THE BLOG

Who Wants to Lead the Labour Party?

25/11/2015 12:29 GMT | Updated 24/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The Labour Party has a leader in place who was democratically elected only a few months back with a massive majority. But there has been no honeymoon period for Jeremy Corbyn and he has faced pressure from inside and outside the Party from day one. But the question is who would want to challenge Corbyn and lead the Party in any case?

According to the most recent polls, the trajectory on voting intention for Labour is at best static, at worst falling. What is clear is that the Conservatives enjoy a very large, and potentially expanding, lead. Corbyn himself whilst being a more popular role model than David Cameron, does not score well when it comes to looking like a Prime Minister.

The party is said to be nervous about the forthcoming by-election in Oldham and the polls in Scotland are showing Labour scrapping with the Conservative Party for second / third in May's election. That in itself is a massive issue for the Party but should not disguise how far away from power they are. The SNP are regularly scoring 50% plus in opinion polls whereas Labour is around 20-25%.

If Sadiq were not to beat Zak in London to become Mayor then that would be less important for Corbyn. Sadiq has already been busy staking out his own ground and putting some distance between himself and the Labour leader (although this seemed less true during the selection battle). Labour has only won the London mayoralty once - Ken's second term, his first win came when he stood as an independent.

If the narrative is to be believed, then Scotland and Oldham, as 'Labour heartlands' are the places that should most understand and believe in Corbyn's approach, especially when it comes the anti-austerity approach. If Scotland fails to be attracted to Corbyn's messages then it is unlikely that others will either.

But none of this seems to matter to Labour's membership. According to polling from the Times, Corbyn remains their first choice. They believe he is doing a good job and those that voted for him are really happy with his leadership. So Corbyn scores brilliantly amongst those that voted him in so overwhelmingly.

As we know, polls need to be considered carefully and not simply looked at in isolation. There are also some massive issues for the Government to deal with that could help Labour, not least the European referendum. But whoever leads Labour, Corbyn or AN Other, faces a massive electoral challenge.

There are a number of issues facing a potential challenger (or challengers) to Corbyn.

The window of opportunity for a challenge is narrow with the chance being some time immediately after next May. It is the Scotland vote that could prove critical. If Labour were to lose to the Conservatives then Corbyn's leadership will come under challenge.

The rules around Labour's leadership contest are complicated to say the least. However, unless he decides otherwise, it appears that Corbyn would get to fight again for the leadership, if challenged. He could win an even bigger mandate. If that happens then a much speculated upon split would look more likely.

But even if the membership turns against the Corbyn approach, which looks unlikely, then the policy environment will start to have shifted. By next year's annual conference, the real policy changes will come as will changes to the way that policy is made. In other words, a new leader will have only limited opportunity to alter policy in their own image. That could mean a new leader being lumbered with a set of policies they do not want and do not agree with. Sound familiar? A victory under those circumstances would be hollow.

This makes it look like a principled challenge is the only viable approach - in the short term or post-May. Whoever stands is highly likely to lose. Another option could be a challenge year-on-year in a political war of attrition. Such an approach would be damaging and long-winded.

Even under the worst case scenario being painted by Corbyn's opponents, the electoral system will save Labour in 2020. It will guarantee the Party a number of seats but it could be left as an urban-only party of the North of England and London. The policy-making process and possibly even MP selection / re-selection process will have been made in Corbyn's image. Under those circumstances who would want to lead the Party?