Archive for the 'Party Leaders/Leadership' Category


No Leader of the Opposition has rated even nearly as badly as Corbyn and become Prime Minister. An analysis into the satisfaction ratings of leaders of the opposition

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

In the final piece of three, Corporeal looks at the satisfaction ratings of Leaders of the Opposition

The Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition is a position of great responsibility and impotence. It is traditionally the delicate art of attention grabbing, agenda setting, holding the government to account, and providing an inspiring alternative vision for government on the major issues of the day. Or if all that fails (unkind commentators might suggest that not all the holders of the office have achieved all of those objectives) at least try not to get people to remember to hate you more than the Prime Minister.

Current Situation:

Jeremy Corbyn’s most recent rating was -32, following scores of -31 in October and -42 in September. This is a return to normality for him with about half his ratings being between -20 and -40. The only sustained periods outside this less than ideal range were his first six months, and the second half of 2017 (he started rising in March, peaked in July after the election and slowly slid back down to his current level.

That slight upward shift does have one comforting note, it means for the first time in six months he is not the lowest rating Leader of the Opposition but instead is a comfortable one point ahead of William Hague after the same length of time in office. Here’s a celebratory graph of his time in office:

Historical Context:

Ratings for Leaders of the Opposition have tended to be rather less predictable than Prime Ministers but over a narrower range. They generally don’t get as popular or unpopular but bounce around in a narrower range, fuelled by lower total response rates. Iain Duncan-Smith never had more than 71% expressing an opinion validating his ‘quiet man’ nickname. Corbyn has never rated below 69%, a higher low than anyone but Thatcher (and we don’t have data from the first part of her tenure).

Corbyn has spent most of his tenure battling Michael Foot and William Hague for the bottom spot in the rankings. He and Hague share the dubious distinction of being the only ones never to record a positive rating (Foot was saved by a solitary positive rating of +2 in his first month). Here’s some lines and numbers:


Corbyn’s high ratings mainly show themselves in higher than usual dissatisfaction ratings. He is mostly at the lower end of average in satisfaction ratings, and second to last in the dissatisfaction ratings (behind only Foot). Even during his 2017 peak  he never had lower than a 45% dissatisfaction rating.

On a more positive note for Corbyn is the 2017 election where his ratings spiked to a remarkable degree. To say that it was the greatest improvement in the run-up to an election doesn’t do it justice. He gained 30 points (from -41 to -11) from March to June (and peaked at -1 in July after the election) with roughly equal improvements in his satisfaction and dissatisfaction ratings. The next highest gains over comparable pre-election periods are in the mid-teens (+13 in ’83, +15 in ’92, +16 in ’15). How much this is due to Corbyn, and how much due to Theresa May is an open question.

Here’s some data represented in a chart


No Leader of the Opposition has rated even nearly as badly as Corbyn and become Prime Minister.

(The next lowest is a one-off -22 for Cameron in September 2017, then Thatcher at -15 in March of 1977).

Oh Jeremy Corbyn: greatest campaigner in history.


Here it is Thatcher’s term where we have limited and patchy records.

The mean change in score for February-May in the years before and after elections was -1.5


In the event of an election it’s certainly plausible that Corbyn will show another surge, but it seems likely that he has a ceiling in terms of people he can attract. If there is an election in 2019 we may see another hung parliament if he can’t enthuse more voters, if there isn’t then you start to wonder how long the Labour party will feel without improvement in the polls before they start to get restive.



A big August polling development has been the restoration of TMay’s double digit “best PM” lead

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

I love tables like the one from YouGov featured above showing the trend in responses to a political tracker question. This one is on who would make the best prime minister and what seems quite striking is that Theresa May has held up pretty well apart from July when her numbers slipped following the critical response to the Chequers agreement.

The big mover, of course, has been the Labour leader Mr Corbyn who has seen a fair amount of slip back which if you look at the dates sort of links to the start of the anti-semitism row which began at the end of March.

The problem with best prime minister ratings is that the incumbent almost always gets a boost and I think the numbers have to be looked at in that context. The other highlight thing about recent polling on this question is that the don’t knows are now the biggest segment.

What appears to happen is that when Corbyn’s numbers slip it is the don’t knows that increase which could point to something worrying for the Labour leadership.

What might have helped the Prime Minister during this holiday month is that the has been much less focus in the media on the huge Brexit divide within a party. When that starts to be getting the attention of the media again then maybe we could see a slippage.

