Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

How is Jeremy Corbyn's Labour faring in elections so far?

The picture in London is good. Everywhere else, there's little to cheer about

In recent months, Labour has endlessly debated the ins and outs of “electability”. Jeremy Corbyn’s detractors say that he is “unelectable”, a throwback to the dark days of the 1980s when Labour never looked, let alone acted, like an alternative government. Corbynites, in their turn, reply that a coalition of Green and Liberal Democrat leftists, previous non-voters and socialists who have in recent years turned to the Scottish Nationalists or Plaid Cymru might now ‘return’ to the Labour fold, allowing it to win unlikely yet famous victories. But which camp has electoral experience, and the data, on their side? Is it possible, even at this early stage of the new Labour leader’s reign, to scrape together enough evidence to draw out general conclusions?

Here I will argue that there are now enough statistics out there to justify at least a tentative answer to this vexed question of new-look Labour’s electability (or otherwise). We now have a great deal of information from headline voting intention surveys, the detailed specific questions asked by pollsters, from local by-elections and one Westminster contest (in Oldham West) to draw at least an initial picture of how Labour is doing. That picture should be in general deeply discouraging for Labour people, for it reveals a party that now seems to have retreated even from the position of fragile and limited recovery it thought it was enjoying early in the last Parliament.

First, the headline voting figures. The average Labour vote share projected by looking at the last poll conducted by each of our regular pollsters, including multiple scores for companies who use more than one method, is about 31 per cent; by contrast, at the same stage of the 2010-15 Parliament, Labour was running at an average of just under 40 per cent. It is true that pollsters have amended their methods since the debacle of the last general election, and that this may be massaging down Labour’s figures from what they would otherwise be – though that is not absolutely certain, for we cannot be sure when the divergence between polling scores and voters’ ‘true’ intentions began. The British Polling Council has not completed its post-mortem on May, and many pollsters have not changed their methods as much as (for instance) ComRes, which has started to count respondents not if they say they are going to vote, but on the basis of past experience for each demographic element of the electorate. ICM have also recently concluded that differential response rates to telephone polling may still be flattering Labour, something that is very hard to adjust for whatever techniques pollsters adopt: in this situation, the figures now and in 2010 may be rather more comparable than many believe. If Labour really were running 8-9 cent below their score in late 2010, and were to carry on doing so until the next general election, they might attract a vote share of only 23 or 24 per cent: a chilling prospect for anyone who wishes Labour well.

Looking to contemporary history, there are few precedents for a Labour Opposition doing so badly. We have again to be very wary of comparisons here, for polling has changed out of all recognition since the 1980s: the “spiral of silence” adjustment, to adjust for so-called ‘shy Tories’, is one example of such differences. Even so, what figures we do have show that only once, in January 1988, has Labour been so far behind the Conservatives while in Opposition at this stage of a Parliament. Then, in the heyday of Thatcherite triumphalism, Neil Kinnock’s Party trailed the governing party’s score by around eight per cent – about the same gap that separates Corbyn’s Labour and David Cameron’s government now. Each of Labour’s many other spells in Opposition since 1970 has seen the party doing rather better by this stage: leading by one per cent in January 1971, and by six per cent in December 1979, trailing by ‘only’ six per cent in January 1984; and leading again in our next two examples, by a huge 18 per cent in November 1992 and a tiny 0.4 per cent in December 2010. The basic impression is stark, but inescapable: Labour has not in modern times been behind eight months after a general election and gone on to win the subsequent contest. This is all the more worrying given the lack of new leader ‘bounce’ that Labour should – if the last four decades’ polling are any guide – have been enjoying by now. The Party should now be five per cent or so up on their pre-Corbyn travails over the summer: instead they have gone nowhere at all.

The below-the-line details reported in these polls are little better. Corbyn’s own numbers are absolutely appalling, rivalled only by Michael Foot at his nadir. Some of the numbers are so bad they are a little hard to grasp. His net score for ‘doing well’ or ‘doing badly’ with YouGov is -41 per cent; those who take an unfavourable view of him lead those seeing him in a favourable light by 28 per cent with Opinium; Ipsos-Mori’s ‘satisfied’ or ‘dissatisfied’ rating stands at -17 per cent (Foot’s score was -21 per cent at the same stage of his leadership). What is worse, these numbers have been getting steadily worse: Corbyn’s high initial (and strong) favourability among his large following of left-leaning enthusiasts has not prevented less committed ‘don’t knows’ moving largely against him. That net YouGov score was -8 in late September, and -20 in late October.

