This Thursdayâ€™s poll by Ipsos Mori is bad for Jeremy Corbyn but even worse for Labour, says Keiran Pedley.
Todayâ€™s poll looked at public perceptions of Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron and the Labour and Conservative Party brands in detail. In addition to voting intention and asking respondents which of Cameron or Corbyn would make the â€˜most capable Prime Ministerâ€™, the poll also listed a series of statements and asked which of them applied to each party and their leaders. Itâ€™s a useful exercise to go beyond simple voting intention which, letâ€™s face it, is suffering from a lack of credibility at the moment anyway â€“ not least given that the next General Election is due in 2020.
Tough start for Corbyn
The headline figure doing the rounds earlier highlighted that Jeremy Corbynâ€™s initial net satisfaction rating (-3) is the worst of any new leader in my lifetime (I am 31 in November). In addition, Cameron leads Corbyn on who would make the â€˜most capable Prime Ministerâ€™ by 53% to 27%. Even the most ardent Corbyn supporter must privately concede that this is a difficult start.
The problem Corbyn faces is that despite this poll showing that Cameron is seen as â€˜out of touchâ€™ (64%), he is also seen as a â€˜capable leaderâ€™ (62%), â€˜good in a crisisâ€™ (51%) and having a â€˜clear vision for Britainâ€™ (56%). He is seen as competent and I suspect that this is why Lord Ashcroftâ€™s recent book wonâ€™t hurt him too much. The public know he is posh but they trust him as PM. (Incidentally, I suspect that as long as Labour attack Cameron for being â€˜out of touchâ€™ and posh â€“ rather than attack on the substance of his perceived competence â€“ I suspect that they wonâ€™t get very far either).
It isnâ€™t all bad for the Labour leader though. 54% agree that Corbyn is â€˜more honest than most politiciansâ€™ whilst perhaps more importantly some 31% say that they â€˜donâ€™t knowâ€™ whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with him. In contrast, just 7% say the same about David Cameron who has a net satisfaction rating of minus 10. This means that, theoretically at least, Corbyn has time to improve his standing with the voters. He just doesnâ€™t have much of it. However, as we know, should Corbyn make it to 2020, he wonâ€™t be standing against Cameron anyway which is another plus.
Personally, as I wrote on this blog last week, I donâ€™t think Corbyn will make it to 2020. Therefore Labourâ€™s chances in 2020, if you think they have any, largely rest on who replaces him as leader and the state of the Labour Party brand when they do. It is here where todayâ€™s poll should be most worrying for Labour.
Labourâ€™s brand is in big trouble
Todayâ€™s poll showed that the Conservative Party brand largely mirrors that of its leader. They are seen as â€˜fit to governâ€™ (56%) with a â€˜good team of leadersâ€™ (49%). Both measures have improved since April and worrying for Labour there isnâ€™t a great deal of difference between the parties on â€˜keeps its promisesâ€™ or â€˜looks after the interests of people like meâ€™.
In contrast, Labour really struggles on those attributes that would show them as a serious alternative party of government â€“ just 35% consider them â€˜fit to governâ€™. However, it is when Labourâ€™s numbers are compared to the same statements asked in April when we really see the trouble the party is in. This summer (and the election of Corbyn) has not been kind to the Labour brand. There has been a 22 point increase in those that consider the party â€˜extremeâ€™ whilst 75% say that the party is â€˜dividedâ€™ (up a whopping 32 points from April).
And then comes the real kicker, Labour is now seen as more â€˜out of dateâ€™ (55%) than the Conservatives (48%). This is â€˜just one pollâ€™ and Jeremy Corbyn remains a relative unknown to the public right now but if Labourâ€™s brand woes stick it is hard to articulate just how much trouble the party is in. Regardless of who leads it, whilst Labour is seen as more â€˜extremeâ€™, â€˜dividedâ€™ and â€˜out of dateâ€™ than a Conservative Party deemed to be led competently, it is unelectable. Individual policies matter little. Voters vote based on the brand of the parties and their leaders and rarely on individual policies. Right now, the Labour Party brand is in big trouble.
So make no mistake, next weekâ€™s Labour Party conference is already make or break. Leaders get a small window in which to define themselves and time is running out for Corbyn already. Meanwhile, there are worrying signs that the Labour Party brand is moving towards a position where it is unelectable.Â Things can change quickly in politics but Labour should be under no illusions â€“ things are serious and Labour needs to do something about it fast.
Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley