Yulia Tymoshenko in 2009. Photo: Getty
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Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko released from prison

Ukrainian MPs have voted to oust President Yanukovych and hold early presidential elections on 25 May.

The Ukrainian opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, has been seen leaving prison in the eastern city of Kharkiv. The BBC reports that one of its correspondents saw Tymoshenko driven away in a car after leaving hospital:

 

Tymoshenko, who was Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2005 and then again from 2007 to 2010, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 after she was found guilty of abuses of power relating to the activities of the Russian gas company Gazprom in her country. Her imprisonment was widely considered to be political revenge by President Yanukovych, her main rival. As the leader of Ukraine's largest opposition party, the All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland", Tymoshenko's release was one of a number of demands made by opposition activists and protestors.

In the Ukrainian parliament, 328 MPs have voted to impeach Yanukovych, and hold early elections on 25 May. The current whereabouts of the president are unknown, but his spokeswoman has said that he "does not accept" the decision to remove him from power.

Foreign secretary William Hague has indicated that the UK would support a new government in Ukraine. In a statement, he said:

Today I am in close touch with key partners over the extraordinary developments in Ukraine. Events in the last 24 hours show the will of Ukrainians to move towards a different future, and ensure that the voices of those who have protested courageously over several months are heard.

We will work closely with our EU partners in support of a new government in Ukraine, as and when that is formed. In the meantime it is important that Ukraine's political leaders respond to events calmly and with determination to harness the united efforts of all Ukrainians to work together for a successful future.

 

 

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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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