Voters would overwhelmingly prefer the short-term disruption of a No Deal Brexit over the chaos of a Jeremy Corbyn Government – and that even applies to Labour supporters.
Exclusive new research has found that nearly half of voters – 48 per cent – would be happy for the UK to leave the EU without a deal if the alternative scenario was Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister, while just 35 per cent preferred to have the Labour leader in Downing Street.
Strikingly, the analysis of more than 8,000 voters’ intentions, conducted by former Conservative Deputy Chairman Lord Ashcroft, discovered that, among Mr Corbyn’s own voters who back Brexit, the figure was 57 per cent for No Deal, against 28 per cent who wanted to see their party leader in No 10.
One member of Lord Ashcroft’s focus group, quoted in his research, said: ‘A Corbyn Government would be worse [than No Deal]. I would actually be scared.’ Another said: ‘Boris is a whirlwind of chaos, he’s a bit like Trump, but Corbyn is a whole other level.’
The research finds that Boris Johnson maintains a commanding lead when people are asked about the best Prime Minister, winning by 43 per cent to Mr Corbyn’s 24 per cent. Mr Johnson even maintains his advantage among Brexit-backing Labour voters, by a margin of 42 per cent to 23 per cent.
Strikingly, the analysis of more than 8,000 voters’ intentions, conducted by former Conservative Deputy Chairman Lord Ashcroft, discovered that, among Mr Corbyn’s own voters who back Brexit, the figure was 57 per cent for No Deal, against 28 per cent who wanted to see their party leader in No 10
The findings are significant because the next General Election – now widely expected to be held by the end of the year – is likely to be heavily influenced by pro-Brexit Labour supporters who have been alienated by Mr Corbyn’s opaque policy on the EU.
Tory strategists hope that now Mr Corbyn has been persuaded to tack towards backing Remain in a new referendum – after nearly three years of sitting on the fence – Labour Brexiteers will be persuaded to switch sides, or at least stay at home on polling day rather than supporting Mr Corbyn or Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
As Lord Ashcroft writes in his accompanying article for The Mail on Sunday, printed on this page: ‘The next Election… will not be a single national battle but a series of local skirmishes with each party having to fight on more than one front.’
The findings are significant because the next General Election – now widely expected to be held by the end of the year – is likely to be heavily influenced by pro-Brexit Labour supporters who have been alienated by Mr Corbyn’s (pictured on Saturday) opaque policy on the EU
The main body of the Tory peer’s research was carried out before Tuesday’s bombshell Supreme Court ruling that Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament was illegal, but interviews carried out subsequently as part of the survey picked up fury over the decision among Brexit supporters.
One focus group participant accused the judges of having ‘made up a law and found Boris guilty of breaking it’, while another observed: ‘The people bringing these lawsuits have got money. It’s like they’ve got an extra vote somehow. They have their own interests and they’re not interested in us at all.
‘Your vote, my vote is meaningless because it can be undermined by people of influence’. Voters are split on what action the Prime Minister should take if he has not secured a deal by October 19 – the deadline by which MPs say he must have asked Brussels for a delay to Brexit.
The research finds that Boris Johnson (pictured with girlfriend Carrie Symonds in Manchester on Saturday) maintains a commanding lead when people are asked about the best Prime Minister
Some 38 per cent say he should obey and demand an extension; 32 per cent say he should defy the MPs by refusing to break the law; and 14 per cent say he should resign.
When voters are asked to define their favourite Brexit outcome, 51 per cent back leaving, compared to 39 per cent who want the UK to stay in the EU.
Out of the Leavers, 36 per cent want to leave on October 31 – with or without a deal – while 15 per cent are happy to delay beyond the end of next month as long as the country secures a good deal.
Brexit supporters dread a Corbyn government: a total of 38 per cent of all voters think he would introduce a second referendum, while 28 per cent think he would simply cancel Brexit.
Only four per cent think he would secure a good Brexit deal for the UK. There is wide agreement that the General Election, when it comes, will be determined by Brexit: 61 per cent say that the most important factor in deciding how they will vote will be ‘getting the right outcome on Brexit’.
A total of 8,075 adults were interviewed online between September 12 and 17.
