Briefing – Corbyn’s big announcement (and what will determine its success)

Yesterday was a manic Monday with lots happening, including a speech from the Prime Minister on Brexit and mental health.

There were waves in Northern Ireland after Deputy FM Martin McGuinness resigned, which seems likely to bring down the Stormont government and lead to an election in the coming months. For those interested in the detail of how that might go, this periscope session from Bill White and Basil McCrea at LucidTalk in Belfast is worth watching.

On the other side of the Irish sea, we got two voting intention polls, with ICM showing the Conservatives 14 points ahead across GB, unchanged from December, and YouGov putting Labour 5 points ahead in Wales. As I wrote in the poll alert last night, the swing away from Labour is very similar in England and Wales (it’s bigger in Scotland).

These numbers are pretty much in line with other recent polling, which even the left of Labour is beginning to get concerned about. Jeremy Corbyn’s rebranding as a left wing populist is certainly something that will be very interesting to watch. Keiran Pedley, who isn’t generally too optimistic about Labour’s prospects under its current leader, thinks it “might just work“.

The first big announcement since the change of tack concerned Brexit, with Corbyn saying Labour were “no longer wedded to freedom of movement”, though still support single market access.

What that depends on is the balance of two numbers. Labour felt (correctly, I think) that it needed to pick a side on immigration to reduce the risk of a “Scotland” type situation arising in its English and Welsh heartlands. Remainers will hate this and some will quit, Leavers will like and some that would otherwise have left will stay (and some might even return) and the question is which of these effects is greater.

Since the Blair years Labour’s vote has become increasingly metropolitan, so the risks are clear. It is likely that to maintain Labour’s current level of support, it will need to win back some of the lost Leave voters.

The timing is good, though, ahead of the Copeland by-election which could be a few weeks away, or could be in May – the decision doesn’t seem to have been taken yet.

Also on Brexit-related matters, there’s an interesting piece from Guy Goodwin at NatCen about attitudes to international students – interestingly, most of the public doesn’t regard them as migrants at all.

Now, let’s see how today pans out…

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