Some of the geographical, as well as personal, details are just as bleak. When I last surveyed the scene for The Staggers in late September and early October, I spied a few signs to give Labour some hope in this respect: in particular, a handful of by-elections that pointed to the Party doing rather better than previously in Scotland, and in Wales (taken together with an encouraging YouGov poll) perhaps even moving forward a little. These signs now also appear to have fizzled out. Polling for May’s Scottish elections has seen Labour make absolutely no progress against the extraordinarily dominant Scottish National Party, registering scores for the constituency part of the vote that have stagnated in the low 20s ever since the general election. The latest YouGov Welsh Political Barometer Poll shows Labour back where it started in May in terms of Westminster voting intention, registering exactly the 37 per cent the Party attracted as it actually managed to lose Welsh seats to the Conservatives. Those numbers are not any better – indeed, they are a little worse – when it comes to polling for the Welsh Assembly contest in the spring.

Local by-election results follow the same pattern. Labour’s gross voting figures since Corbyn’s election as leader are some way down on those recorded in the last Parliament, regardless of the year in which the seats were last fought: the Party’s gross vote share in comparable contests is three or four points down on seats last contested in May 2015, while the Conservatives are only down a point or two. These figures have to be treated with extreme caution. Local by-elections usually attract only a very small turnout, swings between the major UK parties are often affected by local parties or independent candidates (or larger parties’ failure to field a candidate), and are usually held in random and extremely unrepresentative locales. All that said, the acknowledged masters of local election analysis, Michael Thrasher and Colin Rallings of Plymouth University, reckon that once we smooth out these factors the figures from post-Corbyn contests portend a one point Conservative lead, of 32 per cent to 31 per cent, in May’s local elections. Labour will therefore be down seven or eight per cent on 2012, and might stand to lose around 200 council seats – good corroboration, if and when this happens, for our opinion poll findings.

More importantly, if such an outcome does transpire, we can start to sketch out some of the implications for Labour’s vote in 2020. According to modelling by Matt Singh of Number Cruncher Politics, and on which he in part based his famous prediction of the 2015 polling failure, a weighted average of a one point government lead in local elections across a Parliament would imply on past evidence a very large government lead come the next polling day – of something like 12 or 13 per cent. It that was indeed to be our projection by 2018 and 2019, something made much more likely by such a result in May 2016, it would be entirely consistent with Labour’s poor UK polling at the moment, as well as its potential failure even to match last time’s performance in elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Such a weak performance in local government and devolved contests would be one more sign that, overall, the situation is worse even than the initial picture I painted back in September and October.

This brings us neatly to the Oldham West parliamentary by-election, where Labour defied widespread expectations of an only narrow win by romping home against a very disappointed and deflated United Kingdom Independence Party. Labour’s majority, at over 10,000, was seven per cent up on May, a result that on the face of it flies in the face of everything we see in polls, polling internals and local by-elections. But any reliance on such a superficial impression would display, once more, a failure to see these things historically. In the Oldham East by-election, held nine months into the last Parliament, Labour’s vote went up by 10 per cent; at Barnsley Central, two months later, the Party’s vote increased by 13.5 per cent; and two months later, its vote went up by more than 12 per cent at Leicester South. In this context, Oldham West once again showed us a Labour Party that is significantly under-performing even its anaemic performance in 2010-15, a Parliament which ended in a dramatic and decisive defeat. Trailing the early by-election successes of 2011 by between about three and six per cent is by no means out of line with an opinion poll performance eight or nine points shy of what it was then, especially when we take into account a slight UKIP decline in polls conducted since the general election.

The upshot of all this? Labour is likely to do pretty badly in next May’s English local elections. It is probably going to be trounced in Scotland and to be forced into retreat in Wales. In each of these cases, it will have gone backwards on Ed Miliband’s performance in 2011 and 2012, and quite markedly so: Labour can hope on this evidence to gain only about 30 Members of the Scottish Parliament, and perhaps around 27 Members of the Welsh Assembly. They won 37 and 30 respectively early in the last Parliament. Failing to reach the heights of even Miliband’s limited appeal is no-one’s idea of progress.            

