Labour denies leaked poll is linked to search for Corbyn's successor

Labour has denied that a poll conducted in the north of England to test the appeal of frontbenchers was about finding Jeremy Corbyn’s successor.

The Sunday Times obtained a leaked copy of internal party polling that used a focus group testing voters’ reactions to shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.

The pair are regarded as rising stars of the 2015 intake of MPs from the left of the party, and Long-Bailey was promoted in last week’s reshuffle, after four shadow ministers resigned over Corbyn’s stance on Brexit.

According to the Sunday Times, the focus group responses to Rayner were “overwhelmingly negative”.

The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne was judged by the group to be “not likeable”, a “bit charity shop-looking” and “weird”, with one participant suggesting voters would not take her seriously, the newspaper reported.

Long-Bailey, a former lawyer and the MP for Salford and Eccles, was viewed more favourably with the group describing her as “passionate”, “genuine”, “sincere” and “very smart”, although some saw her as “aggressive” and “rough”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, denied that the party was vetting potential leadership successors.

“I only saw this story last night,” he said. “People tell me that isn’t the case, it wasn’t road-testing leadership candidates. There was a range of shadow cabinet members that…

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