Jeremy Corbyn could enjoy a late surge in support from ex-UKIP voters, the latest HuffPost UK-Edelman general election focus group has found.
Former supporters of Nigel Farage in Folkestone, Kent, said they felt ‘let down’ by his decision to stand down immediately after the EU referendum and none of them plan to back UKIP at the polling station next week.
In a surprising shift, half of one group said they would now consider voting Labour, describing Corbyn as ‘down to earth’, but many were still concerned by his failure to sing the national anthem at a Battle of Britain memorial service in 2015.
Sue, a healthcare worker and mum-of-two, said: “I like him a lot, because he has been saying the same thing for 30 years. There are no surprises with him.”
Customer service agent Kim said: “He has stepped up recently. I have been seeing him on the news most mornings. There are pictures of him out round the town, all over the place.”
Julia, a retired nurse, said she planned to vote Conservative but said the Labour leader was ‘being true to himself’.
“He’s unfortunate because he doesn’t have the support of his colleagues,” she added.
The majority of the two groups, made up of six men and nine women aged between 35 and 74 and commissioned by the New Economics Foundation think tank, said they would probably back Theresa May. Those who would consider voting Labour said they were not 100% sure and four were still undecided.
Kim said she recently sat down to read the main parties’ manifestos to learn more about their policies.
“The Tory manifesto bored me to tears,” she added.
“The Labour one was clear, you could read it, it had pictures. We just need simple information.”
David, an electrician who commutes to London every day, said he would consider backing Corbyn because he had seen him on the news more in recent weeks.
“I would consider it,” he said. “I haven’t thought about it properly yet because it is difficult to follow everything when you are working. But I could still change my mind.”
Members of the groups who were against Corbyn described him as ‘useless’, ‘a waste of time’ and ‘a snake’.
When asked to write down the first word that came into her head when she thought of the Labour leader, Emma, who works as a cook in a residential home, said: “I have no words for that man.”
Folkestone and Hythe has been a Tory-held seat since 1950, currently represented by Damian Collins, who succeeded former Conservative leader Michael Howard. Labour is consistently pushed into third place, by the Lib Dems in 2010 and UKIP in 2015.
When asked how they felt about UKIP now, both groups said the party still represented ‘freedom’ but thought the Brexit process had stalled.
Nick, a construction worker, said: “Nigel Farage was a people person. He got us Brexit.”
Louise, a 40-year-old mum-of-three, said she voted Leave in the referendum but wished she had done the opposite.
“I voted because he said he would put more money into the NHS. He lied. That’s not come around has it, because now he’s hopped off to America.”
Retired grandmother Linda also said she ‘gone right off UKIP’ because ‘the man I voted for who was going to do all this and that has left’.
Both groups raised concerns about the impact of immigration on housing, schools and healthcare facilities in their area and said they were conscious of having a lack of control over their own lives.
Louise said: “The government controls where people are living. Controls whether you can smoke, where you can smoke. And I feel frustrated about that.”
Stacey, who works at a water company and has two young children, said she pays £900 every month for her private rented home.
“I will never be able to buy my own house, because all of my money is going on rent,” she added.
“Once you are stuck in that rut, you have got no choice. I feel trapped, but there is nothing I can do.”
Nick, who has a 10-year-old daughter, said: “You are trapped. If you don’t pay rent, you’re out. You can go to the council but then they ask how you became homeless. If you made yourself homeless, then that’s it.”
Marc Stears, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation, said the responses of participants shows a deep divide remains between politicians and voters.
He added: “Even when there is a clearer choice on offer than perhaps for many years, many voters still report that politicians have no real concern for them. Any incoming government will have to tackle this problem.
“Rebuilding the relationship between politicians and the people will be a long, slow business and it can only work if politicians of whichever party are willing to share real power with the people of the country.”
HuffPost UK is looking at voters’ priorities outside the hubbub of the election campaign trail and what they want beyond March 29, 2019, not just June 8, 2017. Beyond Brexit leaves the bubble of Westminster and London talk to Britons left out of the conversation on the subjects they really care about, like housing, integration, social care, school funding and air quality.
NOTE: These focus groups was made up of people aged 35-74 from social grade BC1 and C2D who previously voted UKIP and are likely to vote on June 8. It was conducted on Thursday 1 June.