Electoral annihilation is inevitable: The real battle for Labour’s future starts on 9 June

Chris Rumfitt
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Don't make the mistake of assuming electoral defeat will force Corbyn's departure (Source: Getty)

Few things are certain in life. And events of the last two years show us that politics doesn’t always pan out as expected. But there is surely no doubt that Labour is heading for electoral annihilation at the General Election on 8 June.

Jeremy Corbyn is the least popular, and least able, leader of a major British political party in modern history. And in seven weeks’ time, the public will give their verdict on him. Make no mistake, that verdict will be savage.

As of today, 1983 is the low water-mark for post-war Labour, with the party winning 28 per cent of the vote and just 209 seats. Yet recent polls suggest 2017 could be much much worse than that. Not only is Labour polling in the low-20s nationally, but the 1983 result was propped up by 41 seats in Scotland, a number that is likely to be zero this time around.

Those problems will be exacerbated by the issue of Brexit which will dominate the campaign. If you back Brexit, supporting the Conservatives is logical. If you oppose it, then back the consistent Remainers in the Lib Dems and SNP. Who does that leave voting Labour? The confused?

Read more: Fewer than half of Labour voters now think Corbyn would be the best PM

Unless there is a significant improvement for Labour during the campaign, they could win as few as 160 seats. And that’s before we’ve even considered how Corbyn – a man who seems singularly ill-equipped for the 24/7 demands of a modern election campaign – will fare over the next seven weeks. There must be a very real chance that Labour will do even worse than current polling indicates.

So where will this leave the party when they wake up bleary-eyed and roundly thrashed on 9 June? Well, in a curious kind of way, you could make the argument that they will be strengthened. The darkest hour comes just before the dawn, and the theory that hard left politics can ever win in Britain will have been tested to destruction.

Key to any phoenix-like revival, however, will be the immediate removal of Corbyn as leader, and quickly. His departure is not sufficient for the rebuilding of the party – the problems run far deeper than that – but it is a vital pre-requisite for rebirth and renewal.

Read more: Guest Notes: Corbyn’s Labour Party may want to win in the polls after all

Don’t make the mistake of assuming Corbyn will automatically resign upon losing the General Election. One could easily imagine him arguing that this was an unusual election outside the usual cycle, and he needs more time for his arguments to win through.

Moreover, the so-called “McDonnell amendment”, which will make it easier for hard left candidates to stand in future leadership elections, does not get voted on by the party until the conference in September. So however bad the result is, we may well see Corbyn trying to cling on until then.

So the real fight that will determine the future of Labour is not the one that will take place over the next seven weeks. The battle for Labour begins on 9 June. Mainstream Labour must force Corbyn to go, immediately, and drive him and his hard left friends out of the party, forever. Only by doing so will they begin the long journey back to moderation and respectability. It took 14 years after 1983, and could take just as long this time round.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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