Ed Miliband speaking in the target seat of Thurrock last month. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: Miliband plays it safe by going on the NHS

In Labour's "economy week", its leader avoided the subject.

After a fraught week for Labour, Ed Miliband returned to a scene of past glories at today's PMQs: the NHS. His exchange with David Cameron soon descended into the kind of amorphous stats war that voters loathe, but Miliband came out on top as Cameron dodged each one of his questions. When Cameron, as usual, sought to turn the subject to Labour's record on health in Wales, he delivered an effective rebuttal: "We know why he wants to talk about Wales - because he cannot defend his record in England." Since the latter accounts for 85 per cent of the UK population, it is a line that will resonate with voters at the election.

Cameron waited until Miliband's final question to produce the inevitable flurry of critical quotes from Jon Cruddas ("no interesting ideas will emerge from Labour's policy review") and Maurice Glasman ("absolutely no vision"), but his barbs fell rather flat. This was not the drubbing that the Tories expected. But as CCHQ was quick to note on Twitter, in what Labour has designated as its "economy week", Miliband failed to ask a single question on the subject. Labour is arguing that it has already devoted enough attention to the issue this week, but the impression left was one of Miliband playing it safe (Labour has a bigger lead on the NHS than on any other policy area, but trails the Tories by a double-digit margin on the economy). Had Miliband gone on the economy, after a series of impressive announcements, it would have rebutted Cameron's charge that he is desperate to avoid the subject at PMQs.

Labour has every reason to raise the sailence of the NHS, ensuring that it is one of the defining issues of the election (as I recently revealed, Lynton Crosby has ordered the Tories not to talk about it), but if it wants to pledge to save the health service again, it will soon need to explain how it would solve the funding crisis.

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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