Grant Shapps fails to bury bad news

Housing minister tries to distract attention from 99 per cent fall in affordable house building.

If you haven't heard it already, here's housing minister Grant Shapps's car crash interview on the Today programme this morning. Presented with new figures showing a 99 per cent fall in affordable house building (from 35,735 to just 454), Shapps attempted to divert attention by starting a row with John Humphrys over whether he had pulled out of an interview the previous morning.

He accused Today of misleading listeners by giving the impression that he had avoided the programme. "I was never booked," he said, offering the excuse that he had to get a train to Stoke (presumably unaware that Andrew Lansley had conducted an on-train interview earlier this week). But Humphrys insisted: "There was a booking with your staff which never happened." By the end of the exchange, which took up nearly a third of the interview, it almost seemed as if Shapps didn't want to talk about the figures.

Grant Shapps: Housing strategy announcement "absolutely correct" (mp3)

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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