The Corbyn Relaunch probably hasn't worked
Back in the dying days of 2016, there were reports that Labour HQ was planning to reboot the public image of its embattled leader, Jeremy Corbyn. 2016 had brought Labour declining poll ratings, poor by-election results, a fractious EU referendum, a mass resignation from its Shadow Cabinet, and, of course, the party's annual leadership election. It was understandable, then, that the leadership wanted to start afresh and relaunch Corbyn as a populist firebrand - thereby capturing some of the anti-establishment being felt across the continent and the Atlantic.
Well, it's been a month since Jeremy Corbyn's 'New Year, New Me' regime, so it's a good time to take a look at what the results have been so far.
1. The party started 2017 encouragingly. The first part of January saw the NHS in the spotlight; with plenty of media coverage, the issue of healthcare rose in the public's 'issue salience' rankings. And because the party generally has a lead of around 10 points on this issue, Labour was in a strong position. As a result, perhaps, its polling improved somewhat: having started the year at 27.5% in our poll of polls, it rose to 29.5% by mid-January. Let's be clear: this is still a terrible place for an opposition party to be at this stage of a Parliament, but it was a clear improvement. And it shows how important the agenda is: if a party can get 'its' issues on the agenda, it will do well.
2. But once the NHS dropped back down the agenda, occupying its usual spot of third place, focus was firmly back on Brexit. This is an issue where Labour does terribly: the last YouGov poll shows that only 10% of the public trust the party with Brexit. And the party's positions on some key parts of the Brexit debate have been simply inadequate. Jeremy Corbyn's U-turn on free movement, for example, reinforced the idea that the party is stuck in a rut on immigration - a crucial part of Brexit as well as being a hugely important issue in voters' minds in its own right. The recent debacle around the imposition of a 3-line whip on the Article 50 vote has also done Labour no favours. The result? The gains made earlier in the month were more than eaten up, with the party ending the month on just over 25% in our poll of polls.
3. Jeremy Corbyn still isn't seen as Prime Minister material, however. YouGov also asks voters who of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn they'd prefer to see occupy 10 Downing Street. Between 19th December and 4th January, only 14% of voters thought he'd do a better job than Mrs. May. This has gone up a little to 16% now. The trouble, however, is that the Prime Minister has also gone up a point in this question, so Corbyn's deficit has only been reduced by one point in a month. Theresa May is ahead of the Labour leader by 32 points.
For these reasons, we're saying - albeit tentatively - that the Corbyn Relaunch doesn't look like it's worked so far. But who knows? Something 2016 taught us was that no one can be written off until they can.
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