Labour Take the Lead in polls as Tory Infighting Sheds Support

The latest Yougov poll gives Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour a 5% lead (on 41%) over the Conservatives (on 36%). This is one of five recent polls making good reading for the leader’s office, ranging from the parties tied on 39% to the latest two polls showing significant 5% leads for Labour.

This is the first time Labour have maintained a consistent poll lead since March of this year, and comes at a time of daily drama for the Conservatives – as May clings on from week to week, scraping through narrow victories on her unpopular Brexit proposals.

The interesting thing about these polls is the location of the swing voters. Rather than the typical government to opposition swings expected from mid-term polls, the Tories appear to be suffering from a swing to UKIP, who have recorded highs of 8% in the polls while Labour maintains a steady 40% average (+/-2).

The uptick in UKIP support remains far from their 2015 heyday, but is a clear reflection of dissatisfaction among a core group of passionate leaver supporters opposed to May’s Chequers plan, which is too soft for some hard Brexiteers.

While Labour appear to have been shielded from this dissatisfaction due to their rejection of the Chequers plan and typical remain-inclinations of their supporters, they cannot afford to be complacent about their poll lead. Vocal anti-Corbyn MP John Woodcock has resigned from the party – promising a bad news day – while Labour are suffering with their own internal divisions, particularly over Brexit.

Labour’s Brexit coalition is highly fragile: Rebel remainer MPs have consistently defied the Labour whip to push for single market membership, while a small but highly significant group of Labour leavers have voted with the government against customs union membership – providing the votes needed for victory and potentially saving Theresa May from a no-confidence vote.

A week is a long time in politics, and while Tory divisions are dominating the news cycle for now it is only a matter of time before Labour’s divisions rear their own head. The widespread anger directed towards Labour leavers after effectively saving the government is just the beginnings of this.

Labour’s strategy so far has been to attempt to embarrass the government over Brexit whenever possible while trying to distract from their own divisions on the issue. This is important, making May focus intensely on parliamentary arithmetic where she must straddle the line between remainers and leavers; two groups who will never be truly satisfied by a compromise.

So long as this translates into a poll lead Labour will want to continue this strategy, which could even bring down the government at the right moment. However, they can’t forget that their own battles over Brexit have just as much potential for implosion in the coming months. Surely if UKIP can re-emerge with the Tories in disarray then the Lib Dems will be patiently waiting for the same from Labour.


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