Mike Smithson


Regrets: They’ve Had a Few

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Cyclefree on Blair, Cameron, May and Corbyn

On Radio 4 Peter Hennessey has been interviewing politicians who are no longer in the front line and asking them to reflect on their careers, mistakes, and things they might have done differently.  Blair does not regret Iraq, his view still being that it is better (for whom one wonders, surveying the state of Iraq these last 15 years) for Saddam to have been deposed.

Perhaps politicians are not the best at analysing their own mistakes. Perhaps it takes a while for us to realise what their worst mistakes really were, and maybe we can only really tell once the consequences of action or inaction have been felt .  Still, in the languorous spirit of a sunny Bank Holiday weekend here are my – possibly provocative – suggestions.


Iraq, surely?  Can there be any contest?  Well, perhaps not – as PM it was one of his worst mistakes.  Arguably, the mistake was perhaps less the decision to go to war and more the way that decision was explained and justified (something which has proved very corrosive of trust in politicians). Crucially, Blair failed to understand the implications of his own largely correct analysis of Islamic extremism, namely, that upending a state with no tradition or culture of democracy via invasion is likely to create the conditions for such extremism to thrive rather than its opposite.  The consequences for the Middle East and the West will last some time and are being felt in death, terror and pain.

But another mistake was his worst as a politician – it was his unwillingness to fight Brown for the Labour leadership. Whatever the justifiable reasons for it at the time, that timidity allowed Brown to create a narrative that he had somehow been “robbed” of the leadership, that he was entitled to be leader once Blair departed (resulting in him never making a case for his leadership, a lack which became painfully obvious once he became PM – and from which Mrs May might have usefully learnt some lessons). And it led to Blair giving him far more control over domestic affairs as Chancellor than was wise.

It stifled others who might have made a claim for developing a post-Blair Labour and led, ultimately, to a hollowing out of Labour, with little chance of the development of a new generation of possible leaders with new ideas and the courage to put them forward.  Little wonder then, that Labour’s most successful leader seems to have left little by way of a domestic or party legacy and, Iraq apart, seems to have been characterised by a lack of boldness putting forward winning arguments for the matters he claimed to care about – Britain’s role in the EU, for instance.  Good leaders leave good successors.  Blair – like Thatcher – left a party with the life sucked out of it.


There is something immensely attractive about someone at ease with themselves, their place in the world, the world they’re in and the role they’re being asked to play.  Cameron was such a man and after the Blair/Brown dramas he brought a welcome calm to government.  But it is all too easy for such people so to take their world for granted that they forget how to argue for it.  They assume rather than think let alone argue.  So it was with Cameron and what will define his legacy: the EU and Britain’s place within it.

If Cameron believed that Britain should remain within the EU – as he said during the referendum campaign – he should have been making that case – and doing so positively – for years beforehand and doing so to all the voters, not just those inclined to agree with him.  Waiting until the campaign was far too late: he discovered that when he needed something positive to say, there was nothing there.  Someone who wanted his party to stop “banging on” about Europe left it banging on about little else.  Complacency led to nemesis.


Too soon to tell?  Maybe.  Still,  what might the interim appraisal say?  Forget the unnecessary election, disastrous as that was.  Her biggest mistake to date has been the failure in the months since she became leader to think through carefully and in detail the implications of the referendum result, the practical choices available, the trade offs needed, how to develop a sensible, sober negotiating strategy and how to sell that effectively to voters and persuasively to the EU.

Why are position papers being published now and not months ago?  Why rush to Article 50, the timing of which was the one indubitable card the UK had?  Rather than wait and think and prepare, a dull, grey politician’s legacy will be a meaningless slogan and early announcements boxing Britain into a corner from which extrication will likely be painful and humiliating.  Even a large majority would not have made up for that.


I am likely going to humiliate myself now.  Corbyn may not even make it to PM.  His time as Labour leader was not, pre-June, glorious.  But Labour’s unexpectedly successful leader has an idea of what Labour should be (however disliked it may be by some) and is not afraid to speak to all and sundry about it in an engaging way.  Many of his criticisms of the current political/economic settlement ring true with voters, even those disinclined for other reasons to vote for him, and he now looks to his party like a possible winner.

So let me stick my neck out. If he comes to power it will be following a Brexit whose consequences will tax a government consisting of Solomons.  European matters will consume his administration, regardless that it may not be important to him personally.  His mistake will be the same as many previous Labour leaders.  He will promise much.  His promises will be well-intentioned (mostly).  Expectations will now be high. His promises will be undeliverable, his solutions being essentially nostalgic (“let everything be as it was before the horrid Tories ruined it all”).  He will let his supporters down.  And as a result he may end up as reviled by some of them as Blair is now.

Corbyn as the new Blair?  Well, I said I might provoke.  Over to you, PBers.