PMQs verdict: Cameron beats Miliband on points

Cameron won this round but he may live to regret his obstinacy about housing benefit.

David Cameron saved the best till last at today's PMQs. He seized on the leaked PMQs memo (£) in today's Times and taunted Ed Miliband with its contents: "It's important to have a cheer line." Having used up all six of his questions, Miliband could only grin as Cameron landed an easy slam dunk.

The Prime Minister finished: "He's got a plan for PMQs but he's got no plan for the economy, no plan for the debt." That alone was enough for him to claim a points victory.

But that flourish followed a fierce exchange on the housing benefit cap in which Cameron offered no hint of compromise – a stance he may live to regret. Miliband's joke that a glum Nick Clegg "was back on the fags" may have fallen flat, but he was right to draw MPs' attention to a glum-looking Simon Hughes.

Hughes, who has warned that ministers will have to "negotiate" to win approval for the "draconian" measures, will be alarmed by Cameron's obstinacy. The Prime Minister's repeated insistence that "we're sticking to our plans" throws into doubt the possibility of transitional arrangements for London, as demanded by Boris Johnson.

It was left to the Lib Dems' serial rebel, Bob Russell, to sound a note of caution when he warned that the subject was "no laughing matter". Should, as charities warn, 82,000 families be forced out of London – the largest population movement since the Second World War – Russell's words will prove prescient.

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the cap itself, the population churn will overwhelm local councils. Expect calls for compromise to spread to the Tory benches in time.

Miliband's performance had improved noticeably since last week and his urge for Cameron to "think again" about housing benefit will have resonated with Lib Dems. He and Labour will have many more opportunities to exploit divisions on this issue.

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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