It is looking increasingly bad for Labour in the two by elections to be held on February 23rd, i.e. next Thursday. The Tories have a small but steady lead in Copeland, and barring a herculean ground campaign on the day, Labour are almost certain to lose. Corbyn and his inner circle seem to have all but acknowledged this. In Stoke, UKIP have a large lead – which is growing – but Labour might hang on just through the almost dependable awfulness of UKIP’s ground effort on the day mixed with UKIP’s other gaffes throughout the whole campaign, which are too numerous to even begin to summarise.
Given Labour could be about to lose two formerly safe seats on the same day, there has been a lot of speculation about Corbyn’s ability to survive such a setback. Some are saying that Corbyn would be forced to step down as leader if both Copeland and Stoke are defeats for Labour.
All I can say is: what world have you been living in for the past eighteen months if you think the Labour leader is in real trouble here? Jeremy Corbyn had 80% of his parliamentary party vote no confidence in him and he shrugged it off as insignificant. Yet pundits still believe that somewhere along the line Corbyn is going to start respecting the old rules of the game. He isn’t. The idea that Corbyn would feel that it was appropriate to vacate the leader’s office because of two by election defeats is ridiculous.
Could he be forced out? Let’s see, the right of Labour could try and challenge him again. But that would just result in another leadership contest in which Corbyn won. The left of the party could finally figure out that Corbyn is a massive vote loser, but even if they came to a consensus on that point, what could they realistically do about it? If they get rid of Corbyn they have no means of getting a hard left candidate onto the ballot. Until they get the McDonnell Clause ratified (meaning that only 5% as opposed to 15% of the PLP would be required to nominate a candidate), they are bound to Corbyn whether they like it not, the only other choice being a reversion to a more centrist leader. And given internal Labour politics, the McDonnell Clause is a long way from being enacted, if ever.
I’d be astounded beyond belief if Corbyn faces anything other than a slight wobble if Labour are double losers next Thursday. The right can’t really do anything and the left can’t really do anything either. The Labour Party are stuck with Corbyn for the foreseeable future.