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Labour is surging in the polls – and it's all because the media is finally giving Jeremy Corbyn impartial coverage

It is also interesting how Labour’s poll bounce coincides with general election broadcast rules kicking in. The public are finally seeing that Corbyn is not the person he has been portrayed as 

Matt Zarb-Cousin
Monday 22 May 2017 13:49 BST
Jeremy Corbyn has seen his likeability increase since the election was called
Jeremy Corbyn has seen his likeability increase since the election was called (Getty)

It’s conventional for polls to swing to the government during a general election campaign, but Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has absolutely no respect for historical trends. Labour is up seven points in three weeks, halving the Conservative lead, with the fall-out from the proposed “dementia tax” still to be fully factored in, U-turns included.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the public tends to only engage with politics during a general election campaign. Very few people follow all the twists and turns of Westminster in their day to day lives. They might pick up the odd bit of information, often through the prism of a right wing tabloid press which usually sets the agenda, but as we near 8 June and people have to make their minds up about who to vote for, a lot more attention will be paid to what the parties are saying. This is why a link to Labour’s very popular manifesto went viral on Facebook last week.

It is also interesting how Labour’s poll bounce coincides with general election broadcast rules kicking in. The public are finally seeing that Jeremy Corbyn is not the person he has been portrayed as in sections of the right wing press, although some broadcasters still insist on using the pejorative term “hard left”, which is somewhat at odds with polling that indicates the public supports the policies in the Labour manifesto.

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn isn’t hard left – it’s mainstream.

This is one reason why Theresa May has avoided debating Jeremy Corbyn. Another is that parroting pre-prepared lines doesn’t get you very far in a debate format. Conservative strategists are caught between the necessity of using May’s popularity to detoxify their party’s brand in the north of England, but also knowing that her popularity is based on a perception borne out of carefully choreographed public appearances.

Jeremy is the only leader whose approval ratings have improved since the election was called, jumping 11 points. But approval ratings don’t tell the whole story. Pollsters ask for a judgement on whether the leader is doing a good job, which is effectively asking people to second guess what everyone else thinks about a politician. Much more interesting is YouGov’s net positivity rating, and Jeremy’s has gone from -19 to +22 within the space of a month, with 57 per cent either liking or really liking him. This is one reason why more people would consider voting for Jeremy Corbyn compared to alternative Labour candidates.

General Election polls and projections: May 22

One of Labour’s challenges in the coming weeks is to win over Ukip voters who have switched to the Conservatives, which is the primary reason for their current lead in the polls. This task is much easier because Jeremy won the second leadership contest and, as a result, the party accepted the result of the referendum.

Another priority will be mobilising young voters. What has been impressive is Jeremy’s capacity to appear on stage at Wirral Live and not look out of place, and his ability to attract the support of key influencers such as actor Danny DeVito, Geordie Shore’s Scotty T and grime artists including JME and Lowkey, whose powerful tribute went viral. Labour is way ahead among 18-24 year olds, so turnout will have a big impact on the outcome of this election, and the Conservatives will be concerned that many older voters may switch to Labour or not vote at all because of their disastrous social care plans, which are borne out of a reluctance to tax the wealthiest and big business just a little bit more.

There’s still a long way to go in this campaign, and anything can happen in politics.

Matt Zarb-Cousin is the former spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn. He writes in a personal capacity

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