LONDON — Polling expert John Curtice expects many Labour MPs running in the snap June election to distance themselves from unpopular leader Jeremy Corbyn and run instead on local issues.
Curtice told Business Insider: “Don’t expect the words ‘Corbyn’ or ‘Labour’ to appear on many Labour candidates’ leaflets.”
He said the strategy of campaigning on local issues “might just help a few [Labour MPs] to hang on,” but added that it was unlikely to stop the widespread losses that pollsters predict for the party in June’s general election.
He said: “This always happens with unpopular leaders. Candidates end up trying to distance themselves [from the leader].
“The strategy might just help a few of them to hang on. But it’s a very defensive strategy, and it will only help to some degree.”
It won’t stop a tsunami. It might help to limit a spring gale, but it won’t stop a tsunami
“It won’t stop a tsunami. It might help to limit a spring gale, but it won’t stop a tsunami,” he said.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May received consent from parliament to hold a general election on June 8.
The prime minister had previously insisted that the next general election would be held in 2020, but changed course and said she had “reluctantly” changed her mind on the issue recently.
The move was widely interpreted as a move to capitalise on the huge lead that the Conservatives currently enjoy over Labour in polls, as well as Corbyn’s own unpopularity.
According to YouGov polling, just 14% of the public believe that Corbyn would make a better prime minister than Theresa May, against 50% who believe May would be better.
Curtice said that if May retains the 16 point lead she currently holds across an average of polls, she will increase her majority from 40 seats to around 100.
If the prime minister increases her lead to 21 or 22 points — a YouGov poll published on Tuesday gave her a 24-point lead — Curtice said that she could match the historic Conservative majority that Margaret Thatcher achieved in 1983, when the party gained 397 seats against Labour’s 209.
He warned, however that gaining a big majority is “probably more difficult than many people realise.”
“It has got much more difficult to win a large majority inside the House of Commons,” he said.
“Partly because Scotland is just out of the game: Unless the SNP start losing heavily, and there’s no sign of that so far, Scotland is basically in the opposition camp along with Northern Ireland.
“Meanwhile in England there aren’t that many marginal seats these days, and there aren’t that many Labour seats which are easily won, so you do have to be a long way ahead.”
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