Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader has run out

He may be the darling of the party’s new mass membership, he has a voter approval rating of minus 40 points

The British Labour party's analysis of last week's by-elections in Copeland and Stoke has been all about clutching at straws. And remarkable head-in-the-sand denial on the part of the leadership. Jeremy Corbyn to blame? Not a bit of it – it's all down to a conspiracy by the right in the party, "Blairites", to do him down, assisted by the "mainstream media". That's the view articulated by his closest ally, shadow chancellor John McDonnell. All distinctly Trump-like, though without the bizarre plausibility the latter seems to enjoy with half his electorate.

Not to put a tooth in it, Labour’s loss of Copeland to the Tories was a disaster that does not look any better through the prism of a lacklustre victory over Ukip in Stoke. Copeland had been held by Labour since 1924 and 10 years ago the party won it by nearly 20 percentage points. It was 30th on the Tory target list and they are the first governing party to win a by-election since 1982. The day’s only crumb of comfort was the debunking – sort-of – of the idea that Ukip was set to destroy Labour in its heartlands.

But there is no getting away from the reality that although Corbyn is the darling of the party's new mass membership, he has an approval rating among voters of minus 40 points. He lags behind such political giants as defeated Ukip leader Paul Nuttall and Tory ministers David Davis and Philip Hammond. And far, far behind prime minister Theresa May, on plus six.

It is clear, however, that if the party’s right – Blairite and non-Blairite – did succeed in a heave against the leader he would almost certainly be emphatically re-elected after a contest that would only disastrously emphasise the party’s disunity.


Only the left can unseat Corbyn, and it can and will only do so when it finally recognises that he is not uniquely essential to its project of a radical alternative to the Tories. That, although politically right-on, and having played an essential part in ousting the right, he simply does not have the ability to lead. That he, ironically, as Blairism once was, is now the main impediment to the reinvigoration of a credible Labour opposition.