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What LAB has not factored in is that TMay’s successor will get a huge polling boost and won’t surely be as bad

February 9th, 2018

A new CON leader will be a very different proposition for Corbyn

The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has an excellent piece linked to above on how the red team is viewing their little polling hiccup. It is staggeringly complacent with some in the party, apparently, believing that because some, though by no means all of the polls got GE17 wrong then the same could be happening again.

Certainly LAB was helped last year by the very long, seven week, election campaign which meant that the period under which the broadcasting balance rules prevailed was far longer than usual. That won’t happen in 2022. Even if the election is earlier the campaign period will be far far shorter.

    But there is one factor that nobody has mentioned and which could play a very big part. We must assume that the Tories will not going into the next election with Mrs May as the flag carrier. There will be a new leader and that leader’s great strength initially will be that he/she is not the failed Mrs May

Previous experience tells us that when prime minister’s are replaced midterm then their successor gets a big polling boost. It happened in 1990 and early 1991 when John Major took over from Mrs Thatcher who had seen a Tory polling collapse. He had one great thing on his side which stayed with him until GE1992 – he was not Maggie.

Another example is June 2007 when Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair. The first few months of his leadership were dominated by a dramatic recovery by Labour in the polls and leader ratings with Cameron looking as though he was a loser It seemed a breath of fresh air that the Prime Minister was no longer Blair and Brown was judged in a very different way. That ended, of course, with the election that never was in the October.

We also saw the same turnaround in the polls for the Tories when Mrs May took over in July 2016. For nearly a year she could do no wrong with her honeymoon polling boost continuing really up to General Election day and the exit poll coming out.

Prime ministers starting in these circumstances are judged against the person they are replacing which, given what we know about TMay, should be an easy challenge.

That, of course, might not last all the way until the general election but it could. Who knows how Brown would have done if he had not let early election speculation get out of hand in 2007?

Mike Smithson