Only in London can Labour hope for real success. Here there is a very good chance that Sadiq Khan will defeat Zac Goldsmith for the London Mayoralty. Local by-election results in the capital look much better for Labour: since September, they have advanced by three or four per cent on the last time these seats were up for election in 2014, while Khan has a lead of six per cent (53 per cent to 47 per cent) in the latest opinion poll there. Here Labour’s renewed appeal to leftish and Green voters, and the massive activist army created by London Labour numbers surging to a fifth of all Labour members across the whole of the UK, may well pay off. It will be at least one victory for Corbynism.

Such an undoubted triumph may burnish May’s results with a very thin sheen of success. But that will probably be deceptive. Things could, of course, as ever be even worse: Labour’s poll share could have fallen further, as the most advanced doomsters were predicting back in September. Ukip might have broken through among traditional Labour voters in Oldham West, and pushed Labour really hard and close for that seat. But there are enough ominous signs to be very worried for Labour’s future. The party’s historically very poor opinion poll performance and lack of new leader ‘bounce’, Corbyn’s abysmal personal ratings as they plumb the depths of Michael Foot’s, the weakness of Labour’s local by-election showings and the failure to do any better in Oldham West than in (say) Barnsley in 2011: these are all deep, deep red warning signals of potentially resounding defeats to come.

These conclusions are only interim inferences from a limited amount of data. The deluge of numbers we can expect in early May will tell us much, much more. But there can be no doubt now: Labour is weaker than under Ed Miliband. If nothing changes soon, and previous relationships hold, the Party is dicing with a double-digit defeat at the 2020 general election, at which it might attract a vote share some way down into the mid- to high-20s. Everything we know – every last scrap of data – says that the Labour Party as we have known it is in very profound trouble indeed.

Glen O’Hara is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Oxford Brookes University. He is the author of a series of books about modern Britain, including The Paradoxes of Progress: Governing Post-War Britain, 1951-1973 (2011). He is currently working on A History of Water in Modern Britain (forthcoming, 2016). He blogs, in a personal capacity, at Public Policy and the Past

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

How Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election

The revolt against the leader transformed him from an incumbent back into an insurgent. 

On the evening of 12 July, after six hours of talks, Jeremy Corbyn emerged triumphantly from Labour’s headquarters. “I’m on the ballot paper!” he told supporters gathered outside. “We will be campaigning on all the things that matter.”

The contest that Corbyn’s opponents had sought desperately to avoid had begun. Neither a vote of no confidence by 81 per cent of Labour MPs, nor 65 frontbench resignations had persuaded him to stand down. Days of negotiations led by Tom Watson had failed (“For years I’ve been told that I’m a fixer. Well, I tried to fix this and I couldn’t,” Labour’s deputy leader sorrowfully told the parliamentary party). The rebels’ last hope was that the National Executive Committee would force Corbyn to reseek nominations. After being backed by just 40 colleagues in the confidence vote, both sides knew that the leader would struggle to achieve 51 signatures.

But by 18-14, the NEC ruled that Corbyn would be automatically on the ballot (“Watson, Watson, what’s the score?” chanted jubilant aides in the leader’s office). After withstanding a 16-day revolt, Corbyn appeared liberated by the prospect of a summer of campaigning. His confidence prefigured the outcome two months later.

Corbyn did not merely retain the leadership - he won by a greater margin than last time (with 61.8 per cent of the vote to last year's 59.5 per cent) and triumphed among all three sections: party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters. The rebels had hoped to narrow his mandate and win among at least one group: they did neither. Far from being a curse for Corbyn, the contest proved to be a blessing. 


The day before the pivotal NEC meeting, Angela Eagle, who had been preparing to stand for months, launched her leadership bid. The former shadow business secretary was admired by MPs for her experience, tenacity, and economic acumen. Her trade union links and soft left background were further cited in favour of her candidacy.

But after an underwhelming launch, which clashed with Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawal from the Conservative contest (leaving Eagle calling questions from absent journalists), MPs gravitated towards Owen Smith.

Like Eagle, Smith hailed from the party’s soft left and had initially served under Corbyn (two prerequisites in the rebels’ eyes). But unlike her, the former shadow and work pensions secretary did not vote for the Iraq war (having entered parliament in 2010) or the 2015 Syria intervention. “It looks like the war party,” a senior Corbynite said of Eagle’s campaign launch with Hilary Benn. Many Labour MPs feared the same. With the left-leaning Lisa Nandy having ruled herself out, only the ambitious Smith met the criteria.

“I’d been in hospital for two days with my brother, who was unwell, in south Wales,” he recalled when I interviewed him.  “I came out having literally been in A&E at Cardiff Heath hospital for 29 hours, looking after him, to have my phone light up with 30, 40, 50 colleagues, MPs and members, ringing up saying ‘there’s going to be a contest, Angela Eagle has thrown her hat into the ring, you should do likewise.’ And at that point, on the Wednesday night, I started ringing people to test opinion and found that there was a huge amount of support for me.”

On 19 July, after Smith won 90 MP/MEP nominations to Eagle’s 72, the latter withdrew in favour of the Welshman. A week after the Conservatives achieved their second female prime minister, Labour’s 116-year record of all-male leaders endured. Though Smith vowed that Eagle would be “at my right hand throughout this contest”, she went on to appear at just one campaign event.

Corbyn’s challenger was embraced by MPs as a “clean skin”, untainted by service during the New Labour years. But Smith’s non-parliamentary past was swiftly - and ruthlessly - exploited by his opponents. His time at the US drugs firm Pfizer was cited as evidence of his closeness to big business. Corbyn’s supporters also seized on interviews given by Smith as a by-election candidate in 2006.

The man pitching to the left was found to have defended Tony Blair (suggesting that they differed only over the Iraq war), supported private sector involvement in the NHS and praised city academies. “I'm not someone, frankly, who gets terribly wound up about some of the ideological nuances,” he told Wales Online. Such lines were rapidly disseminated by Corbyn supporters through social media.

“Getting out early and framing Owen was crucial,” a Corbyn source told me. A Smith aide echoed this assessment: “It helped secure their base, it took a load of people out of contention.”

Throughout the campaign, Smith would struggle to reconcile his past stances with his increasingly left-wing programme: opposing private provision in the NHS, returning academy schools to local authority control, banning zero-hours contracts and imposing a wealth tax of 1 per cent. “It was easy for us to go for the jugular over his background when he portrayed himself as a left candidate,” a Corbyn source said.

Smith insisted that the charge of opportunism was unmerited. “To be honest, my opponents have extrapolated rather a lot in an attempt to brand me as a ‘Blairite wolf in sheep’s clothing,’” he told me in August. “Well, I’m nothing of the sort, I’ve always been a democratic socialist and I always will be.” He added: “I’m someone who’s been surrounded by people who’ve been on the left of the Labour movement all their lives. It should come as no surprise that I’ve come out of that background and I’m pretty red. Because I am.”

But a former shadow cabinet colleague said that Smith did not stand out as “a radical” in meetings. “The only time that I remember him becoming really animated was over further tax-raising powers for Scotland and the implications for Wales.”

As well as Smith’s ambiguous past, Corbyn’s allies believe the breadth of his political coalition hindered him from the start. “He was trying to bring together Blairites, Brownites and every other -ite in between,” a campaign source said. “That was never going to hold, we knew that and from the moment there were splits it was easy to point out.”

Jon Trickett, the shadow business secretary and one of Corbyn’s early supporters, told me: “They tried to pretend that there was no distinction between them and Jeremy on policy grounds, they tried to narrow down the areas of difference to electability. But, frankly, it didn’t seem credible since some of the people behind it were absolutely ideologically opposed to Jeremy. Peter Mandelson and people like that.”

A frequently expressed charge was that Smith’s left-wing pledges would be overturned by Blairite figures if he won. John McGeechan, a 22-year-old postgraduate student who joined Labour after “self-indulgent, self-serving MPs initiated their corridor coup”, told me of Smith: “He’s just another mealy-mouthed careerist who says whatever he thinks is going to get him elected. I don’t believe at all that he means what he says about creating a radical socialist government given that he’s got the backing of Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, people who’ve disagreed with Corbyn on pretty much all his socialist policies. I don’t believe that he’s going to stand up to these people.”

