So what will David Miliband do if he is defeated by Brother Ed?

Will he stay or will he go?

In my interview with David Miliband in July in the magazine, I pushed the shadow foreign secretary on whether he'd quit the shadow cabinet if he lost to his younger brother, Ed, on 25 September. Mili-D replied, after some ducking and dodging of the original question:

I'm not walking away from the people of South Shields. I'm not walking away from the Labour Party . . . I'm very happy to serve under anyone.

Since that interview, more and more "friends" and "allies" of the elder Miliband have suggested he simply would not be able to serve under Ed and that we would indeed see the former foreign secretary "walking away" from front-bench politics. As this magazine has argued, that would be a "tragedy" for the Labour Party.

So, on yesterday's Politics Show, on BBC1, I thought I'd ask David to clarify his position and ask whether he'd give an explicit, on-air guarantee that he'd stay in the shadow cabinet under an Ed Miliband leadership. He responded:

Of course. And I am absolutely clear about my intentions, my assumptions, and I answered that very, very clearly.

The presenter, Jon Sopel, then asked him whether it would be "difficult" to serve under Ed, to which David replied, after a pause:

I don't think . . . I don't know, is the truth.

Hmm. I tried winding him up again, later on, pointing out that "I could never serve under my younger brother" (note: I don't have a younger brother!), and the shadow foreign secretary responded with this firm and rather amusing statement:

That says a lot about why you're in journalism and I'm in politics. I'm a man of infinite patience and you're a man of infinite impatience.

Assuming Ed Miliband wins -- and despite the new Sunday Times/YouGov poll suggesting he will, it's still a big "if" -- let's see how "infinite" David's patience is . . .

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Getty
Show Hide image

Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

0800 7318496