Shortly after being re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester on 6 May, Labour politician Andy Burnham claimed the Labour Party would not have lost as many Red Wall seats to the Conservatives if he had won the party’s 2015 leadership race instead of Jeremy Corbyn. He also expressed that he would be willing to run for the leadership again if he had widespread support.
In the latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we find potential for a third Burnham leadership bid among voters: a plurality of the British public thinks the Labour Party needs a new leader, and though many are unsure as to who should succeed Starmer, Andy Burnham appears to be voters’ preferred replacement for Keir Starmer.
In the aftermath of Labour’s recent electoral losses, 37% of the public think the Labour Party should change its leader now, compared to 28% who think it should not. Interestingly, we observe only a marginal difference between the proportion of 2019 Conservative voters (42%) and 2019 Labour voters (40%) who think the party should change its leader now. At the same time, more than a third (35%) of respondents overall say they don’t know whether the Labour Party should change its leader now, indicating significant levels of uncertainty.
Support for replacing Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party remains consistent when asked with a different time frame in mind: 37% of respondents say they would support Keir Starmer being replaced as Leader of the Labour Party before the next General Election in 2024, and 38% say they would neither support nor oppose such a leadership change. At 49%, almost half of 2019 Labour voters would support replacing Keir Starmer ahead of the next General Election, possibly indicating that they see Starmer as an electoral liability. Only 15% of respondents would oppose Keir Starmer being replaced as Leader ahead of the next General Election, including just 16% of 2019 Labour voters.
Potentially explaining this support for replacing Keir Starmer as Leader, our research finds that 57% of respondents do not think that the Labour Party under Keir Starmer is capable of winning the next General Election in 2024. While it is perhaps unsurprising that 77% of 2019 Conservative voters adopt this view, it is noteworthy that 36% of 2019 Labour voters find the Labour Party under Starmer not capable of winning the next General Election. Conversely, a somewhat higher proportion (42%) of 2019 Labour voters do think the Labour Party under Keir Starmer is capable of winning the next General Election, pointing towards internal divisions on Keir Starmer’s leadership within the Labour Party’s voter base.
If Keir Starmer were to be replaced as Leader of the Labour Party, almost half (47%) of voters are unsure as to whom they would prefer as his replacement—including 48% of 2019 Conservative voters and 36% of 2019 Labour voters. Yet, at 22%, those who do have a preference are most likely to say they would prefer current Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham as the next leader of the Labour Party—including 25% of both 2019 Labour and 2019 Conservative voters. Among the other candidates suggested in our poll, no other Labour politician scored above 5%.
This preference for Andy Burnham to succeed Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party could be a function of familiarity. Andy Burnham is a relatively well-known figure, with 57% of respondents to a 19 May poll knowing ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about him.
At a more general level, the question of leadership is a crucial one to address for any party—in a recent poll, we found that two-thirds (68%) of the public say that when voting in a General Election, what they think of the national leaders of the various parties running in their constituency is most important to them, compared to 32% who care more about their opinion of the local candidate running in their constituency. These results thus support the assumption that public perceptions of a party’s leader are key in determining that party’s electoral fate.
Overall, our research shows that pluralities of voters would support replacing Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party, either now or at another point in time ahead of the next General Election in 2024. While almost half of respondents are unsure as to whom they would prefer to see succeed Starmer as leader, the current Mayor of Greater Manchester is the favourite among those who do have a preference—indicating that the third time might just be the charm were Andy Burnham to launch another Labour Party leadership bid.