The 360: Why is Jeremy Corbyn so unpopular with so many voters?

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

Yahoo News UK has published a similar ‘360’ on Boris Johnson: ‘Why do so many people not trust Boris Johnson?

What’s happening?

Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most divisive politicians in the country. The Labour leader is adored by swathes of the hundreds of thousands that make up the party membership - and yet is considered, according to one recent poll at least, the most unpopular opposition party leader of the past 45 years.

Mr Corbyn did well to thwart a Tory majority government in the 2017 election and his supporters are hoping he can do even better this week. But with an anti-Semitism crisis seeing MPs leave the party, and a radical economic plan that would fundamentally re-shape the future of Britain, for many, there are question marks over his suitability to take on the highest job in politics.

Why there’s debate

Mr Corbyn’s problems within the Labour Party itself have dogged him since he was elected leader in 2015. His left-wing views were at odds with the so-called ‘moderates’ of the party and he was subject to a leadership challenge in 2016 – which he won. When it came to the 2017 general election, the Tories highlighted his previous comments on Israel, the IRA and Nato. However, he pulled off a surprise result – increasing Labour’s seats in Parliament and denying Theresa May a majority.

Since then, the issue of anti-Semitism within Labour has grown ever more acute. Jewish MPs including Luciana Berger felt they could no longer stay in the party due to what they say is Mr Corbyn’s failure to deal with the crisis. Most notably, the chief rabbi said Mr Corbyn was not fit to be prime minister.

At a time when the Conservative Party has experienced such prolonged disunity over Brexit, Mr Corbyn’s critics say his failure to capitalise in the polls highlights his lack of broad electoral support.

On the other hand, his supporters say the mainstream media - and Mr Corbyn’s critics within his own party - have been at the forefront of an attack campaign engineered to discredit him. For example, they point to his lifelong anti-racist campaigning as evidence that he cannot be anti-Semitic.

Perhaps the single biggest reason Mr Corbyn continues to draw support is that he talks with authority about issues that voters actually care about. While the Conservative Party has been paralysed by Brexit, Mr Corbyn has continued to reference health, housing, education and the environment - issues where the Conservatives have struggled to make an impact in recent years.

What’s next?

Labour is being investigated by the Equality and Human Right Commission over the allegations of anti-Semitism, with the report expected sometime in 2020. Should Mr Corbyn win the election, he may face more questions over his leadership of the party, which could threaten his premiership.

Labour is trailing the Tories (one poll last month showed just one in four people say he is ready to become PM) but if Mr Johnson is unable to deliver a majority, the UK could have a minority government led by Mr Corbyn in time for Christmas. Another electoral defeat would surely make his position as Labour leader untenable - though his supporters supporters may urge him to stay on or lead the way to find another leader who shares his left-wing ideals.

Perspectives

Jeremy Corbyn caused Labour’s anti-Semitism problem

“Part of the problem… is that Corbyn as his co-conspirators essentially see accusations of anti-Semitism as a factional issue, levelled by supposed Blairites, Brownites, and centrists against the party’s Corbynites. Anti-Semitism, by this logic, is not a genuine problem but rather a volley from the opposition that has to be countered. Out of this worldview there is no escape. If every charge of anti-Semitism is a lie, by definition there cannot be anti-Semitism within the party.” – Liam Hoare, Forward

His own MPs wanted to remove him as leader

“The majority of Corbyn’s parliamentary colleagues agree that he should not be prime minister. In 2016, they voted 172 to 40 against him in a vote of no confidence. But the exigencies of the parliamentary system mean that as long as they stay in the party, Labour MPs will be working toward a Prime Minister Corbyn at the next election.” – James Kirchick, The Washington Post

Corbyn’s radical stance would change Britain’s defence posture

“Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent. Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility. Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionised, with a more hostile stance towards Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.” – The Economist

The ‘far-right’ has tarnished Corbyn’s image to the public by misrepresenting him

“Three years of being falsely accused of being an IRA and Hamas sympathiser both in parliament and in print; being portrayed as a Dracula figure in the gutter press and made the focus of a contrived antisemitism scandal have left Corbyn – and for that matter other prominent people on the left – not just dehumanised, but a potential top target for every gammon, crank and right-wing buffoon in the land.” – Joe Glenton, The Independent

Corbyn is simply an inept leader

“Mr Corbyn’s enemies have failed to remove him, while his allies continue to stand by him, preferring to plough on with a man who is more cipher than leader, while hoping the Tories implode. Yet increasingly Mr Corbyn looks like a man who has been rumbled by the voters. His personal health may be unclear, but as for Labour’s political health – like a fish, it is rotting from the head.” – Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times

Corbyn is on the wrong side of history on the Brexit argument

“So far as his keenest supporters are concerned, Jeremy Corbyn has always been on the Right Side of History. From challenging Thatcherism, taking on apartheid, standing up against the Iraq War, to opposing austerity, Corbyn, they believe, has always been unafraid to embrace morally correct causes no matter how unpopular they were at the time. This is what distinguishes him from all previous leaders of the Labour party. That makes Corbyn’s recent announcement on Brexit all the more remarkable.” – Steven Fielding, The Spectator

Young people do not want orthodox ideas forced on them

“Corbyn, with his support for the environment and nuclear disarmament, might seem like exactly what today’s young people are looking for, but it is his strange generalisations that have led to their flight from Labour: from his insistence that people stop eating junk food – at last year’s British Kebab Awards, Corbyn touted the benefits of salad – to previous calls for restrictions on tobacco, it’s pretty clear that Labour insists on treating its members as young people who need a shove in the ideologically orthodox direction, which is exactly what young people do not want.” – Jacob Furedl, GQ

Corbyn’s policies are more popular than he is

The 70-year-old European-style socialist, who quotes Franklin D. Roosevelt and used to pedal his bicycle to Parliament, is one of Britain’s least popular politicians. Why? ‘People don’t think that Jeremy Corbyn has got the chops to do the job as prime minister,’ said Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. ‘People have images of their leaders, and they just don’t see Jeremy Corbyn as the kind of person who can do that job.’” – The Washington Post

The ‘nice guy’ image was lost after Andrew Neil interview

“At 10pm on 8 June 2017, when that exit poll came out, what became suddenly and embarrassingly clear is that precious few pundits had attached enough importance to how spectacularly a cool, cheerful and avuncular Jeremy Corbyn had aced the election campaign and how unprecedentedly badly Theresa May had ballsed it up. History never quite repeats itself. The outcome of this election may well surprise us too. But that particular narrative – the Corbyn-the-nice-guy one – is now officially dead.” – Tom Peck, Independent

Corbyn – not Johnson – is Britain’s Donald Trump

“Take away Brexit, and Johnson is a run-of-the-mill conservative whose policy agenda, instincts, and world view, as opposed to his personality, verge on the dull; a member and defender of the establishment whose wish is to climb atop it, not rip it down. Corbyn is the opposite: a populist who believes in the inherent corruption of the established order, at home and abroad; a man who sees conspiracy and injustice everywhere. Only one of these descriptions comes close to the U.S. president.” – Tom McTague, The Atlantic

Read more 360s:

Who can voters trust to sort out Brexit properly?

Who can voters trust to get it right on immigration?

Who can you trust to take care of the NHS?

Top pic: Getty

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