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Labour leader may get late support from ex-UKIP backers: Study

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses a campaign rally in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, on June 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A new study has found that British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn may benefit from a late boost from disenchanted former backers of far-right UKIP Party in the upcoming election.

The latest HuffPost UK-Edelman general election focus group survey released on Saturday indicated that former supporters of UKIP leader Nigel Farage felt “let down” by his decision to stand down immediately after the EU referendum and none of them intend to back the ultra-right party at the ballot box later this week.

This is while local electoral experts had previously predicted that most of those who have recently voted for UKIP would vote for the ruling Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Theresa May due to her apparent commitment to Brexit as well as her campaign vow to reduce immigration.

In a surprising shift, however, the study found that half of one of the focus groups stated that they would now consider backing Labour, describing Corbyn as "down to earth," as many were still concerned about his failure to sing the national anthem at a Battle of Britain memorial service in 2015.

The majority of the two groups -- made up of six men and nine women aged between 35 and 74 and commissioned by the New Economics Foundation think tank -- said they would probably back May.  

However, those who said they would consider voting for Corbyn further noted that they were not 100 percent sure and four of them remained undecided. 

While Corbyn has repeatedly refused to set a target for immigration, the Labour leader has tried to clarify the party's position on Brexit throughout the election campaign after an overwhelming majority of Labour lawmakers backed remaining in the EU.

In a recent BBC interview  Corbyn said, "Can I make it clear: Yes, we accept the result of the referendum, Britain is leaving the European Union and we will negotiate a tariff-free trade access to the European market.”

"That is essential for our manufacturing industry, essential for that trade and our future,” he added. "We will also make sure that we protect those conditions we have achieved through Europe, such as the working time directive and issues like that.”

He further emphasized, "We will also guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain here."

Meanwhile, UKIP’s fortunes have plunged in the polls since the Brexit vote, with many now viewing it as a party without a purpose. It finished third in terms of the popular vote in the 2015 general election, but only ended up with one MP under the first-past-the-post system.

The party was also plagued by in-fighting in the wake of Farage's resignation and the subsequent chaotic leadership contest while its only parliament member, Douglas Carswell, quit the party to become an independent.

Current polls indicate that UKIP is highly unlikely to win even a single seat on the June 8 election.

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