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I posted the following thread on Twitter earlier.

While some voted Labour cos they wanted Corbyn to win, many did so cos they thought he couldn’t. Doubt he cd win election except by accident

2. Clearly, some in UK r hard left. Many r fed up with austerity. Corbyn mobilised students & some who feel left behind. But..

3. Many also voted Labour cos moderate Labour MPs reassured them Corbyn couldn’t win. Others wanted to deny Theresa May a landslide…

4. In Kensington & elsewhere, rich Remainers who r hardly socialist felt safe to reject May’s hard Brexit. Cosmopolitans rejected nativism.

5. & many other reasons. Many voters would behave differently if they expected Corbyn as PM rather than May (or her successor). Ends

Apart from insults and trolling, the main response was “what is your evidence for this?”. It’s my analysis, and like any analysis it may be partly or wholly wrong, but let me amplify a bit and add some evidence to substantiate it.

It’s clear that very few people expected Labour to win the election – only 12% did, according to a Survation poll just before the election – and Labour indeed didn’t win. That was the frame in which people decided to vote Labour: while some genuinely wanted Corbyn to be PM, those who didn’t want him as PM still felt safe to vote Labour for all sorts of reasons, local (eg they liked their moderate Labour MP), tactical (eg they wanted to deny the Conservatives a big majority), protest (eg they opposed May’s Brexit at any costs) or otherwise. Anyone who thinks that Kensington, one of the wealthiest constituencies in the country, has suddenly gone socialist is certifiable.

Many Labour MPs and canvassers reported negative feelings towards Corbyn on the doorstep and explicitly tried to reassure voters that it was safe to vote for them because Corbyn couldn’t win. Some went as far as writing to their constituents to that effect. See, for instance, this reporting piece in the Guardian (which backed a vote for Labour).

Many people were put off by the choice between a hard-Brexit Conservative Party and a hard-left Labour Party, while the Lib Dems are still discredited by their time in coalition. YouGov’s focus-group findings are particularly telling:

Participants believed that both of the two main parties have entrenched political stances that are further to the right and left than in previous years, and there are perceived to be few options in the middle for those who see themselves as politically centrist. For these participants, the choice for whom to vote is unclear, as they feel ideologically separated from both Labour and the Conservatives. Related to this, many participants were considering tactical voting. Some had a stronger sense of the party they did not want to be in power than the one that they did. Related to a need for more choice, there was both a strong appetite and expectation for a new centrist party to emerge after the election, with France’s En Marche party an example of how this could be successfully achieved.


While Corbyn clearly appealed to some voters who might otherwise not have voted Labour, notably students, there is ample evidence that he was net negative for Labour. YouGov, whose model predicted seemingly unlikely results such as Labour winning Canterbury, found that only 34% of voters thought Corbyn was competent and 31% strong (although 49% found him honest and 46% likeable). Survation – whose final poll had the Conservatives on 42% and Labour on 40%, almost the same as the actual result – found only 81% of those intending to vote Labour thought Corbyn would make the best PM.

Now, of course, nobody can know for sure how a future election might pan out. But a coalition of convenience around Corbyn on the basis that he couldn’t win is unlikely to translate into an actual parliamentary majority in an election where voters think he could win. Indeed, so squeezed is the vote for the smaller parties that even if Corbyn could somehow hang on to that disparate coalition of convenience, the only way he can get a majority is by winning votes off the Tories. Good luck with that.

UPDATE on 12/6

A new poll for Survation after the election puts Labour ahead of the Conservatives by 45% to 39%. Does this contradict my thesis? No. What people say in a poll immediately after an election when nothing is at stake tells you very little about how they will vote in a future election when there is a lot at stake for them. For instance, in June 1979, just after Margaret Thatcher won the election, polls put Labour ahead. The test of my thesis is the next election.

Posted 10 Jun 2017 in Blog

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