Labour’s Stephen Kinnock has increased the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn by setting out what he needs to achieve in May to avoid a leadership challenge.
In an exclusive interview for the Huff Post UK’s Commons People podcast, the Aberavon MP threw down the gauntlet to the Labour leader ahead of the local elections.
Mr Kinnock, who is a parliamentary aide to Business Secretary Angela Eagle, warned there would “absolutely” be questions about Corbyn’s leadership if Labour didn’t tighten its grip on power in Wales, coming a “minimum” of second in Scotland and win the London mayoralty.
He also said Corbyn would be judged on how well he mobilises the pro-European Labour vote in the run up to June’s EU referendum.
His comments come as fellow Labour MP Dan Jarvis today warned the party faces a “major test” in May’s elections as he delivered a speech on the economy that was widely seen as the first step in a future leadership bid.
Speaking to Commons People, Kinnock admitted Corbyn had tapped into a “hunger” for a “different kind of politics”, but added: “The big question is when people look at him do they see somebody who could be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and I think we will know a large part of the answer to that question following the elections on May 5 and also how the Labour Party carries itself now through to the 23rd June and the Referendum.
“Jeremy, as any leader, gets judged on performance, gets judged on results, so until we see what those results are opinion polls – as we saw with the 2015 election – they are not worth the paper they’re written on.
When asked what Corbyn needed to achieve in May, Kinnock replied: “We need a Labour mayor in London. We need a big jump forward in the council elections in England, we need in Wales to hold on well to Government. I think Scotland – very, very problematic – but we need as an absolute minimum to be coming in as a second party in Scotland.
When asked if questions about the leadership would be raised if those achievements weren’t met, Kinnock said: “Absolutely, I think any leader of any political party is judged by their results and we need to set ambitious, challenging targets for what we want to achieve in May.
“If we’re not reaching those targets then of course questions need to be asked.”
Kinnock, who has taken a pro-active role in making the case for the UK to remain in the EU, also called on his party’s leader to “roll up his sleeves” and get involved in the debate.
He said: “I think we need a passionate case from all sides of the debate and the Labour Party definitely has a really important role to play in that.
“Yes, I would like to see our leadership out there more absolutely - I would like to see a big set piece speech for example. I wonder why we haven’t heard one yet.
“Jeremy has spoken quite a lot in the Chamber in this but I think it would be great if he went to a business that does a lot of business with the European Union and made a speech to the work force or something like that.
“He might even want to role up his sleeves like the Prime Minister does.”
Kinnock also spelt out his fears for what a UK outside of the EU would look like with the Tories in power.
He said: “What do you think the first thing a post-Brexit Tory government would do, with Boris Johnson or Liam Fox as the Prime Minister?
“They will be tearing into that social chapter I absolutely guarantee it, so that’s why being locked in in that sense to a social chapter is something that guarantees the certainty of those rights to our workforce and that transcends the vagaries of the electoral cycle in this country so I think it’s really important that we understand that a post-Brexit Tory government would be tearing down everything we’ve achieved over the last 30 or 40 years.”