There is a YouGov poll of Labour members out this week that is very interesting. On the straight up approval rating, the support for Corbyn amongst them is clear cut: 72% approve, 17% disapprove. When you ask if they would vote for Corbyn in a third leadership contest involving him, the numbers get a lot tighter: 52% versus 46. This likely means that while a massive majority of Labour members really like Corbyn, a significant chunk of them think he isn’t getting cut through and would vote for someone else accordingly – although not enough of them to mean Corbyn wouldn’t win another leadership contest.
But then it gets interesting. Asked if Jeremy Corbyn was ever going to become prime minister, only 31% said they thought he would – versus 60% who thought he wouldn’t. One can only take away from this data that a majority of Labour members would vote for Corbyn as leader again, should the chance arise, but of that group only around half of them think he can win a general election. To draw another conclusion, this subset obviously doesn’t care about the fact that Corbyn won’t win.
More grist to the mill of my theory that Corbyn will stay on as leader after the 2020 general election, even if the result is apocalyptic for Labour. But there is one possible wrinkle to all this and it will be interesting to watch how significant it turns out to be. The Lords have just voted through amendments to the Brexit Bill; they will get presented to the Commons to vote on in short order. May could face some rebellions on the “meaningful vote” amendment, the one that says parliament can vote on the final deal in a non-take it or leave it fashion. In other words, the amendment changes the final Commons vote on the post-Brexit deal from accept it or fall back on WTO rules with no deal at all with the EU, to accept or stay in the EU, at least for the time being.
But May is only threatened by this possible rebellion if Labour vote for the amendments in the Commons, which is not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. And while whipping the Brexit Bill through the Commons the first time damaged Labour amongst Remainers, blocking the amendment from the Lords could be much worse in this regard. On the other side of the equation, Corbyn clearly thought that Labour couldn’t be seen to be blocking Brexit the first time round – so why would he do something that would undoubtably be perceived by many as doing just that the next time through?
Voting to give May a completely free hand with Brexit a second time may hurt Corbyn amongst the membership or it may not. If I had to guess I’d say the latter is much more likely the case. I think Corbyn is in for the long haul regardless of what he says or does.