Thursday 31 October 2019 6:58 am

DEBATE: Is Labour set to outperform its 2017 result in this election?

James Meadway is an economist and former adviser to shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
and Finn McRedmond

Is Labour set to outperform its 2017 result in this election?

YES, says James Meadway, an economist and former adviser to John McDonnell

A solid guide to forecasting British politics is to look at whatever the Westminster consensus thinks, and assume the opposite. The pundits got Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory wrong, they got the referendum wrong, they got the 2017 election wrong. 

Today, they think that Labour will be crushed by Boris Johnson’s Tories. They will be wrong. 

First, forget the headline polling – it’s not designed to work in volatile political times.

Second, Labour has 500,000 members, and the Tories under 200,000. When voters no longer trust mainstream news sources (let alone politicians), face-to-face contact matters more than ever. A bigger membership means more chances to get a party message over. 

Third, the Conservatives have been in power for almost a decade, and from crumbling public services to low pay, their record is dismal. People will vote not only on Brexit, but on the state of the country and their future prospects. Unlike the single-issue Tories, Labour offers a bold plan for real change.

NO, says Finn McRedmond, a journalist and commentator

Jeremy Corbyn will try to make this election campaign about domestic issues unrelated to Brexit, focusing on the NHS, the environment, policing, and local government. But that will do little to distract from the fact that this is as close to a single-issue election as conceivable – and the parties’ positions on Brexit will determine their fate. 

The Conservatives may have ditched their traditional political calling card as the party of fiscal responsibility in favour of  trying to “get Brexit done”, but they will benefit at the polls from that clarity of message. Likewise, the Liberal Democrats’ stance on Brexit could not be clearer. Labour, in contrast, will suffer from Remain voters believing that Corbyn is a Brexiteer, and Leave voters alienated by the party’s policy of holding a second referendum. 

In 2017, Corbyn brandished his campaigning credentials against the robotic Theresa May, and it paid dividends. But this time he faces Boris Johnson – a man so charismatic he managed to turn London blue in 2008. 

This Christmas, Labour simply faces a tougher opponent under tougher circumstances.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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