Is Corbyn for the chop?

Jeremy Corbyn's tenure at the head of the Labour party has come under increasing pressure, says Matthew Partridge.


Jeremy Corbyn: biding his time
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2017 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

Following the resignation of Clive Lewis and other frontbenchers last week, "Labour is conducting secret succession planning for Jeremy Corbyn's departure", according to James Lyons in The Sunday Times. "Devastating" focus group research has found that "Corbyn is Britain's most unpopular party leader".

This is likely to "fuel mounting speculation in Westminster that Corbyn could face another contest for the top job or stand down voluntarily". His decision merely to issue frontbenchers and whips with "written warnings" for defying him over Brexit suggests that his authority "has been shattered". Indeed, it looks as though even the "hard left" are looking for another leader.

"As far as Corbyn is concerned, the threat is more imagined than real," argues Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. "Corbynsceptic MPs believe that any move on their part will revitalise the Corbyn project, rather than destroy it." Similarly, left-wingers are unwilling to act until they can be certain that they will be able "to put a Corbynite MP on the ballot in future". However, while the latest speculation is more driven by the policy vacuum created by the parliamentary recess, if Corbyn doesn't get his act together it could end up being "a sign of things to come".

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The real story is not Corbyn staying or going; it's "the fight over whether the McDonnell clause' will pass at Labour conference", argues Maya Goodfellow in The Guardian. This rule change "would lower the number of nominations leadership candidates need from MPs to get on the ballot paper". This is "something the bulk of the parliamentary party opposes", because it would make it harder "to stop a leftwing successor making it on to the ballot should Corbyn resign". Note that most of Corbyn's fans only back him because he furthers their "long-term goal" of turning Labour into a left-wing populist party.

Corbyn himself may be "biding his time, waiting to quit when a younger, more dynamic but like-minded figure can be installed to complete his political project", says the Financial Times. If so, he is "putting internal party interests before those of the country".

With Britain "about to enter its most tumultuous political period since the second world war", an "effective and competent" opposition is more vital than ever. Under the present leadership it has failed to make "any meaningful contribution to the wider public debate about leaving the EU". Indeed, it "has altered its position on the single market and immigration so many times that voters can only be perplexed".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri