On last night’s Question Time, David Dimbleby chaired a panel — comprised of Ruth Davidson, Lisa Nandy, Paul Nuttall, Len McCluskey and the IEA’s Kate Andrews — from Carlisle. With the Unite election underway, McCluskey — who is standing for re-election — tried to use his appearance to defend Labour’s bad polling under Jeremy Corbyn,
Explaining why his comrade had such bad popularity ratings, Red Len criticised the MSM (aka Mainstream Media) for creating a ‘horrible horrible media barrier’. But the bigger problem, according to Len, is the PLP. He said that before the Labour coup last summer — which saw Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resign and Owen Smith mount a leadership challenge over the Labour leader’s inadequate leadership during the EU referendum — Labour and the Tories were actually ‘neck and neck’ in the polls:
‘I would make this point. Before the disastrous coup that happened last summer, the opinion polls were showed Labour were neck and neck. One thing thing is clear the British electorate will not vote for a party that is divided. We have to unite behind policy. See if a very decent and honest man can break through this horrible horrible media barrier.’
However, for all McCluskey’s criticism of the ‘horrible media’, Mr S suspects that it’s Len who is the one creating the confusion here. The news came as a surprise to Lisa Nandy, a Labour MP involved in the coup, said she ‘certainly didn’t agree’ that Labour were doing well in the opinion polls before she left the shadow cabinet.
Public Policy Past describes the claim that the Labour Party was ‘neck-and-neck’ with the Conservative Party ahead of the coup in June as one of the ‘most pernicious political myths of our time’:
‘There were only ever three polls that showed Labour ahead of the Conservatives. These were all reported by the polling company YouGov, on 17 March, 12 April and 26 April. They showed Labour ahead by one point, and then twice by three points. There was one more poll that showed the two parties dead level, carried out by Survation for the Mail on Sunday and published on 25 June. That’s it. All the other polls, for the whole of the first half of the year leading up to Hilary Benn’s sacking in the early hours of 26 June, showed Labour behind. That’s simply not the pattern you’d see if parties were truly ‘neck-and-neck’.’
What’s more, Labour slide did not begin on 26 June when the coup got underway. Instead, it began more than two and a half months earlier, with the party peaking at an average of 33.7% on 1 April.
It seems McCluskey will need to find another explanation for his comrade’s struggles.