Whether believable or not, Smith’s programme showed how Corbyn had shifted Labour’s centre of gravity radically leftwards - his original aim in June 2015.


On the night Corbyn made the leadership ballot, the rebels still found cause for hope. Unlike in 2015, the NEC imposed a freeze date of six months on voting (excluding 130,000 new members) and increased the registered supporter fee from £3 to £25 (while reducing the sign-up period to two days). “It’s game on!” a senior figure told me. By narrowing the selectorate, Corbyn’s opponents hoped to achieve a path to victory. With fewer registered supporters (84 per cent of whom voted for Corbyn last year), they believed full party members and affiliated trade unionists could carry Smith over the line.

But when 183,000 paid £25 to vote, their expectations were confounded. Far from being “game on”, it looked to many rebels like game over. Once again, Corbyn’s opponents had underestimated the left’s recruiting capacity. Smith’s lack of name recognition and undistinctive pitch meant he could not compete.

Alongside the main contest were increasingly fractious legal battles over voting rights. On 28 July, the high court rejected Labour donor Michael Foster’s challenge to Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the ballot. Then on 8 August, a judge ruled that the party had wrongly excluded new members from voting, only for the decision to be overturned on appeal.

In the view of Corbyn’s allies, such legal manevoures unwittingly aided him. “They turned Jeremy, who was an incumbent, back into an insurgent,” Trickett told me. “The proponents of the challenge made it seem like he was the underdog being attacked by the establishment.”

Smith, who repeatedly framed himself as the “unity candidate”, struggled to escape the shadow of the “corridor coup”. That many of his supporters had never accepted Corbyn’s leadership rendered him guilty by association.

“The coup had an enormous galvanising effect and an enormous politicising effect,” a Corbyn source told me. “For a great number of people who supported Jeremy last year, there was a feeling, ‘well, we’ve done the work, that’s happened, now over to him.’ What the coup meant for a lot of people was that this isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn, this is a people’s movement, which we all need to lead.” The Corbyn campaign signed up 40,000 volunteers and raised £300,000 in small donations from 19,000 people (with an average donation of £16). Against this activist army, their rivals’ fledgling effort stood no chance.

“At the launch rally, we had 12 simultaneous events going on round the country, livestreamed to each other,” a Corbyn source said. “We had a lot of communication with people who were big in the Sanders campaign. In the UK context, it’s trailblazing.”

On 12 August, after previously equivocating, Smith ruled out returning to the shadow cabinet under Corbyn. “I've lost confidence in you. I will serve Labour on the backbenches,” he declared at a hustings in Gateshead. In the view of Corbyn’s team, it was a fatal error. “He shot apart his whole unity message,” a source said.

Smith, who initially offered Corbyn the post of party president, was rarely booed more than when he lamented Labour’s divisions. As one of the 172 MPs who voted against the leader, he was regarded as part of the problem, rather than the solution. By the end, Smith was reduced to insisting “I wasn’t in favour of there being a challenge” - a statement that appeared absurd to most.

As well as his leftist credentials and unifying abilities, Smith’s other main boast was his competence and articulacy. “HIs USP was that he was this media-savvy guy,” a Corbyn source said. “As a result, he threw himself up for any and every media opportunity and made tons of gaffes. We just made sure people were aware of them.”

The most enduring gaffe came early in the campaign, on 27 July, when he spoke of wanting mto “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”. Though Smith initially defended his “robust rhetoric” (“you’ll be getting that from me”), by the afternoon his campaign had apologised. What was explained as a “rugby reference” dogged them for weeks. “It played into the hands of how Corbyn wanted to depict us,” a Smith source told me. “It was really hard to shake off.”

More unforced errors followed. Smith suggested getting Isis “round the table”, in anticipation, many believed, of Corbyn agreeing. But the Labour leader baulked at the proposal: “No, they are not going to be round the table”. Corbyn’s communications team, more organised and agile than in 2015, denounced Smith’s remarks as “hasty and ill-considered”. As with “smashed”, the Labour challenger had achieved rare cut-through - but for the wrong reasons.

Smith’s rhetorical looseness became a recurring problem. At a rally on 23 August, he appeared to refer to Corbyn as a “lunatic”. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said of meeting his wife: “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on. That must be leadership.”

