Monday, 21 March 2016

Corbyn's Labour Takes Poll Lead

For months, the media claimed that a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn would collapse in the polls, just as a left-wing Labour in the 1980's was supposed to have done. When Corbyn was then selected as Labour leader by a huge landslide, that same media kept quiet, whilst no such collapse in poll support occurred. In fact, the idea that Labour lost support in the 1980's, as a result of being led by the “Left-wing” Michael Foot, is also a myth. To complete the demolition of the media myth, Corbyn's Labour has now taken the lead in two recent opinion polls over the Tories, but there is no recanting by that media, which continues to present Labour as lacking support.

The reality is that when Michael Foot became Labour Leader in 1980, support for Labour rose rather than fell. In fact, support for Labour rose to 56% in the polls, its highest ever level of support. It was not a drop in support for Labour that occurred, but the split from Labour by the SDP, which then in turn split the Labour vote. Labour retained the largest portion of support after that split, ahead of both the Tories and the SDP, and gradually began to take back the other portion. And, of course, today, the SDP and Liberals are only a memory in British political history. 

The false history was written by the Tory victors and the Tory press with the acquiescence of the Labour right, who had their own reasons for perpetuating such a narrative, just as the myth of Labour's profligacy prior to 2010 was propagated, and perpetuated by those same forces. The reality across Europe, as the success of Syriza, Podemos, the Left Bloc, and indeed the support for Sanders in the US demonstrates, shows, is that large swathes of the population have had their fill with austerity policies that punish the workers who bear no responsibility for the financial crisis of 2008, and which bolster the fictitious wealth of the money-lending capitalists whose speculation in astronomically inflated financial and property markets, was the real cause of that crisis.

After one poll earlier last week showed Labour and the Tories neck and neck, a further poll towards the end of the week, but conducted before Osborne's latest omni-shambles budget, showed Labour having taken the lead. Yet little has been said in the media about this lead for Labour, so soon after Corbyn became leader. Indeed, the narrative is now that this lead for Labour is despite Corbyn's leadership, not because of it. They would, of course have been saying something completely different had Labour's support actually collapsed.

In fact, the opinion polls probably underestimate the support for Labour, and for Corbyn, as was the case in the Oldham by-election. There we were told that Labour was on course to lose to UKIP. In fact, Labour increased its share of the vote, and secured a thumping majority. The same kind of thing was seen in the US, where the polls suggested that Sanders was 20% points behind Clinton in Michigan, but Sanders won the vote.

What this shows is a form of confirmation bias, by the polling organisations. It was partly the reason for them getting the General Election result wrong. The pollsters do not simply use a random selection of people to poll, but attempt to get what they think is a proportional cross-section of the electorate. That requires a certain subjective evaluation of what such a cross section looks like, as well as the weighting of the results. In a time when the old political centre that has existed for the last 30 years is disintegrating, their perception of that cross-section is almost certainly wrong.

The likelihood is, especially if Corbyn's Labour take a much more high profile campaigning stance on the streets over major issues in coming weeks, that in traditional Labour areas, Labour wil do very well in the upcoming elections, though as I suggested at the end of last year, they may initially do less well in more traditional Tory areas. That provides the basis for consolidating Labour heartlands, but also of silencing, and hopefully replacing Corbyn's opponents within the PLP. It creates the basis for a fighting Labour Party, unified behind a radical programme to challenge the Tories damaging economic policies, and able to present a forward looking, modernising alternative.

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