There are currently two different strands of thinking among the Corbynsceptic MPs who still hold their seats. There are those who are so furious with the party’s performance in the election – Labour’s worst since 1935 – that they want Corbyn to make a swift exit. They have waited and watched the party disintegrate for quite enough time. If Miliband stepped down right away after one election loss, they reason, why can’t Corbyn go after two? Nowhere is this anger more visible than in Alan Johnson’s excoriation of Momentum chief Jon Lansman live on ITV last night. There was also Gareth Snell’s valedictory denunciation of the leader from his count in Stoke.
Then there are those who are more philosophical. A performance so atrocious as Labour’s cannot be explained by one reason alone. Blairites point to Corbyn’s leadership. Corbynites point to the Blairite obsession with a second referendum. Both are correct to different degrees (to clarify, on the doorstep in Wrexham, Ynys Môn and Wolverhampton South West, leadership was mentioned with much more frequency than any Brexit position), but the roots of the problem go deeper. It’s about far much more than these two factors.
For these considered MPs, it is worth letting Corbyn stew in his own loss for a bit. In the words of one, the sceptics need to “pursue line and length outside off-stump,” hammering away with a stubborn insistence on the core fact: the Labour party now has fewer MPs than it did in 1983.
Corbyn has changed the demographics of the party. From the NEC all the way down to the membership, everyone needs time to reflect on the scale of the defeat. Only then might there be widespread acceptance that change is necessary. It seems likelier that the thinking group – the one that bides its time – will eventually see its candidate take the party’s reins.