Exclusive: Poll shows Labour members deeply divided over Corbyn whip decision

Sienna Rodgers

Labour members are deeply and starkly divided over Keir Starmer’s significant decision to withhold the whip from Jeremy Corbyn after the former leader was readmitted to the party, LabourList can reveal.

An exclusive poll of over 5,000 LabourList readers who are also Labour members, conducted by Survation and weighted to reflect the membership, has explored their views on the state of the party and recent events.

The results of the survey indicate that 48% of members believe Starmer was “wrong” not to restore the Labour whip to Corbyn following his reinstatement, while 46% think the move was “right” and 6% do not know.

While Labour members are split over the controversial whip decision, a clear majority of 58% reported having a “negative” view of Corbyn’s response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on Labour antisemitism.

Of those with a “negative” view, 41% said they held this “strongly”. A combined 31% of those surveyed either said they had a “strongly positive” or “somewhat positive” view of the statement issued by the former leader last month.

The former leader was suspended in October after commenting that “one antisemite is one too many” but also claiming that “the scale of the problem was… dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents”.

A panel of Labour national executive committee (NEC) members decided to readmit Corbyn to the party less than three weeks later, but Starmer the following day announced that the whip would nonetheless continue to be withheld.

63% of members surveyed said “I do not trust the Labour Party’s current internal disciplinary process”, and just 18% said they did trust it. Starmer has said the complaints system “does not have the confidence of the Jewish community”.

Asked whether the Labour Party is “currently moving in the right direction or the wrong direction”, there was no consensus among members: 55% replied “right” and 40% “wrong”, with a combined 5% replying neither or do not know.

Among those who joined the party before 2015, a larger majority of 64% approved of the party’s direction, with 31% disapproving, while post-2015 joiners were much more critical, with 53% describing the current direction as “wrong”.

Just 2% of those who backed Rebecca Long-Bailey in the leadership contest earlier this year said they thought the current direction of the party was “right”. 80% of those who voted for Starmer said “right” and 16% “wrong”.

Members were asked about their favourability towards top Labour Party figures and recent leaders. Ed Miliband emerged with the highest ratings of a selection of shadow cabinet members, with 78% favourability and 69% net favourability.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner scored well, with 68% finding her favourable and 16% unfavourable. Starmer had a similar favourable rating of 60% but a lower net favourability of 26% overall due to 34% finding the leader unfavourable.

21% had not heard of Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds or Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green. All had heard of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, and 6% of Labour members found the Chancellor favourable.

Gordon Brown emerged as the most popular Labour leader of recent years, with a 50% net favourability rating. Miliband came next at 39%. Corbyn (1% net) and Tony Blair (0% net) are both deeply divisive figures, splitting views almost evenly.

The poll suggests that Labour members are still overwhelmingly in favour of the party’s 2019 manifesto, with 74% describing its policies as “broadly correct”. 14% said they were “broadly wrong” and 12% replied “neither”.

Respondents were asked to rank their top three 2019 policies for Labour to keep for the next election. Those with the highest levels of support were ending privatisation in the NHS and bringing forward net-zero carbon targets to within the 2030s.

Those surveyed mostly think favourably of Starmer’s approach to Covid-19, with a total of 64% choosing favourable over unfavourable. 44% approve of his approach to crime and security as Labour leader, and 30% disapprove.

63% described Labour as “divided” under Starmer; 26% said it is “united” (-37% net). A yet more overwhelmingly 83% said the party was divided under Corbyn (-70% net). It was most united under Miliband and Brown, members suggest.

Labour members are evenly split over the likely result of the next general election, the poll results suggest, with a combined 43% predicting a Tory or Tory-led government and 42% believing that Labour can win enough to lead.

Survation surveyed 5,008 Labour members between 23rd and 25th November 2020 via LabourList’s database. Data were weighted to the profile of party members by age, sex, region and 2020 Labour leadership election vote.

LabourList has partnered up with Survation to add statistical heft to our reader surveys. Full data tables can be viewed here and a summary presentation of the polling by Survation can be found here.

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