Will Tory MPs defect to Ukip?

Tim Montgomerie reports that two Tory MPs are "seriously considering" defecting.

Tim Montgomerie's column in today's Times (£) contains the revelation that two Conservative MPs are "seriously considering" defecting to Ukip. The well-connected Montgomerie, who I recently profiled for the New Statesman, writes:

I know of two Conservative MPs seriously considering following the path already trodden by Roger Helmer, MEP, and other Tory activists.

David Cameron's failure to deliver on his promise to "repatriate powers" from Brussels and Ukip's recent surge in the polls [YouGov has had them as high as eight per cent] has made Nigel Farage's party more attractive to Tory rebels. It's a worrying development for Conservative strategists who haven't forgotten that Ukip cost the Tories up to 21 seats at the last election [there were 21 constituencies in which the Ukip vote exceeded the Labour majority]. The party also has the potential to win support for its opposition to gay marriage [which Cameron is committed to introducing], the sort of issue that might prompt some Tory members to tear up their party cards.

The first, and so far only, Conservative MP to defect to Ukip was Bob Spink, who joined the party in March 2008 [although he was redesignated as an independent in November 2008]. The danger for Cameron is that another defection would see Ukip emerge as a credible voice of right-wing discontent.

 

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.

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