Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to block Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP despite his readmission as a party member has reignited the civil war on the opposition benches.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said a “politicised” disciplinary process had resulted in Mr Corbyn’s readmittance to the party after his suspension – imposed in the wake of a damning report into the handling of anti-Semitism in Labour – was lifted on Tuesday.
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, an ally of Mr Corbyn, questioned whether Sir Keir would ever have been elected leader if members knew how he would act against his predecessor.
She said excluding Mr Corbyn was “wrong” and Sir Keir’s actions were “no way to unite the party”.
But prominent Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge suggested she would have left the party if Mr Corbyn had been readmitted to the PLP and Sir Keir’s actions “did a lot to restore his credibility”.
Dame Margaret told the BBC’s Today programme: “It was completely wrong for the party to let Corbyn back in under a process that was shown, again, to be broken and politically corrupted, and I think it was completely right of Keir Starmer to deny Jeremy Corbyn the whip.”
This turmoil appears to have dinted Labour’s rise in the polls. Labour has dropped 4 points in the last two weeks, losing its lead over the Conservatives, according to the latest Opinium poll. Labour currently has 38% of the vote, the Conservatives have 41%.
Keir Starmer’s approval rating has been similarly hit, falling from 41% two weeks ago to 36% now with his net rating going from +17% to +11%. This drop is partly driven by 2019 Labour voters, whose confidence in the party leader has fallen slightly following his suspension of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn. Boris Johnson’s ratings are largely static going from -14% to -12%.
Impact of the vaccine
Despite positive talk of a vaccine, this does not yet appear to have had much impact on public opinion on the government’s handling of Coronavirus. A third (32%) approve of the government’s handling of Coronavirus, unchanged from two weeks ago but their net rating has increased due to the percentage disapproving falling from 51% to 47%.
Two-thirds (66%) state they are likely to take a vaccine if it is available and the government recommended, compared to 24% who would not take it. However, if the vaccine is not free of charge, this changes to 58% who are likely to get it, and 31% who are unlikely.
While only 42% support making the vaccine compulsory, the majority (64%) support banning the posting of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories online. Roughly half of UK adults are worried that a vaccine might not be safe (51%), effective (47%) or might have side effects (57%).
Just over half (54%) of UK adults would prefer Covid-19 restrictions to be in place over Christmas if it means that fewer restrictions will be required in January. A third (33%) would rather see restrictions lifted over Christmas even if it means stricter restrictions in the New Year. The majority (66%) do, however, expect restrictions to have ended before Christmas.
Indifference (28%) and delight (27%) are the most common reactions to Dominic Cummings’ resignation at the end of last week, with 34% saying the government would have been better run if he had resigned in May vs. 10% saying it would have been run worse and 40% saying it would be about the same.
EU trade deal
In Brexit-related matters, 45% expect the UK to leave the EU transition period without a trade deal, while 18% think a deal is likely by then. Among those expecting No Deal, 53% most blame the UK government or Boris Johnson, whereas 33% most blame the EU or Michel Barnier
Adam Drummond, Head of Political Polling, comments: “If you squint really hard it’s possible to see the faintest outline of a story on both sides. For the government, the tiniest of vaccine boosts with the Conservatives inching back into the lead while the percentage disapproving of the government’s handling of the pandemic has dropped slightly, leading to an increase in their approval figures.
“For Labour, the impact of another round of news stories involving the words ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ may have been to lower the party’s vote share and Keir Starmer’s ratings. While we can’t tell if this is down to people being annoyed that Starmer withdrew the whip from his predecessor or people annoyed that Labour readmitted Corbyn in the first place, the more likely impact is that the story simply reminds voters that Labour hasn’t got its house in order yet.”