A few months ago I argued that Corbyn’s leadership wasn’t as secure as it seemed. Although he had won a comfortable majority and most Labour members said he was doing well, I thought that around a quarter of his voters might doubt his electability and be prepared to switch to a rival. That could be enough for him to be turfed out in a leadership content.
Now, a fresh YouGov/Times poll of Labour members has forced me to change my mind.
According to my theory, a chunk of Corbyn voters should have looked at his recent performance and started signalling their willingness to back an alternative.
This hasn’t happened.
If anything, we see the opposite. A larger proportion of Labour members now say they think Corbyn’s doing well than said the same in November (72% to 66%). Among those who voted for him last year, only 16% think he should be ousted before the next general election.
This has sunk my theory that Corbyn could be overthrown soon. Since the November poll, we’ve seen Corbyn’s weak response to the Budget, his Shadow Chancellor waving around the Little Red Book, the leaking of the naughty/nice list of MPs, revelations about members’ anti-Semitism, and his opposition losing seats in the local elections. Yet, Labour members have seen all this and become more confident in their leader.
If these mini-crises haven’t disillusioned Corbyn’s voters, it’s hard to imagine what, realistically, could do so in the next two years. Corbyn has just survived the biggest electoral test he will face until, arguably, the European elections in 2019 (if we have them).
But that still doesn’t mean he’s sure to be leader in the next election.
Strong though this poll is for Corbyn, it also shows what could be his undoing. Only half of Labour members think the party is on course to win the next election. A quarter of Corbyn’s voters think it’s heading towards defeat. While there’s no sign they think the party would do better under an alternative, those are dangerous numbers for Corbyn.