The final leaders debate provided Corbyn‘s with an opportunity to take control of the narrative before Britain decides its fate on Thursday. The result of the post-leaders debate YouGov poll, 52-48 to Boris Johnson, was close but when asked who appeared ‘more prime ministerial’, Johnson won 54-30. On the night, Johnson’s punches on Brexit and security landed well. It looks like Corbyn didn’t nail it and, as previously predicted, a repeat of the 2017 surge just isn’t happening on the ground. With a showing of 34 points in the polls, the prospect of a Labour minority government seem to be slipping away.
Internally, Labour thought that Corbyn could win the leaders debates and media interview war and that their “Real Change” message would win through. Let’s face it, both leaders have committed some classic media errors but “Get Brexit done” seems to be the more powerful and memorable message.
In 2017, the Labour Party were able to win the narrative. Corbyn in action surprised everyone and chimed the right chord with voters. Labour’s centre left manifesto captured the public imagination, and pitted against Theresa May, a very poor Conservative campaign and a social care policy disaster in the ‘dementia tax’; Jeremy Corbyn proved pollsters and critics wrong. Labour actually found themselves leading in the polls. That said, it is important to remember Labour did not win.
To date the polls have not shifted much in Labour’s favour and if you add a series of damaging revelations, particularly over antisemitism, plus Corbyn’s own personal ratings – which dropped at one point to -50 – it is easy to assume that things are not going to get better. To put that into context Prince Andrew is -64! It is also easy to conclude that, this time, Corbyn is proving to be a liability.
BUT it’s not over yet and we will see a last ditch dash by all parties playing to win in key seats. Each will endeavour to convince voters of their competencies and the inadequacies of their opponents, respectively. Latest polls are putting the Conservatives ahead by 14 points, whilst BMG has the two main parties much closer on 9 points. Eminent pollster, Sir John Curtice has urged caution, stating that a hung parliament is still on the table.
This is not only the most unpredictable general election but never before have voters been so undecided. The choice between Johnson or Corbyn is just too unappealing or even scary for many. This General Election is proving to be more about which party leader voters fear most – or who is the lesser evil – and will not be won on traditional party lines. Where the mass of undecided and tactical votes land will determine the result. Arguably, there is still everything to play for and if Labour can shift the narrative in the last three days onto Conservative austerity, their tendentious NHS claims, and Trump’s trade deals – and ultimately appear more credible to the “undecided” – then there is just a small chance that the tide might turn against a Boris Johnson majority.