"If Labour has a real disaster, pro-Corbyn MPs will hold on to more than three quarters of their representation, while the larger Corbyn-sceptic group will be cut in half."by Alex Dean / May 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
The phenomenon of party leaders stepping down after a defeat is a relatively new one. Robert Peel lost in 1835, hung on and had another—successful—crack in 1841. William Gladstone clung on through two defeats, and ended up being PM three times, finally throwing in the towel in 1886. In the 20th century, Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill both stuck around after election day humblings. More recently, Neil Kinnock stood his ground after a routing in 1987, though he never made it to No 10.
It is difficult to imagine any normal leader, at least from one of the two main parties, doing this now. Resigning post-defeat has become standard practice. Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all backed off after humiliation at the polls.
Jeremy Corbyn, though, is not a normal politician. The evidence suggests that Labour will be pummelled on 8th June: according to ICM, the party is 19 points behind the Tories. But there are good reasons to think that however bad the result, Corbyn will break with recent precedent and cling on to power. The first such reason, which I explored in a recent blog, concerns the so-called “McDonnell amendment.” The second reason—which is related to the first—I want to explore here.
First, some background. In September, Labour’s National Executive Committee will vote on an amendment to the party’s constitution: currently, 15 per cent of MPs must nominate a leadership candidate for them to make the ballot paper; this would change the number to 5 per cent. There is incentive for Corbyn to wait for this amendment to pass before stepping aside. His allies will find it easier to meet the 5 per cent threshold, and so if he wants a successor from his wing of the party, delaying until September makes sense.