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20 April 2017

Critical Labour MPs will aid Jeremy Corbyn’s standing among members

At present, 68 per cent of members believe Corbyn should stand down if the party is defeated.

By Stephen Bush

Good morning. Jeremy Corbyn will launch Labour’s general election campaign by pledging to disrupt and defy the cosy “cartel” at the top of the British establishment.

As I explain in my column in this week’s New Statesman, optimists believe that a bigger version of the announcements of the Easter recess – with the running theme of “taking from the rich to give to everybody” – will allow them to win through. Pessimists in the inner circle hope that a good campaign will persuade the membership to let Corbyn stick around after defeat. (For what it’s worth, the last poll of the membership suggested that 68% of members thought Corbyn should step down following an election defeat.)

His opponents, meanwhile, will put their shoulders to the wheel in order to avoid being blamed for what they see as nailed-on defeat.

But today’s papers show the scale of the challenge. Both the Sun and the Mirror run lists of the Labour MPs expected to lose their seats in June. Members of the PLP have taken to sharing their majorities in the manner of patients commiserating over diagnoses – “what have you got? I’ve got 6.5%?” “I’ve got 9%. I think I’ll be fine.” – but at the moment, only Neil Coyle and John Woodcock have publicly broken ranks to criticise the leader.

If more panic and attack their leader, the chances that Corbyn will be able to persuade at least some of that 68% will surely increase.

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