TV debates part two: the most exciting moment in politics ever in the world ever?

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

You'd never know that round two of the debates was tonight. It's quiet as volcanic ash out there - no hype, no spin, no hilariously hysterical newspaper attempts to batter a popular opponent. So in the midst of this smothering silence, and following on from last week's advice, some further tips for the leaders tonight.

1. Cambo, don't panic. The more you say you're "really, really" enjoying every second of the election campaign, especially the debates, the clearer it is that you are actually thinking, "How the bloody Cotswolds HELL did I mess this one up so comprehensively?" The panic, though, is a bad look: you go all tight-eyed and clenched and false-friendly and rolled-up sleeves and everything's FINE and I feel you might be a danger to yourself and those around you. Take a leaf out of Gordo's book: be unnaturally, strangely calm.

2. Cambo and Gordo, for God's sake, don't think you can pull off the Clegg tricks without anyone noticing. The first time one of you a) looks straight into the camera, b) repeatedly uses an audience member's name or c) insouciantly plunges your hands into your pockets, the entire country will simultaneously erupt in a giant groan of contempt before turning off the television and deciding that doing the Heat crossword would be an activity packed with greater integrity and insight.

3. Try and sort out what on earth happens at the end. Last week there was the weird Cameron-tugging-Cleggoland's-sleeve debacle. This week I can imagine Cambo rugby-tackling Gordo round the knees if he tries to gladhand the crowd again. Just mutually agree to spend the last five minutes wrestling on stage or something. Or a song? A song would be lovely.

4. Clegg, hold it together. Yours is the hardest task - after all that "look! he's Obama!" and "look! it's Jesus!" stuff, unless you juggle while balancing on a unicycle with a ball on your nose the whole way through you're inevitably going to disappoint everyone. My tip? Every now and then, break into that fluent Spanish of yours. Impressive, and it's foreign affairs isn't it? Must be allowed.

5. Adam Boulton, heir to the mighty Alastair Stewart. Just be better than Stewart - less barking, less debilitating nerves - that's all I ask.

(Predictions: Clegg, overwhelmed by the sheer force of his own insubstantiated popularity compulsively lies the whole way through - no once can take that much spontaneous love. Cambo, knowing this is his moment of truth, lists so many people he's met that he loses control and starts fabricating them ("And then I met Miss Piggy and Lady Gaga, who hadn't managed to have their hips done on the NHS, and it's a scandal I tell you!). Brown, coached on joke-cracking for the whole week, will randomly insert gags at entirely inappropriate moments. Eg, in the middle of Boulton's intro, "How many Lib Dems does it take to change a light bulb?!", before cackling away to himself in the corner.)

Sophie Elmhirst is features 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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