David Cameron and Ed Miliband look on during the service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on June 4, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour two points behind in Tory-held marginals

A new poll shows the party trails in 25 must-win Conservative seats. 

Westminster may obsess over national polls, but they are an indequate guide to the outcome of the next election. To know where the parties really stand, we need numbers from the marginals - the seats which decide who enters Downing Street. 

Lord Ashcroft will helpfully be publishing another of his super-polls at this Saturday's ConservativeHome conference but in advance of that, ComRes has carried out a new survey for the Independent of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour battlegrounds. The bad news for Ed Miliband is that his party is two points behind (35-33) in the 25 where the Tories are incumbent, suggesting that it is performing worse in these constituencies than nationally (a reversal of previous findings). If Labour is to become the largest single party, let alone achieve a majority, these are must-win seats. In the 15 where Labour is incumbent, the party is eight points ahead (39-31), but given the need to improve, rather than merely maintain its position, this is no consolation. 

Of note is that across all 40 seats, both the Tories and Labour have lost votes since the last general election. Labour is down two points to 35 per cent and the Tories are down four to 33 per cent. Ukip is up a remarkable 14 to 17 per cent and the Lib Dems are down 10 to eight per cent. It is a finding that appears to confirm Labour fears that the Farageists are now eating into their vote share as well as the Tories'. 

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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