral equivalent of the Anglo-Zanzibar war.
But is her popularity down to Mrs May not being Jeremy Corbyn?
YouGov went onto dissect Mrs May’s popularity rating further, is her popularity down to herself or not being Jeremy Corbyn.
YouGov say that
Among those who think she would make the best Prime Minister, there is a nearly even split between those who that say it is because of her strengths (47%) and those that say it is because of Jeremy Corbyn’s weaknesses (46%). Whilst some, including many traditional Labour supporters, see Theresa May as the better of two evils this could quickly change with a more popular opposition leader.
The second threat is that were a few slip-ups or crises to occur, perceptions of her could quickly change – and this is where the comparison to Gordon Brown is perhaps apposite. At the start of his Premiership he was also seen as being strong but cold and also enjoyed a decent “honeymoon” period. Yet within a year of taking over, just 18% saw him as strong and 14% as decisive as his reputation was harmed by the financial crisis and his decision not to call an election.
Labour went from being 5-10% ahead in the polls to lagging the Tories by 15-20% and eventually lost the general election. Now, ten years after he took over, a quarter (26%) still think Gordon Brown was a “terrible” Prime Minister with a further 31% rate him as “poor.”
While history doesn’t always repeat itself, there are many potential crises on the horizon – whether it’s the complicated Brexit negotiations, economic challenges, or pressure on the NHS. If Theresa May can navigate them she could – like Margaret Thatcher – be remembered by many as a strong and decisive leader who has what it takes to get things done. But as if she fails then then in the public’s mind she could risk being seen as another Gordon Brown.
So if Labour do come to their senses and replace the electoral liability that is Jeremy Corbyn with someone more popular & competent coupled with a poorly handled Brexit negotiations or recession which is blamed on Mrs May and the Tories then Labour’s chances at the next election could improve significantly, after all on current boundaries, it only takes a swing of 0.88% to deny the Tories a majority.
With Sir Lynton Crosby’s polling indicating Mrs May would undo David Cameron’s hard work in obliterating the Liberal Democrats in the South West, so instead of Theresa May being spoken in the same bracket as Margaret Thatcher, Mrs May could be bracketed as the Tory Gordon Brown, but with Liam Fox, David Davis, and Boris Johnson working hard on the Brexit front, I’m sure Mrs May has nothing to worry about.