Earlier in the campaign, Smith’s team denied that the candidate referred to the size of his penis when he quipped of his height: "5ft 6. 29 inches - inside leg!” The guffaws from his supporters suggested otherwise.

We used to have a gaffe counter,” a Corbyn source told me. “I think it got up to 30 by the end.”

Smith’s team, meanwhile, despaired at how the Labour leader’s own missteps failed to dent him. The discovery that Corbyn had in fact secured a seat on a Virgin train, contrary to initial impressions, did little lasting damage. “It’s priced in, the bar is much lower for him,” a Smith source complained.

Incorrect claims, such as Labour being level in the polls before the coup attempt and Corbyn giving 122 speeches during the EU referendum campaign, were believed by many of his supporters. “How do you rebut bullshit?” a Smith aide asked. “If you respond, it becomes a story.”

So frequently had Labour MPs condemned their leader that extraordinary charges were soon forgotten. On 22 August, shadow business minister Chi Onwurah wrote in the New Statesman that Corbyn’s treatment of her and Thangam Debbonaire could constitute “racial discrimination”.

If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in,” she argued. But within a day, the story had moved on.  

For Smith, fleeting momentum was achieved through significant endorsements. On 10 August, the GMB backed his campaign after becoming the only trade union to ballot its members. The following week, Labour’s most senior elected politician, Sadiq Khan, endorsed Smith. Unlike Andy Burnham, the London mayor believed he could not remain neutral during this profound schism. Smith was subsequently also backed by the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale. Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband trumpeted his cause. Yet such declarations counted for little. “It’s like the Remain campaign and the Archbishop of Canterbury,” one Smith ally told me, suggesting that Labour members, like Leave voters, ”weren’t listening” to such grandees.

But in the view of Corbyn’s team, the rebels profoundly “underestimated” their opponent. “He’s a nice guy but he also has an inner steel and won't flinch from a challenge. The Obi-Wan Kenobi comparison is very accurate when you work up close with him. He’s also extremely intelligent and has a great grasp and retention of detail. It showed in the debates.”

“I have to say, I felt pretty sorry for Owen at several points,” another Corbyn source reflected. “Whatever it was, his ambition or being pushed into it, it didn’t seem like it was the right time for him. He hadn’t worked out what he was about and why that fitted with the times.”


Those Labour MPs who long warned that an early challenge to Corbyn would prove futile have been vindicated. “Party members are always loyal to the incumbent,” a senior source astutely noted. In the case of Corbyn, a lifelong campaigner, who many contended was “never given a chance”, this traditional fealty was intensified.

“Most of the people backing and funding him didn’t think Owen was going to win,” a Corbyn source said. “Their aim was, one, to reduce Jeremy’s mandate and, secondly, to map the selectorate.”

Having won a second leadership contest - an unprecedented achievement for the Labour left - the leader’s supporters insist their ambitions do not end here. “We’ve got to think incredibly seriously about how we win a general election in a totally changed landscape,” a Corbyn source told me. “This campaign has been showing how to do it.” But a Smith aide warned that it was a “massive strategic error” to make electability, rather than principle, the defining test of Corbyn. The leader, he suggested, could withstand a general election defeat provided he simply affirmed his values.

Beyond regarding a split as worthless, Labour MPs are divided on how to proceed. Some want another leadership challenge as early as next year. Rather than seeking to narrow the selectorate, they speak of recruiting hundreds of thousands of new members to overpower the left. “There are lots of people out there who want a credible, electable, centre-left proposition and we have not given them enough of a reason to sign up,” a former shadow cabinet minister told me. “Who has an offer and the charisma to be able to bring in new people? That has to be the question the next time round.”

Others believe that backbenchers should follow Thumper’s law: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  A senior MP argued that MPs should “just shut up” and “let Jeremy crack on with it.” The imperative, he said, was to avoid MPs “taking the blame for us getting thumped in a snap election”. Some are prepared to move beyond neutrality to outright support by serving under Corbyn.

The Labour left and their most recalcitrant opponents both confront challenges of electability. The former must demonstrate a path to victory despite Corbyn’s subterranean poll ratings. The latter, who boast so often of their superior appeal, must face a remorseless truth. Until they are electable in the party, they will never be electable in the country.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.