Kevin Maguire: Labour MPs are waiting for Corbyn to call it a day in 2018

Written by Kevin Maguire on 14 March 2017 in Opinion

Opponents of the Labour leader are hopeful that he will step down next year. 

Canoeists stuck up a river without a paddle possess a better chance of floating to safety at the moment than despairing Labour MPs.

Jeremy Corbyn’s second coming in last summer’s ressurrection ballot proved pretty much like the first, with the counterproductive Carry on Coup cementing in position a veteran lone wolf uncomfortable with leadership. As a result, the Labour leader's Westminster opponents are pretty clueless.

The plan, if it warrants such a grand description, is largely to wait until Corbyn himself decides he’s had enough and calls it a day.

I regularly hear unhappy MPs in the bars, crumpled from another weekend’s ear-bashing on doorsteps from natural Labour voters grumbling about the leader’s failings, some mud that’s unfairly stuck and others justifiable, declare 2018 will be the year Jezza relinquishes a crown worn uncomfortably.

The predictions of his desperate critics sound more in hope than expectancy, legitimising inaction or what John McDonnell, the steel behind the throne, labels a "silent coup".

Even if Corbyn wanted to call it a day, in a repeat of 2016, I doubt McDonnell would let him unless the permanent revolution is first guaranteed by Labour’s conference.

Change the party rules so future leadership candidates require the nominations of only 5% of MPs instead of 15% - permanently enfranchising the Campaign Group - and Corbyn would’ve served a transformative purpose. Deputy leader Tom Watson is equally determined to stop that happening.

The result is a party pulling in opposite directions, a pushmi-pullyu unlikely to split or go anywhere.

The botched Budget with it’s manifesto smashing tax hike for Theresa May’s just managing strivers should be a Labour revival moment. Yet double-digit poll deficits after the Copeland body blow leave it fretting that May’s West Midlands metro mayor contest will be perilously tight.

When Labour parliamentary constituencies and councils paint the area’s map red, Labour's mayoral wannabe Sion Simon should stroll to victory over Tory candidate Andy Street. But one source heavily involved in the campaign voices serious concerns the party will struggle to get out its vote, opening the door to a Copeland with brass knobs on in the heart of England.

Losing the West Midlands would signal Labour hasn’t hit rock bottom and is still digging. Corbyn’s camp would blame Simon, most Labour MPs, all Blairites, etc. Meanwhile Simon, most Labour MPs, all Blairites, etc would blame Corbyn. And the street theatre would continue.

Privately a number of Corbyn’s most fervent public champions admit his leadership, such as it is, doesn’t work. But mention potential successors and they prefer to stick with what they’ve got.

The party’s gravest danger, admits a frustrated shadow cabinet member, is irrelevancy. Brexit and a second Scottish independence referendum are historic moments in politics. Labour, a governing party as recently as seven years ago, is largely a bystander in both debates. Rarely heard, when it does speak at least two contradictory voices are heard.

Political weather’s changed rapidly in the past and will in the future. David Cameron found himself Prime Minister three years after he and the Tories were written off in September 2007. Harold Macmillan’s events occur. Labour’s despairing tendency are waiting for something to turn up. There’s no agreement it will.

About the author

Kevin Maguire is associate editor of the Daily Mirror.

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