Jeremy Corbyn has already withstood one attempt to get him to stand down. Now the latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Labour’s 27 per cent vote share in the local elections is about the same as its vote share at the 1983 general election, pointing to an even worse performance at the 2017 general election in June.
Will Corbyn hold on again? 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. A majority of the party membership has said they want Corbyn to stand down if Labour loses.
Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down as Labour leader after a 2017 general election defeat?
What does Jeremy Corbyn say?
He told Buzzfeed News on 8 May that he would not. “I was elected leader of this party and I’ll stay leader of this party,” he said. Gordon Brown made similar statements in 2010, later saying that he wanted to stay on until David Cameron had formed a goverment. However, he was forced to stand down by pressure from his own MPs.
In Jeremy Corbyn’s case, he seems to have regretted the interview with Buzzfeed. Shortly after the interview, he told the BBC he would carry on if he won the election, and his team stopped inviting Buzzfeed to press events.
The rules about Labour leaders standing down
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). The plan is to reduce the required proportion of support from MPs and MEPs from 15 per cent to 5 per cent of the party. Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.
Will the membership still support Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader?
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.
The rumours about Jeremy Corbyn quitting as Labour leader after losing the 2017 general election
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). Corbyn told Buzzfeed on 8 May he would be “carrying on”.
Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down as Labour leader after a 2017 general election defeat? The verdict
Most leaders would stand down in the event of losing a general election. But most leaders would stand down after losing a vote of no confidence among their own MPs – and Corbyn resisted that last year. 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. If Corbyn refuses to stand down after losing the general election, it would be another sign that he’s just not like other politicians.