Ed Miliband: next prime minister

This is a man with the clarity of vision to win.

He got his biggest cheer when he addressed his critics -- internal and external -- head on: "Red Ed -- come off it." And today Ed Miliband did defy those critics, with one of the best speeches to a Labour conference in recent history.

Yes, he paid extensive tribute to New Labour's record, to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But boy, did he turn the page, ushering in the age of a new generation with these words: "How did a party with such a record lose five million votes between 1997 and 2010?"

His is a party that "takes on established thinking; doesn't succumb to it", and, to the visible annoyance of some, Ed Miliband disowned the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fatefully relaxed approach to regulation and the erosion of civil liberties that all happened under a Labour government.

The speech was nuanced. He said no to strikes, despite the gravity of the Tory cuts to come; the union leaders did not clap. But he made it clear that Labour should always be progressive: no other candidate would have said what he said about refusing to condemn Ken Clarke as "soft on crime". And he got another huge cheer when he pointed out that "a banker can earn in a day what a carer earns in a year -- it's wrong, conference".

Some inside Labour -- as well as in the Tory-dominated media -- will doubt that Ed Miliband has what it takes to be prime minister; they will say he is too left-wing. But it is through the sheer force of his values that this man can show he can win. Today he was fully unleashed. And the likelihood is that the country will learn to love him just as the Labour movement and its affiliates did. The smart money is on Ed Miliband to be the next prime minister.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for 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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