After concerns that it is veering left, is Labour in danger of making itself utterly unelectable?

Labour leadership candidates Liz Kendall,Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn (Source: Getty)

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, says Yes

The US writer David Frum wrote: “when a political party offers voters ham and eggs and the voters say, ‘no, thanks’, its first instinct is to say, ‘OK then, how about double ham and double eggs?’” It is early days, but Labour has just suffered an even worse defeat than 1992.

The risk it faces is a temptation to say “we were only 6 per cent behind the Tories, and they only have a 12 seat majority”. Labour has to show it wants to win – and win back older voters, former Tory voters and SNP supporters (not easy). It needs a leader the public can see as Prime Minister: putting up Jeremy Corbyn simply to have a debate in public suggests Labour still has to learn to listen to the electorate.

The Tories remain far more disliked, but their victory reflects the fact that, ultimately, they were seen as more competent in running the economy. Tony Blair gave Labour three rare election victories for the same reason – Labour will remain in opposition until they re-discover this.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, says No

Labour is undoubtedly in serious trouble. But it has been written off before, only to bounce back brilliantly. In both 1959 and 1992, many experts were convinced that a combination of socio-economic trends and changing public attitudes would condemn the party to irrelevance.

Yet Labour defied the doomsayers, re-animated by new leaders – Harold Wilson in 1964 and Tony Blair in 1997 – who were able to tap into and even personify the Zeitgeist. Some will say, of course, that none of the contenders this time around have anything like that kind of charisma.

They will add that Labour is already so busy falling into George Osborne’s elephant traps that, even if one of them does surprise us all, he or she wouldn’t stand a chance of putting things right by 2020. They may well have a point. But what happens this summer won’t necessarily define the next decade. If a week is a long time in politics, five years can be an eternity.

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