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Labour's policy blitz ticks a lot of boxes

Labour is setting out its stall effectively, but there are areas for improvement still.

You couldn't describe a week dominated by a showdown between Russia and the United States as a quiet one, but beyond the frontpages, not much is going on.

Labour are using the recess well with a series of eye-catching policy announcements: universal free school meals for primary pupils, a £10 minimum wage, and today, a pledge to crackdown on late payments by big businesses to small businesses. Jeremy Corbyn will go so far as to name persistent offenders: Capita, Marks & Spencer, Vodafone and EON will all be "named and shamed" by the Labour leader. And there are more announcements to come.

As far as effective opposition announcements go, they tick a lot of boxes: they are popular with the public, they pick a fight, increasing the chances of a second-day story for the opposition, and they unify the parliamentary Labour party. Most importantly, taken together, they have a clear message: Labour will take from the wealthiest to give something to the man in the street, whether that be a free school meal, a higher wage or a reliable cash flow for Britain's small businesses.

But as Michael Howard and Ed Miliband could tell you, a series of popular policies don't do much for you if people don't trust you to manage the public finances and they don't like your leader. Recess has shown that Corbyn's office can put together a performance that is the equal of their predecessor. It's still an open question whether or not they can go one better and turn the public around on their leader.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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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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