Just how bad could it get if Jeremy Corbyn cannot hold Labour together?

Written by Tom Smithard on 3 August 2016 in Diary
Diary

New polling suggests any split in the Labour party will lead to a Conservative landslide.

Troubling new polling shows the damage that could be done if the Labour Party splits following a Jeremy Corbyn victory in its leadership contest.

The research, from YouGov, suggests 13% of voters would follow moderate MPs if they were to form a new party, leaving the Corbyn-led rump with just 21% support.

Even if that new moderate party were to join with the Liberal Democrats and Green Party in a progressive alliance, it would still only garner 22% support, according to the polling, dwarfed by support for the Conservatives, on 40%. A further 19% of voters would be undecided on who to support.

Under a uniform national swing, fighting seats on the current boundaries in a first-past-the-post electoral system, that would result in a landslide for Theresa May, according to the Electoral Calculus website.

Conservatives would win 375 seats, Corbyn’s Labour 166 and the progressive alliance 31 – giving the Tories a majority of 100.

The scenario should be taken with a huge note of caution, relying as it does on a deeply hypothetical situation which, if it happens, will change the political landscape in ways that simply can’t be predicted.

What’s more, the next election will also be fought on new boundaries and 50 fewer seats – unless Theresa May takes advantage of the turmoil in the Labour party and goes for a snap election in the autumn, as many are now expecting.

The only way a split could be made to work would be for Corbyn’s Labour and the progressive alliance to form a ‘non-compete’ pact, allowing each a clean shot against the Conservatives in pre-determined seats. But given the inevitable fury caused by any split in Labour, hopes of both sides working together to that extent seem slim.

It comes as Owen Smith today warned that a split in Labour would be “likely” if he lost the leadership contest. He told the Huffington Post:

“I think there is every likelihood that the party will split if Jeremy wins this election. I don’t think it’s a risk, I think it’s a likelihood. There are some on the hard left of the party like [John] McDonnell, and some on the right of the party, who have become fatalistic about that. And that has to be stopped. That is why I think people need to vote for me because I’m going to make it my mission to stop that happening.”

Commenting on the poll findings, YouGov director of political polling Anthony Wells said:

“Under First Past the Post this would likely be disastrous for them, splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Conservatives or UKIP, or whoever, to gain more seats from them. Exactly how bad it would be we cannot tell without knowing how their votes would be distributed geographically, whether individual Labour MPs would be able to retain the Labour vote in their own constituencies. It is likely to be pretty nasty though.”

Picture by: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

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