With Labour divided on Syria, would losing the Oldham West by-election be the beginning of the end for Corbyn?

Corbyn might not be forced out immediately following next May’s elections (Source: Getty)

Atul Hatwal, editor of Labour Uncut, says Yes

At the General Election, Labour won Oldham West with a majority of almost 15,000. Labour should romp home – but instead the result is on a knife edge. Defeat, or even a narrow victory, would signal the beginning of the end for Jeremy Corbyn.

Although he was the convincing victor in the leadership contest barely three months ago, no-one can defy the laws of political gravity forever.

A poor result in Oldham followed by more bad news in next year’s regional and local elections – particularly if Zac Goldsmith beats Sadiq Khan for London’s mayoralty – will erode his support among Labour members and supporters as the reality dawns that a Corbyn leadership guarantees perpetual Tory government. Labour’s MPs are already largely opposed to their leader and any sustained doubts in the membership will spur them to action.

Corbyn might not be forced out immediately following next May’s elections. He might limp on for a year or two. But ahead of the next election, it’s likely he will be brought crashing down. A fall that will have begun with the Oldham West result.

Lincoln Hill, a communications consultant, says No

This is not the beginning of the end for Corbyn. Even though there are doubts over the validity of the survey claiming to show that 75 per cent of Labour members oppose Syrian airstrikes, it seems reasonable to assume that most members and registered supporters back Corbyn’s position.

The issue has also forced potential stalking horses (Hilary Benn) and genuine rivals (Dan Jarvis) to declare themselves against the selectorate’s view.

This would allow Corbyn, in the event of a challenge, to paint his opponent as a Blairite interventionist, which he used to such effect in the leadership campaign.

Even Labour by-election candidate Jim McMahon’s modernising credentials may be used to minimise the fallout from a defeat by Ukip in Oldham. Moreover, neither Corbyn nor more moderate MPs seem prepared to confront the issue of immigration, which is driving many voters to Ukip.

As long as party members remain cosmopolitan, anti-Blair and anti-intervention, the beginning of the end will have to wait for the verdict of the polls that count next May.

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