Dislike of Corbyn to blame for Labour’s election disaster not Brexit, major survey finds

Leader seen as weak, indecisive, unpatriotic, ‘stuck in the past’ and apparently sympathetic to terrorists

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 10 February 2020 23:12 GMT
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Labour voters deserted the party at the general election because they disliked Jeremy Corbyn rather than because of his pro-referendum Brexit stance, a major survey has revealed.

A determination to keep the Labour leader out of No 10 and distrust in his policies prompted the public to turn its back, rather than – as the party’s internal report claimed – the desire to “get Brexit done”.

Carried out by the Conservative pollster Lord Ashcroft, it lays bare deep antipathy to Mr Corbyn as weak, indecisive, unpatriotic, “stuck in the past” and apparently sympathetic to terrorists.

Labour was seen as unable to deliver on its promises, one defector saying: “The billions of pounds they were promising for this, that and the other....it was pie in the sky. People are not daft.”

The internal report was widely ridiculed for excusing Mr Corbyn and claiming the overwhelming focus on Brexit played the “decisive role” in handing Boris Johnson victory.

In contrast, the survey of 10,000 people found that no fewer than 53 per cent of people who deserted Labour between 2017 and 2019 did so because they “did not want Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister”.

It was a bigger motive than a belief he would fail to deliver on promises (40 per cent), that Labour “no longer represent people like me” (30 per cent) – or the desire to carry out Brexit (30 per cent).

Even among voters who switched directly to the Tories, dislike of Mr Corbyn outweighed Brexit as a prime reason, albeit by the narrow margin of 75 per cent to 73 per cent.

In fact, only 58 per cent of Labour-Conservative switchers said they would have stayed loyal but for Brexit – less than the 73 per cent who defected to the Liberal Democrats’ outright pro-Remain stance, but would not have done so.

Lord Ashcroft, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, said some people would be “suspicious of my motives”, but urged people to “listen to what real voters have to say”.

“The Labour Party they rejected could not be trusted with the public finances, looked down on people who disagreed with it, was too left-wing, failed to understand or even listen to the people it was supposed to represent, was incompetent, appallingly divided, had no coherent priorities, did not understand aspiration or where prosperity comes from, disapproved of their values and treated them like fools,” he argued.

Amongst opinions on Mr Corbyn gathered from Labour defectors were that “nothing about him says ‘leader’”, “he wasn’t someone I would trust my country to be run by” and “he never really addressed a lot of issues, like antisemitism”.

“He can’t be bothered to get dressed properly. Half the time he didn’t have a tie,” said one response, along with “he sat on the fence on Brexit. I thought, if he can’t make a decision on something like that, what’s he going to do if something important happens and a decision needs to be made? He’d run around with his hands in the air.”

The verdict comes after The Independent revealed how a close friend and adviser to Mr Corbyn blamed a “corridor cabal” of his top aides for wrecking his election campaign.

Lord Ashcroft, despite his political allegiance, has built a strong reputation for his research into voting reasons at recent elections and referendums.

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