Labour are 18 points behind the Tories according to the Guardian/ICM survey produced on the eve of Corbyn’s launch of Labour’s campaign for the May Council and mayoral elections. Labour could lose as many as 125 councillors across England, Scotland and Wales. Particularly damaging in Scotland where Glasgow Council is likely to fall to the SNP.
The Tories and the Lib Dems are expected to pick up 100 seats each across all the elections. A likely collapse of the UKIP vote, particularly in the south is likely to benefit the Tories. Meanwhile the metropolitan mayoral elections in the West Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool, and the Manchester Gorton parliamentary by-election, are where Labour is likely to do best.
This is not a simple sign of disaffection amongst working class and Labour voters for Jeremy Corbyn, and neither is this decline solely the fault of a hostile media. McDonnell is right to say that the media does not portray Labour policies accurately; if even fairly moderate and limited reforms are not being reported accurately then imagine what the press would be doing if Labour had a far more radical approach. Media hostility to socialists and socialist ideas should be welcomed as a sign you are attacking the right people!
The British media is owned by a tiny clique of the ultra wealthy. Relying on this media to give you a fair hearing is misguided and looks like a way of deflecting from a lack of clarity that is currently coming from the Labour leadership. McDonnell is right that the Party is divided. It is clearly the agenda of the right of the party to undermine Corbyn, and bad election results are the easiest way to run down confidence in his leadership.
However McDonnell believes that the party is united on Brexit. Whilst this may substantively be the case, the problem with this example is that they effectively allowing Theresa May to get away with a hard Brexit.
Corbyn is right to highlight the vast cuts being made by the Government and to welcome those councils that endorse the Ethical Care Charter and have sought to improve pay and training for care workers. However this completely fails to recognise the significance that these cuts are being implemented by Labour Councils who are now engaged in some serious industrial battles with their own workers.
Both Durham and Derby councils go into these elections in the midst of fights with their own teaching assistants! In both instances Labour councils are attacking a low paid and largely female workforce. Such a contradiction needs to be expressly condemned by Corbyn. His failure to call on councillors to resist making cuts is another reason why his leadership appears weak in the face of the thousands that voted for him as leader.
Within the reasonable number of members leaving, which undoubtedly includes some on the right who believe the current left wing surge won’t be easy to defeat, there are those who have left not because they are disappointed in Corbyn but in the policies and actions of Labour in local government.