Can Jeremy Corbyn reach out to – and win over – Tory voters at a general election? It sounds like an unlikely prospect but that’s exactly what the Labour leader pledged to do in the party’s latest hustings last night. Corbyn said that his aim is to convince people ‘by the policies we put forward…(including) some people who have been tempted to vote Tory’ before. It certainly sounds as if Corbyn himself isn’t wholly convinced by his statement, as many of those hearing it are unlikely to be either. An Ipsos Mori poll recently gave Corbyn a woeful net approval rating of -33, so it’s true he needs to broaden his support base somehow. But worryingly, at least for Corbyn if he does seriously want to win over Tory voters, is Theresa May’s satisfaction rating amongst those who would normally back the Conservatives. This currently stands at three in four, and shows no signs of falling.
Whilst this demonstrates May’s honeymoon period is far from over, it does mean – if famously wobbly polling numbers are anything to go on – that there is a small group of Tory voters who aren’t happy with May and might look elsewhere. The pollsters put this number at five per cent – a small fraction but perhaps offering a glimmer of hope for Corbyn.
So what olive branch has Corbyn offered them? The truth is that there’s very little. The Labour leader mentioned last night in his typically wooly fashion, both housing and job security, as key areas where Labour might snatch Tory support. On the housing front, we’ll learn what the Conservatives want to do about affordable accommodation in Philip Hammond’s first budget, which possibly presents an opportunity for Corbyn. But if his failure to make the most of open goal opportunities presented to him so far is anything to go on, it doesn’t seem likely Corbyn will be able to score.
On job security, for instance, Corbyn previously tried to attack May. Yet when he did so at PMQs, he floundered badly and came off much worse, with May pointing out the lack of job security within Labour’s own ranks. This does tell us, at the very least, the areas which Corbyn is likely to parrot in his attacks on the Tories. Whether they pay off is another thing all together. What’s more, Corbyn’s refusal during the same debate last night to say whether he would back another Nato ally in the event of an attack by Russia – a first for a Labour leader – also doesn’t seem like a sensible campaign strategy to win over wavering Tory voters. He seems unwilling to ditch a position which many on the left might struggle to accept, let alone those who would traditionally lean towards the right.
So although Corbyn has laid out his cards in pledging to go after Conservative voters, it seems he’ll have to do much more to convince them that what he said is anything more than the half-hearted, throwaway comment that it appears to be so far.