LORD ASHCROFT: The public’s verdict on our political class? They waver between fury and contempt
On the face of it, the Government is in real trouble. The Supreme Court ruling against the Prime Minister follows a succession of parliamentary defeats, defections, expulsions and daily headlines about turmoil and chaos. But it is a good rule of thumb in politics that the noisier it gets, the more it pays to take a step back, a deep breath, and a good look at the bigger picture.
My latest research, published today, looks at the fundamentals: how voters have reacted to the drama not just of the past few weeks but the years since the EU referendum, and how this week’s events fit into the longer story.
For many people, and not just among those who backed Leave in the increasingly distant 2016 referendum, that story is one of frustration and failure – or, worse, deliberate actions to delay Brexit for as long as possible or stop it altogether.
That is the context in which many see the Supreme Court’s decision. Many of the Brexit supporters we spoke to were not so much angered as bemused by the ruling: ‘They seem to have made up a law and found Boris guilty of breaking it,’ as one put it. More telling, for them, is who brought the case in the first place. ‘The people bringing these lawsuits have got money,’ one of our focus group participants observed. ‘It’s like they’ve got an extra vote somehow. They have their own interests and they’re not interested in us at all. Your vote, my vote is meaningless because it can be undermined by people of influence.’
They seem to have made up a law and found Boris guilty of breaking it
Nor are they optimistic. While nearly eight in ten Conservative Leave voters agree with Boris that Brexit should happen at the end of October with or without a deal, only one in three think this is the most likely outcome. Nearly a quarter think we will end up remaining in the EU. This being the case, it is not surprising that among those currently leaning towards backing Nigel Farage, the most important attribute a party can have is not competence or even having the right priorities for the country, but that it does what it says it will do.
This shows the possible reward – but the potential peril – of the PM nailing his colours so firmly to the Brexit mast. So far, on that score, Boris gets credit for battling on through the furore to uphold the referendum verdict.
This comes not just from Tories, and some even told us they were surprised he had turned out to be so principled and determined. Six in ten Leave voters and most of those intending to vote Conservative say they would like to see him refuse to ask for an extension to Article 50 if no agreement is reached by October 19, despite the new legal mandate to do so.
He trounces Jeremy Corbyn when we ask who would make the best PM – in fact, Labour Leave voters prefer him to the prospect of their own leader entering No 10. And while many Tory Remainers are nervous about the idea of a No Deal Brexit, they would choose this over a Corbyn-led Labour government by a huge margin, as would voters as a whole, by 48 per cent to 35 per cent.
Thrilling though they may have been for constitutional scholars, then, the past few days have changed little in the Brexit debate. People on all sides feel just as strongly as they did before Lady Hale’s brooch became a national talking point. But the Election, when it comes, will be about more than whether and how we leave the EU.
Those bringing lawsuits have money – it’s like they’ve got an extra vote
‘Dealing with Brexit in the right way’ certainly tops the list when we ask what people think are the most important issues facing the country. But when we ask what matters most to them and their families, it falls to third, behind the cost of living and the NHS. It is worth remembering that 2017 started out as the Brexit Election, but ended up being about everything else: social care, nationalisation, the NHS – even fox hunting – and the characteristics of the two leaders.
There is also the perennial problem of the Conservative Party’s brand. At the last time round, many Labour voters simply could not bring themselves to vote for what they saw as the party of cuts however strongly they agreed with Theresa May that Brexit should mean Brexit. As my research finds, Tory-sceptic voters are taking Boris’s pledges of extra spending on health and the police with not just a pinch but a wheelbarrow of salt.
All of these ingredients will go into the next Election, which in turn will not be a single national battle but a series of local skirmishes with each party having to fight on more than one front. Boris must keep Tory Remainers on board while bringing back those tempted by the Brexit Party; Jo Swinson will see whether her Remain-in-all-circumstances position plays as well for the Lib Dems in the South West of England as it does in the South-West of London; and Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of deliberate ambiguity will be tested to the limit in places as culturally different as Brighton and Stoke. Finally, there is the question of the voters’ stamina. Many Leavers see the endless delays as a campaign to wear them down, and some admit it is working. ‘I find myself going from anger to apathy really quickly,’ one told us.
Though people hold strongly to their position and have their personal champions – whether Boris, Jo, Jeremy or Nigel – their view of the political class as a whole wavers between fury and contempt: many are torn not just between parties, but over whether to bother voting at all.
It is a wearying saga, and we haven’t reached the end of it yet.
Full details of Lord Ashcroft’s research can be found at LordAshcroftPolls.com