Isabel Hardman

Exclusive: Why the Tories feel so spooked by Jeremy Corbyn

Exclusive: Why the Tories feel so spooked by Jeremy Corbyn
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One of the things that the Tory conference taught us was quite how worried the party is about Labour. There was almost a Mean Girls-style obsession with talking about Jeremy Corbyn in speeches on the stage, including Theresa May’s own address at the end of conference, where she returned to the problems with the Labour Party a number of times.

The Tories are right to be worried, and not just as a result of last year’s snap election. I understand that the reason Labour has decided to talk so much about the way capitalism has left certain voters behind is that recent polling carried out by the party found it had strong resonance with groups of voters who feel pessimistic about the future of the country. Just over half (52 per cent) of respondents believed things were getting worse in Britain, with only 19 per cent saying things were getting better. The Tories have presumably picked up similar messages, which is why Theresa May themed her speech around ‘Our Future Is In Our Hands’ and argued that Britain’s best days are ahead of it.

Worries about the cost of living and the services provided by local councils also loomed large, with those who had voted for Labour, Tories and Lib Dem all expressing concerns about the cost of energy bills in particular. Once again, the Tories are aware of this, hence May’s mention of the energy price cap in her speech yesterday.

Labour thinks that its polling shows voters see the Tories as a party that stands up for the rich and powerful. This has long been the challenge for the Conservatives under any leader, but what is more worrying for May is that Jeremy Corbyn now seems to be enjoying some success in selling his economic narrative. In the past, the Tories had great fun mocking Labour as economic ‘arsonists’. Now, they have to work out how to fight the party’s appeal to voters who are fed up.