This article first appeared at betting.betfair on 9th June 2021
It is often said that Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics, as Keir Starmer is rapidly discovering. Not only are Labour way behind in national polls but their leader’s approval ratings are on the floor. Check these latest numbers from Ipsos-Mori.
How bad a signal is this? Well, as David Herdson of politicalbetting.com illustrates here, approval rating indicators around this 14 month stage of the job have proved a remarkable good indicator of later general election performance in recent decades.
More by-election misery awaits
Matters are unlikely to improve in the short-term. Labour are 1000.0 to win next week’s Chesham and Amersham By-Election, in which they could conceivably lose their deposit or finish fourth behind the Greens. A fortnight later, the Batley and Spen By-Election could create a generate of emergency around Starmer’s leadership.
He is on a hiding to nothing. A win will represent a mere defence, without indication of real progress towards the massive gains needed at the next election. It will be newsworthy for an hour or two. Defeat will generate ridicule, calls to resign and talk of the Labour Party’s death spiral.
Previewing the race last week, I argued the demographic trends in that constituency bode well for Boris Johnson, having hoovered up the not insignificant far-right vote. That is even more relevant now that Paul Halloran, the far-right Heavy Woollen District Independent candidate, isn’t running. The Tories are now [1.35] to win.
Labour woes go far deeper than Starmer
These wider dynamics of voter re-alignment are not unique to Starmer. One could argue that the fates of Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband were always doomed due to the same demographic and regional trends. There is a danger of overestimating the effect of a frontman amid an era in which voters are re-aligning across Western democracies along clearly visible, demographic and value-driven lines.
However Starmer has problems that didn’t apply to his predecessors. After 11 years of Tory rule, as they become more strident and less accountable than ever, the sense of urgency among opponents grows greater by the hour. With boundary changes, voter ID laws and perhaps different voting systems on the way, it seems ever harder to imagine another Labour government. I’m sceptical of ever seeing another.
Burnham in pole position to succeed
Parties fade, lose relevance, get usurped. See Labour in Scotland. Panic could soon break out. The clamour for Andy Burnham to take over is rising and he’s now clear favourite to be Next Labour Leader at odds of [4.2]