Jeremy Corbyn has conceded he will not fight another general election as Labour leader after his party sustained crushing losses to the Conservatives.
Addressing his constituency count in Islington North, Corbyn did not resign immediately – as his critics within the Parliamentary Labour Party had hoped – but instead indicated he would remain in post to allow a “process of reflection” to take place.
Setting in train what will almost certainly be an extended resignation period, Corbyn said: “I will not lead the party in any future general election campaign.
“I will discuss with our party to ensure there is a process now of reflection on this result and on the policies that the party will take going forward. I will lead the party during that period to ensure that discussion takes place and we move on into the future.”
Given the slump in Labour’s share of seats and votes, Corbyn’s position was always going to be untenable – as John McDonnell admitted in October. But his form of words echoed that used by Unite’s Len McCluskey, his leading union ally, in an interview with a New Statesman last month, in which he criticised Ed Miliband for quitting immediately in the aftermath of his 2015 election defeat.
By staying in post, as former Conservative leader Michael Howard did after winning a broadly comparable number of seats in 2005, Corbyn will control the succession. With his parliamentary party severely reduced, divided in its analysis of why tonight’s result happened, and the likes of Laura Pidcock having fallen, however, it is not a given that his process will deliver the same result as Howard’s: a leader he wants, or, indeed, one capable of winning a general election.