Nick Clegg has said Labour MPs must “leave Labour behind” and “break away” from their party if they have any hope of getting back in the power.
In an interview with HuffPost UK published on Wednesday, the former Lib Dem leader said Theresa May was set to win the election despite being “clueless” about Brexit and leading an “economically illiterate” government thanks to the Conservative Party’s structural electoral advantage.
“Corbyn won’t be prime minister. Labour will not get a majority,” the former deputy prime minister said. “To govern again for a Labour Party is to share power in the future,” he said.
Clegg said the polls showing Labour had surged as the campaign comes to a close was giving false hope to it supporters.
“Everyone gets terribly excited that lots of youngsters are flocking to Corbyn’s standard, but it makes no difference to the fundamental problem.
“Unless something really big changes in southern England or in Scotland, the Labour Party is no longer a vehicle for national government.”
He added: “Corbyn is not going to be the Messiah to deliver them to the promised land, he really isn’t.”
Clegg said Labour MPs “have got to let go of Labour” after the election. “It doesn’t matter who the leader is. Even if you had Tony Blair back in his water-walking phase of the mid-to-late 1990s, I think even then they wouldn’t get back in the saddle.”
He added Labour MPs “either need to do something very radical and break away and do something else” or they need to “have a successful argument for the soul of the Labour Party”.
And he warned it would be wrong for Corbyn to be seen as successful even if he loses by virtue of increasing Labour’s vote share from Ed Miliband’s 30.4% in 2015.
“Will the effect of him being deemed to have had a good election mean that basically more centrist Labour MPs keep quiet? Will a ‘successful’ Corbyn, even though he has failed, be an inhibition on thoughtful brave Labour folk to do something different, or will it be the catalyst?” he asked.
“Until there is a critical mass of folk in the Labour Party who understand the game is up, it doesn’t matter who their leader is, they cannot under the present disposition win power again against the Conservatives.”
In the interview, Clegg also warned the Lib Dems that their recovery would take time and should not be expected to happen at this election in “one go”.
The former Lib Dem leader, who resigned two years ago after leading his party to defeat in the 2015 election, said there was no way he would just “bugger off” and not help the party recover.
Clegg said Tim Farron was right to rule out a coaltiion with Corbyn or May, but said there could be one in “10, 15 or 20 years” time.
He also blasted May, his former cabinet colleague, for having “no idea” about what to do with Brexit.
And the former deputy prime minister said he could not remember a “single occasion” during the five years of coalition when May said a single word about the economy.