As Spud puts it in the Trainspotting sequel: first there is an opportunity, and then there is a betrayal. Whoever leaked Labour focus group polling on the shadow cabinet’s rising stars to the Sunday Times – allegedly the party’s ousted elections chief, Jon Trickett – intended to capitalise fully on Jeremy Corbyn’s embarrassment last week over Brexit, the undermining of his authority by frontbench rebels and his woeful position in the latest opinion polls.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Tories cannot quite believe what is happening to the opposition. In the words of one of the prime minister’s closest allies: “I sometimes rub my eyes and think I’m dreaming.” The emotions that Labour’s collapse triggers in No 10 are more nuanced than you might think. Every government needs an opposition that it is at least minimally viable against which to define itself and with which to scare the electorate.
That said, the humiliation of Corbyn over article 50 has encouraged those Tories who believe in a fast and furious Brexit, exploiting Labour disarray to drive a deal through parliament well before the general election. Theresa May will not get all she wants from Brussels. But the voters will be left in no doubt that it is her deal, and nothing to do with the has-been party opposite.
On which subject, the most striking feature of the leaked testing by Labour’s pollster, BMG Research, was its focus. Under particular scrutiny were two prominent figures on…