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Jeremy Corbyn does not look like next prime minister - poll

Published 19/09/2015

Nearly three in four people do not think Jeremy Corbyn looks like he will take the keys to No 10, according to research for The Independent
Nearly three in four people do not think Jeremy Corbyn looks like he will take the keys to No 10, according to research for The Independent

Voters overwhelmingly do not believe Jeremy Corbyn looks like Britain's next prime minister and a significant number of Labour supporters are ready to turn their back on the party, according to a poll.

Nearly three in four people do not think the Opposition leader looks like he will take the keys to No 10, according to research for The Independent.

Some 37% of Labour supporters at the last election are now less likely to back the party in 2020 with one in five considering voting Conservative, the OBR survey of 2,000 voters found.

It comes as Mr Corbyn was criticised for appointing a peer to his frontbench who admitted putting lives in danger after deliberately starting a fire at a hotel.

Mike Watson, who pleaded guilty to a charge of wilful fire-raising when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in September 2005. was given a job in the shadow education team.

The move was branded as "bizarre" by the SNP, which claimed it was proof Mr Corbyn was "scrambling around" to find people to fill the frontbench roles.

Lord Watson admitted setting fire to a curtain when he attended the glitzy Scottish Politician of the Year awards at Edinburgh's 17th-century Prestonfield House Hotel.

The flames destroyed a curtain and burned the curtain pole as smoke spread up over the walls and ceiling before staff managed to extinguish the blaze without fire crews being called.

An SNP spokesman said: "This is a bizarre appointment; it reflects how Jeremy Corbyn seems to be scrambling around for people to work with, which in turn is further proof of the deep divisions within the Labour Party."

But Labour defended the move, insisting the peer had now been rehabilitated.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Lord Watson was readmitted to the Labour Party in 2012 and following his rehabilitation it is right he should be allowed to play a full part in public life."

Lord Watson was jailed by the sheriff for 16 months for his ''deliberate and dangerous'' actions.

Around 400 guests - including Scots peers and parliamentarians from Holyrood, Westminster and Europe, political journalists and lobbyists - had attended the event but most had already left the party when the fire broke out in the ground-floor reception.

Police were called when astonished hotel staff viewed the security camera recording and spotted a kilted figure stooping close to the base of the curtain, which was ablaze moments later.

The peer ''categorically'' denied any wrongdoing but in court changed his plea to guilty.

The appointment was part of the finalised team put together by Mr Corbyn following his victory last weekend.

Former top prosecutor Keir Starmer, tipped as a future leader, joins the shadow home affairs team while Emily Thornberry returns to the frontbench less than a year after being forced to quit as shadow attorney general in a row over snobbery.

The peer behind the Labour leadership election reforms that gave thousands of supporters a vote for £3 has also been given a job.

Lord Collins will serve as a party whip and a member of the international development team in the new leader's finalised list of appointments.

The list of shadow ministers includes a number of jobs for the 2015 intake as well as MPs that were considered on the fringes of the party under previous leaders.

Mr Corbyn has also appointed some of the MPs that helped him make it on to the ballot paper, including Louise Haigh, Labour's youngest MP at 28, who joins the Cabinet Office team, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, who becomes a shadow Treasury minister.

The shadow Treasury team also includes Richard Burgon, who defied convention when being sworn in as an MP to declare that he believes the head of state should be elected.

Mr Corbyn's spokesman said: "Labour's frontbench is inclusive across the party. It also includes MPs from the recent intake and is a clear commitment to the future of the party."

New shadow minister for preventing abuse Sarah Champion said colleagues have been left having to second guess Mr Corbyn because of the speed of events and his lack of a front-bench profile.

Ms Champion told the Yorkshire Post: "If you think about it, he made appointments on Saturday and people were doing interviews within hours, so people were trying to second guess him."

The Rotherham MP, who was one of the 35 who nominated Mr Corbyn for the leadership, told the paper the new leader has been so busy she still has not met him.

She said: " If he had been a shadow secretary of state we would know his style. It's understandable that people are nervous because change is scary but we do need to see what's going to happen going forward and that's the feeling."

Ms Champion said the diverse range of shadow cabinet views evident this week do not look good but Mr Corbyn needed to be given a "a bit of grace".

"If it was like this in six months time I would be extremely worried," she said.

Mr Corbyn today pulled out of his appearance as guest speaker at a Stop the War coalition meeting, as the pressure of his new role took its toll.

The new Labour leader, whose term as chairman of the anti-war campaign group ends today, was due to attend the annual general meeting in central London.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said he is still "very committed" to the group but was unable to attend because of his "busy diary".

He said: "His diary is now obviously very busy and today he is preparing for Labour Party conference.

"He has made a clear commitment that he will find time to attend an event with Stop The War later in the future. He is still very much committed."

A statement from Mr Corbyn is due to be read out at the meeting in his absence.

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