Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to take over as Prime Minister is dealt a blow today by a poll showing voters think he lacks the character to get things done.
By clear majorities, people think the opposition leader does not have the “strength of character to handle a crisis well”, and that he lacks “what it takes to get the job done”.
Nearly half of the public think Mr Corbyn is afraid to take tough decisions.
The findings from Deltapoll for the Evening Standard were revealed just days after Mr Corbyn launched an audacious bid to seize the keys to 10 Downing Street.
The Opposition leader divided MPs by writing to rebel Tories and leaders of the Scottish Nationalists, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru asking them to back him as a “caretaker PM” who would prevent a no-deal Brexit.
In key developments today:
Labour sources revealed Mr Corbyn held phone talks this morning with the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, on cooperation to stop no-deal, including possibly making him caretaker PM. Mr Corbyn was described as “really encouraged” by responses to his move, which included rebel Tories offering to discuss ways of preventing no-deal.
Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and Father of the House Kenneth Clarke have both indicated they would serve as alternative caretaker premiers, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said. She told the BBC she had sounded them out and they were ready to “put public duty first”.
Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng branded Mr Clarke, 79, as too old and insisted that Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit on October 31. “I think it would be an odd thing for him [Clarke] to lead a unity government, I think he’s nearly 80,” said the minister.
Leaked German government papers revealed Berlin now expects Britain to crash out on October 31. The document called on the 27 EU states to unite against a renegotiation of Theresa May’s deal and said EU preparations for no-deal were “largely completed”.
A symbolic step towards Brexit will be taken “within days” by the Government signing an order to trigger legislation ending the supremacy of EU law, it was reported. No 10 said it was “speculation”.
Today’s poll contained mixed results for both Mr Corbyn and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but the most clear-cut finding is that the public see the Conservative leader as more likely to see things through.
The verdict may be significant as political scientists think Brexit-baffled voters are likely to be swayed more by their overall impression of the personalities of the leaders.
Asked if Mr Corbyn was “not afraid to make tough decisions”, only 34 per cent agreed, while 47 per cent disagreed – a negative overall score of -13.
By contrast, 65 per cent thought it applied to Mr Johnson, while only 19 per net disagreed – a net positive of +46.
Almost half (48 per cent) said Mr Johnson had the “strength of character to handle a crisis well”, with 35 per cent disagreeing, a net +13.
But just 28 per cent thought Mr Corbyn had the strength of character needed in a crisis, with a clear majority of 54 per cent saying he did not, a net -26.
Similarly, 57 per cent did not think Mr Corbyn “has what it takes to get the job done”. Some 46 per cent said Mr Johnson did.
Mr Corbyn’s best scores were for being fair and principled – but they were not markedly better than Mr Johnson’s scores in this area.
Some 41 per cent saw Mr Corbyn as having “strong principles that he always sticks to”, but 45 per cent said it of Mr Johnson.
Some 45 per cent thought Mr Corbyn “believes in fairness and equality”, while 40 per cent said it of his Tory rival.
Neither leader scored well for honesty. Over half, 54 per cent, disagreed that Mr Corbyn “can be trusted to tell the truth, not simply what people want to hear”, while 30 per cent disagreed, a net -24. For Mr Johnson, some 49 per net did not think he could be trusted, while 31 per cent did, a net of -18.
Voters felt neither the left-winger nor the wealthy Tory could “understand the lives of people like me”. Only 27 per cent thought Mr Johnson did, with 57 per cent disagreeing, while 31 per cent said it applied to Mr Corbyn, with 56 per cent disagreeing.
Asked if they would be “happy for him to look after my young children”, voters have a resounding thumbs down to both men. Just a quarter said yes, while 55 per cent said no.
A mere 21 per cent said they would “enjoy spending time with” Mr Corbyn, while 61 per cent said they would not. The overall score of -40 was the most clear-cut negative result of all.
For Mr Johnson, 31 per cent said they would enjoy his company, while 49 per cent would not, a net of -18.
Ms Swinson, who has been under fire from anti-Brexit campaigners for initially rejecting Mr Corbyn’s approach as “nonsense”, struck a softer line this morning by saying she was open to talks but felt Ms Harman or Mr Clarke were better able to obtain the Commons majority needed to delay Article 50.
“I have been in touch with them because obviously you don’t just mention people’s names without checking that they’re OK with that,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I mean, both of those are long-serving Members of Parliament, the most experienced MPs in the House, the mother and father of the House as they are called in the House of Commons.”
She added: “It doesn’t need to be them. If Jeremy Corbyn has got another suggestion of an experienced MP who has that respect across the House, let’s talk about it.”
Mr Kwarteng told Today he was “a great fan of Ken Clarke” but went on: “I’m 44 years old, he was an MP before I was born, he’s been around for a long time, he’s very experienced.”
He added: “Frankly, I don’t think that’s likely. I think we will continue as a government. I don’t think that the Labour Party has the numbers for a no-confidence vote, and what we have to focus on is delivering Brexit on October 31.”
* Deltapoll questioned 1,089 adults online from August 8-12.