With the latest polling on voting intentions from ICM putting Labour on 27 and the Conservatives storming ahead on 42 points (the Lib Dems and Ukip are on 10 and 12 respectively), it’s no surprise that, as James Forsyth writes in this week’s magazine, the Tories are hugely confident of winning the next general election.
But Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, speaking on Marr this morning, wasn’t about to give up on his party’s hopes anytime soon, stating that ‘we can certainly win a general election.’
‘We’ve had a tough eighteen months. We had a damaging second leadership election, so we’ve got an uphill struggle ahead. The polls aren’t great for us. But I’m determined now that we’ve got the leadership settled for this parliament that we can settle of developing a very positive clear message for the next general election.’
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) February 12, 2017
Many would say that one of the party’s main issues is having Jeremy Corbyn as leader. While the polls have Labour on 27 points, Corbyn polls at -40 in the favourability ratings – which plummets to -113 in the over-60s, which is the group most likely to vote. (Theresa May, on the other hand, is on +6). But Watson made it clear that he would be standing by Corbyn in his leadership role, confirming that ‘this is not the time for a leadership election in the party’, and denying that this morning’s Sunday Times story about a secret search for the next leader was true. ‘People tell me that that isn’t the case. It wasn’t road-testing leadership candidates… this is what we do in our normal run of political consultations.’
Patriotism, and disconnect between Labour and voters was another subject of discussion. Watson sounded almost Trumpian in his statement that ‘we need to convince people that we want this country to be great again.’ ‘Make Britain great again?’ confirmed Marr.
Given that Corbyn ended up in hot water over his apparent reluctance to sing the national anthem at a Battle of Britain memorial service (although he did later sing at the Queen’s birthday service), it was interesting for Watson to claim that Labour are still a patriotic party.
‘I would reject any notion where people would say the Labour party’s not a patriotic party’, he said. ‘We’re very proud of our country. We’re very proud of singing the national anthem.’ Perhaps, as well as taking David Cameron’s advice on dress sense, the party and its leadership have been listening when it comes to Queen and country, too.