Why Boris Johnson's Party Leads Opinion Polls Ahead Of U.K. Elections
NOEL KING, HOST:
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had a hard time of it lately. He suspended Parliament; then the Supreme Court ruled that was illegal. He lost his majority in Parliament. He has not won a single vote in Parliament, but, still, his Conservative Party is well ahead in the polls with an election there coming up. NPR's Frank Langfitt explains what's going on.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: One big reason Johnson remains resilient is his competition. Polls show Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Labour, the main opposition party, is even less popular than the prime minister. A recent poll by the firm YouGov found nearly 60% of voters said Corbyn should resign as the Labour Party leader. Joe Twyman is director of Deltapoll, a survey research firm.
JOE TWYMAN: In a lot of cases, he is seen as out of touch. He is seen as not very effective. He's not seen as a strong leader.
LANGFITT: Many analysts think Corbyn hurt himself even more last week at the Labour Party convention where he refused to take a side on the biggest dilemma facing the country in decades - Brexit. Here's how Corbyn laid out his policy to the party faithful.
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JEREMY CORBYN: Labour will end the Brexit crisis by taking the decision back to the people with a choice of credible leave alongside remain. That's not complicated...
LANGFITT: What Corbyn means is this - the Labour Party would negotiate a new Brexit deal, then hold another referendum on the deal or staying in the European Union while remaining neutral on the vote.
TWYMAN: That has simply not washed with the electorate.
LANGFITT: Again, Joe Twyman of Deltapoll.
TWYMAN: He has come across as indecisive or, even worse, he's come across as trying to obfuscate the situation.
LANGFITT: Some say the middle of the road is the right path for a party and a country still split on Brexit. But even some Labour members struggle to articulate the party's position. I bumped into party member David Irvine (ph) just after the convention endorsed Corbyn's Brexit policy.
Give me a slogan for what just happened here that you can sell on the doorstep.
DAVID IRVINE: Yeah, I mean, I'm silenced immediately by that. We would say, vote Labour - vote Labour, only we can put an end to confusion in the country. It's not quite a slogan.
LANGFITT: Labour faces other challenges at the ballot box. Corbyn is an avowed socialist who wants to nationalize industries, establish a 32-hour workweek and abolish private schools.
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CORBYN: The coming election will be a once-in-a-generation chance for real change, a chance to kick out Boris Johnson's government of the privileged few and put wealth and power in the hands of the many.
LANGFITT: Like Bernie Sanders, Corbyn inspires intense loyalty. Calum Paramor joined the party in 2015 with an influx of young, idealistic members. Paramor, an English teacher, loves Corbyn's bold policies but is concerned about how he'll do with the broader electorate.
CALUM PARAMOR: It's something that worries me a lot. It's the biggest thing to overcome, and Jeremy Corbyn's polling figures, at the moment, are very low.
LANGFITT: Labour itself has been split over Corbyn. The party's members of Parliament tried to oust him in 2016, and Joe Twyman of Deltapoll says it's too late to switch leaders.
TWYMAN: I think they are effectively stuck now with the hands they have been dealt. But I think longer term, that has to be something that they need to consider.
LANGFITT: So from a purely theoretical perspective, should they switch leaders?
TWYMAN: I think if they could have their time again, I imagine that many people in Labour would think that a different leader would improve their position.
LANGFITT: By nearly all accounts, the Conservative Party has wildly mismanaged Brexit over the past three years. But in part because of Corbyn, Boris Johnson and his party remain the favorite to win an election later this fall. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London.
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