Labour leadership election: Corbyn leads Smith by 24 points

Labour leadership election: Corbyn leads Smith by 24 points
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Smith campaign looks like it has failed to put a dent in Corbyn's support, with Corbyn set to be returned with a healthy majority

Jeremy Corbyn looks set to be easily returned as Labour leader next month, with a new survey of the Labour selectorate by YouGov finding 57% intend to vote for Corbyn, 35% for Owen Smith and 8% still undecided. Stripping out the don’t knows gives Corbyn a 24 point lead of 62% to Smith’s 38%. Corbyn received 59.5% of the vote at last year’s Labour leadership contest.

Corbyn has majority support among all three groups of people that are eligible to vote in the leadership contest. Despite the Labour NEC's decision to prevent members who had not been in the party for six months from voting, Corbyn is still the preferred choice of 52% of full members. Likewise, the £25 asking price to join as a registered supporter – allegedly designed to skew the contest in favour of Smith – has backfired, with 70% of registered supporters saying they will back Corbyn. Just over half (54%) of trade union affiliates also say they intend to vote for the current leader.

There are a number of important caveats that should be highlighted. Our survey sample is composed of 1,236 members of the Labour selectorate, with the representation levels of difference membership types (member/supporter/union affiliate) based on how each group turned out in the 2015 leadership election. Changes in turnout have the potential to affect the results: this is particularly true of trade union affiliates (amongst whom turnout was low in 2015) given that the GMB is under new leadership and has come out for Smith this time round.

The make-up of registered supporters is also difficult to judge, whilst the effects and scale of Labour party membership suspensions also has the potential to make a difference. Last, but not least, there are still three weeks left to vote, and unforeseen events could drastically affect the course of the contest. Nevertheless, Team Corbyn will be pleased by the security afforded by the double digit lead they are currently sitting on.

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More than half of the Labour selectorate believe that Corbyn has been doing a good job, with 57% saying he was doing well vs 41% who think he is doing badly. Traingate has had only a mild impact, with 31% of people saying that it had changed the way they see Corbyn (11% more positive and 20% more negative).

The majority of the selectorate (52%) wants to see Corbyn lead the party into the next election. Among Corbyn’s supporters there is genuine optimism that he can lead Labour to victory, with 56% of those saying they will vote for him believing he can win the next general election. By contrast, and despite their candidate’s emphasis on the importance of winning general elections, just 33% of those intending to vote for Owen Smith think he is likely to win a general election.

With a Corbyn victory looking assured, his next move may well be to consolidate his power over the party. There has been much speculation that Corbyn will reintroduce mandatory reselection for Labour MPs, especially with boundary reforms due to reduce the number of Commons seats to 600. Our survey finds that mandatory reselection would be favoured by 48% of the Labour selectorate, including 69% of Corbyn’s supporters and 15% of Smith’s.

Such a move would obviously cause further tensions in an already fractious party. There is a strong feeling among the selectorate that a party split is imminent. Almost four in ten (39%) think a split after the leadership election is either very or fairly likely. Should Corbyn’s opponents split off from the party, 18% would follow them to their new party. Should Corbyn and his supporters split off, 32% would follow them to their new party.

Photo: PA

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