Don Brind argues against the Labour leader stepping down in favour of a unity candidate. Jeremy Corbyn must be ousted by the members if Labour’s credibility with the voters is to have any chance of being rescued. The idea of him standing down in favour of a unity candidate is understandable – but wrong.
The evidence from the polling and from local reports is that his support is eroding fast. I am convinced that he can and will be beaten in a new leadership election. In addition, unlike in 2015, people paying £3 to become registered supporters are doing do so to sack him rather than to back him.
What does that mean in practice? I believe appeals to him to stand down and “do the right thing” should be abandoned. Angela Eagle has the backers for a leadership challenge. She should launch it without delay. She should not get a clear run. Any other MP who can get the 38 backers needed to enter the contest should do so.
This approach has a number of key advantages.
- It avoids a “coronation” — Gordon Brown’s leadership would have been strengthened if in 2007 he had been tested in hustings and debates.
- It will strike down any “we wuz robbed” complaint from Momentum and allied Corbyn supporters.
- It will help equip the new leader to take on the Tories.
The campaign will give the candidates the chance to develop their skills and their profile. Whoever emerges will be much stronger in taking on the Tory victor. If that person is Theresa May there is no chance of the new Labour leader matching her for profile and experience. But the hustings, debates will give and media exposure will narrow the gap. It would obviously make sense for Labour’s timetable to extend beyond the Tory declaration so we know who our leader will be up against.
Why am I so confident that Corbyn will lose the election?
Firstly there are the arguments.
The election will be an educational process. It will be made clear to members and supporters that there is no way they can put Humpty back together again. Re-electing Corbyn will not resolve the crisis at Westminster. The talented people who joined the “big tent” as shadow ministers and who resigned this week cannot be shoe horned back onto the front bench.
Although his supporters will make the most of the Chilcot report next week, unlike in 2015 Corbyn will be running on his own record. Labour have had some successes at Westminster in confronting the Tories. These have largely been down to members of the Shadow Cabinet, most whom have now deserted the leader.
The key argument against Corbyn will be that an unelectable leader means electoral defeats. But the price of failure is paid not by Labour members but by millions of families who need a Labour government to protect them from the Tories.
Then there are the numbers.
It is, of course, a matter of interpretation but I believe the YouGov poll reported on PB shows the tide is running strongly against Corbyn.
It is in line with reports from local Labour parties. One of the most interesting comes from Hackney North where, of course, the local MP is one of Corbyn’s most loyal supporters, Diane Abbott.
Abbott gave her report to the constituency party meeting on Thursday night. She spoke following a series of votes in which non-Corbynite delegates were elected to key party offices. Corbyn supporters had prepared a motion of support for him. After they had seen how the votes were going they decided not to take the risk.Momentum routinely threaten MPs opposed with Corbyn with de-selection. When she looks at her own backyard Abbott may caution that this is not a risk-free tactic.
Another set of numbers that ought to worry Corbyn is the membership of Momentum. This week it trumpeted a 27% increase in members within a couple of days. In raw numbers that was 1,700 newcomers who had swollen the national total to around 8,000. Compare that to the nearly 90,000 “three-quidders” who made up more than a third of his winning total last time round. Corbyn’s three rivals mustered less than 20,000 between them. There is already a drive to improve on that in the form of the website Saving Labour. I expect this to develop into a large scale campaign get people to help rescue Labour.
The pitch will be — If you want a genuine choice at the next General Election now is the time to help Labour recover and make sure you have that option.