All eyes on Labour as party dithers on Corbyn leadership

His leadership is widely viewed as unsustainable and recipe for electoral disaster

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn:  80 per cent of Labour MPs have expressed no confidence in his and are convinced that he cannot lead the party to victory in the next election. Photograph:  Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: 80 per cent of Labour MPs have expressed no confidence in his and are convinced that he cannot lead the party to victory in the next election. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

 

In normal times, Andrea Leadsom’s suggestion that Theresa May, her rival for the Conservative leadership, was less qualified because she was childless would have been the most explosive political story in Britain this weekend. Leadsom’s misjudgment could yet prove fatal. But for now, all eyes in Westminster are on Labour.

The media are broadly aligned with Labour MPs in viewing Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as unsustainable and a recipe for electoral disaster.

Increased vote

Labour MPs, 80 per cent of whom have expressed no confidence in Corbyn, are convinced that he cannot lead Labour to victory in the next election. They acknowledge that he may still have the support of party members, but they continue to characterise the membership as ultra- left activists. However, more than 100,000 have joined in the past fortnight, taking the membership to half a million.

The grassroots could be shut out from the decision about Corbyn’s fate if Labour’s national executive committee determine that he should not appear on the leadership ballot. Party rules state that a challenger must have the support of at least 20 per cent of MPs and MEPs (51 at Sunday’s count) to appear on the ballot. Legal opinion differs about whether the incumbent requires 51 nominations, which Corbyn would struggle to secure.

If Corbyn remains on the ballot, he will probably win, plunging the party into a crisis that could see most of its MPs splitting off into a separate group, possibly leading to a permanent tear in the party.

If Corbyn is excluded, the party Left is certain to rebel, supported by many members outraged about an effective coup against party democracy. Historically, however, leftists in the Labour Party are not splittists, preferring instead to sulk.

Corbyn has Labour MPs and the entire media establishment arrayed against him, but rival Angela Eagle may be a weak vessel for opposition against him.

In watery media performances on Sunday, Eagle failed to identify a single policy difference with Corbyn. And she cannot escape from the fact that she voted in favour of the Iraq war, failed to oppose Conservative welfare cuts, and backed military action against Syria.