Ed Miliband addresses delegates at the CBI conference in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Labour retains stubborn lead in European elections

But Ukip is betting on a late surge.

Nigel Farage has been long predicted that Ukip will win this May's European elections, but the latest poll, in common with all other recent surveys, shows Labour remain ahead. With a month to go, Miliband's party is unchanged on 30 per cent, with Farage's on 27 per cent (-1), the Tories on 22 per cent (-1), the Lib Dems on 10 per cent (+1) and the Greens on 6 per cent (+1). 

Despite this, Ukip remains confident that it will triumph on 22 May. Party figures point out that they only moved into second place in the final weeks of the 2009 campaign after a late surge (aided in part by the expenses scandal). On 8 May 2009, a YouGov poll put them on just 7%, 15 points behind Labour and 12 points behind the Lib Dems. But by 3 June 2009, the day before the election, they were on 18 per cent, two points ahead of Labour and three points ahead of the Lib Dems. They eventually polled 16.5 per cent, finishing in second place, 0.8 per cent ahead of Labour. While recognising that the race will be tight, party strategists are hoping to pull off a narrow victory this time round

The other point in Ukip's favour is that its supporters are more likely to turn out. At present, 48 per cent tell YouGov that they are certain to vote but in 2009, just 35 per cent did. Barring an unexpected surge of interest in the EU, Ukip is likely to benefit from another derisory turnout. 

The party's just-launched £1.5m poster campaign will help to raise its profile and key donor Paul Sykes told the FT yesterday: "We haven’t stopped spending yet. I’ll spend whatever it takes for the British people to make them aware that power has been transferred from Britain without permission." But if the polls do not move in Ukip's favour soon, some will start to ask whether the party's vote has hit a ceiling. 

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