If a political party is to succeed at a general election, two things are necessary. First, it needs to have policies that are popular. Second, it needs to convince voters that its leaders are managerially competent and will implement those policies well.
The good news for Labour is they are scoring positively on the first point. Lots of voters really do seem to like their policies. The bad news for Labour is they don’t trust Jeremy Corbyn to implement those policies competently.
The suggestion that Labour’s manifesto might actually be popular with voters is bound to surprise FT readers, many of whom will see its prospectus as little more than a throwback to the economics of the 1970s.
As the FT puts it in its editorial: “The combination of punitive tax increases, sweeping nationalisation, and the end of Thatcher-era union reforms turns the clock back 40 years . . . and is a recipe for terminal economic decline.”
The uncomfortable truth, however, is that a lot of voters believe the time has come to reverse the Thatcherite legacy. As John Curtice, a senior fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe, notes in the Times, YouGov has reported that 45 per cent of voters are in favour of the nationalisation of the gas and electricity companies, and only 29 per cent opposed. Some 50 per cent say they support the nationalisation of the water companies while 25 per cent are against.
Meanwhile, nationalising the rail network is even more popular. YouGov says 56 per cent are in favour and only 22 per cent opposed.
However, there is a problem for Mr Corbyn. While voters like these policies, they don’t trust him to implement them competently.
As Sir John points out, recent polling shows that when it comes to investment in the National Health Service, Labour’s biggest trump card, voters don’t trust Mr Corbyn any more than they do Mr Johnson to get things right. And this is linked to the wider point that voters have much less confidence in Labour on economic management generally.
According to a YouGov poll earlier this month, more than half of people (57 per cent) think the country will go into a recession within a couple of years if Labour win the election (the Tories score 39 per cent). People are more likely to trust Mr Johnson with managing the economy (34 per cent) than Mr Corbyn (16 per cent).
“Labour is still the most liked party and is seen as the most compassionate and most concerned about people’s needs,” says Gideon Skinner of the pollster Ipsos MORI. “But the latest data shows that Labour is slipping on the question of whether they are fit to govern and have a good team of leaders.”
This election is far from over for Mr Corbyn. But winning a reputation for managerial competence is something that takes years, not weeks.
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