Let’s be honest: the result on Sunday was what we all expected. Jeremy Corbyn won Labour’s second leadership contest in as many years with an astounding 62% of the vote – MORE than he won last year!
Whether you support Corbyn or not it’s pretty hard to argue that he’s electable – a recent poll by ICM put Labour 15 points behind the Conservatives with their lowest vote share since 2008. With the current state of affairs, I think it’s very unlikely that Labour can win the 2020 election and even less likely that they would win an early election if one were to be called (as Corbyn himself predicts). Most Labour MPs agree with this and with Corbyn’s position looking surer than ever before, you have to ask the question: Is this the end for Labour and, if so, then how?
The short answer: no. I would be extremely surprised if even a single MP were to leave the party. This is for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the majority of MPs have been Labour members for decades and know that the party has soldiered through various challenges in the past. They would not ditch something so important to them and many have already called for unity and an end to the challenges to Corbyn.
Secondly, every time that Labour has split in the past (i.e. a significant number of MPs leave the party) it has ended badly. The most famous example of this was probably in the early 1980s when 28 Labour MPs started a new party, complaining that Labour had become too left-wing. It was called the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and won a handful of seats in 1983 but shortly after began a slow demise that would see it eventually merged with the Liberal party to form the Liberal Democrats.
Thirdly, and most importantly, if a Labour MP were to defect to another party (particularly in a safe Labour seat), they would lose their seat. This is because voters who have voted Labour for generations aren’t going to back their outgoing MP who abandoned the party; they would still vote for Labour and whoever the replacement was.
If the Liberal Democrats were in a stronger state then maybe they would be able to capitalise on Labour’s woes. But they aren’t. Without Labour there is simply no opposition party. Maybe the party will lose many seats at multiple elections but eventually the public will get bored of the Tories.
Assuming that the Lib Dems haven’t picked themselves up by then (which I think is unlikely), voters will eventually go back to Labour. However, there is also another big factor: Jeremy Corbyn.
Personally, I don’t think that Labour can win an election until Corbyn goes and go he definitely won’t before the next election, whenever that will be. After what will be a huge defeat though, the leader will have no choice but to resign.
The bottom line is this: Labour can’t start to rebuild themselves until Corbyn resigns as leader. However, the latest that this could feasibly happen is 2020, after the next general election. For that reason this isn’t the end for Labour, even though they will have a good few years going nowhere until they can really build themselves up again post-Corbyn. It’s going to be tough though…