Britain has not had a political leader who is a “no-brainer” to vote for since Tony Blair, HuffPost UK-Edelman’s latest focus group has revealed.
Male and female voters from a variety of backgrounds in Birmingham were asked for their views on Brexit, the election and the state of politics in general.
In a damning indictment of the performance of current politicians, when shown a clip of the former Labour leader - who has expressed an interest in returning to UK politics - the group agreed he was ‘a more effective communicator’ and ‘very relatable’.
Graham, a 42-year-old dad and railway customer service operative, said: “The last time there was a no-brainer for someone to vote for was the first time Blair came along. It was a no-brainer.
“He made a few bad decisions but he also did a lot of good things. That was a good time of life.
“There is no democracy at the moment because there is no effective opposition.”
He made the comments in response to Ben, 31, a maintenance manager, who said he made a conscious effort to engage in politics when he was 18.
“I don’t know if it’s just me, but since I’ve been voting... I’ve never gone ‘he’s great, he is’,” he said.
“It’s always been well ‘he’s a nutter and she’s barmy, but he seems slightly less barmy than her so I’ll just go with him’.”
Lisa, a mum who works part time in a school and admits she does not watch the news or pay much attention to politics, said Blair’s language “engaged” her.
Other members of the group, whose ages ranged from 30 to 58, said he was ‘the best Labour PM’, but most agreed his decision to go to war in Iraq was a bad one.
On Blair’s desire to return to politics, Derek, a football coach and grandad, said: “If he wants to get his hands dirty he should become an MP again and sort the Labour Party out.”
Strikingly, the members of the group who said they ordinarily vote Labour were wrestling with where to put their cross when they visit the ballot box next month.
Current leader Jeremy Corbyn was universally disliked: “He doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
And in a blow to the party’s hopes of engaging more young people: “How do you expect an 18-year-old to switch on and watch him ramble on?”
When asked to name other politicians they liked, cleaning supervisor Peggy -who has never voted Labour - said she would have liked to see Chuka Umunna as party leader, and most of the group had a lot of time for Ed Balls. The former shadow chancellor endeared himself to them while taking part in BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Mum Alex, a substance misuse practitioner, said: “He came across as a really genuine guy who was up for a bit of a laugh. It made him relatable to younger people.”
Other names rattled off included Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, Brexit minister David Davis (’he would make a good leader’) and Boris Johnson (’because he’s just like a cartoon character’).
Diane Abbott had name recognition for all the wrong reasons after her disastrous LBC interview on Labour’s new policing policy earlier this week, described as ‘a clown’ by one group member.
“I felt a bit sorry for her,” said Alex, 30.
“It was embarrassing, it looked really embarrassing.”
Strikingly, of all the participants who voted Leave, none said Brexit was a particularly big issue for them while voting in the general election.
Most were more concerned about local services, the state of the NHS (’it’s really difficult for people to get GP appointments now’) and getting their bins emptied.
And despite living near to Birmingham airport, air pollution was not a pressing concern for anyone.
“There are much bigger things to worry about,” said Ben, who has three young children.
NOTE: The focus groups are part of HuffPost UK’s ‘Beyond Brexit’ series, which aims to look at the kind of Britain voters want to see once the UK quits the EU in 2019. Going beyond the usual political bubble, it will cover the issues obscured by both the noise of the general election and the narrow Brexit debate.
Two focus groups were recruited. Each contained eight people - some who ordinarily vote Labour, some who vote Conservative and some floating voters. One group had all voted Leave in the EU referendum, while the second group all voted Remain. Participants were 30-58, worked full or part time and several had children at home.