By Muirinn O’Neill and Craig Melson, London
This may not be a fun week for Jeremy Corbyn as he faces a major set of defeats in his first real test since his victory last September. With only one day to go, the omens are not looking good with election gurus Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher predicting Labour to lose 150 Councillors nationwide, taking a hammering in Scotland and losing control of the Welsh Assembly. One spark will be a win in London, but this is nowhere near good enough for his critics. Whilst Corbyn has fought back, accusing a ‘golden circle’ of journalists of focusing on party squabbles as opposed to real issues, Thursday could prove to be the beginning of the end for the Labour leader.
The Labour campaigns have been dominated by constant questions about Corbyn’s leadership, as the civil war within the party has raged on, turning particularly nasty in recent weeks. Partially stoked by anti-Corbyn forces, rows over whether the Labour Party is anti-Semitic have diverted attention away from the campaign and resulted in the majority of Labour airtime being spent discussing whether the party has a fundamental problem with racism, rather than issues Labour want to focus on.
In England, Kevan Jones MP has said any losses would be a ‘tragedy’ and Michael Dugher made the topical comment that Labour was Aston Villa, not Leicester. Whilst Corbyn has described this as ‘media conspiracy’ and said that Labour will gain seats, the most recent Sunday Times poll suggests they will get around only 30% of the vote – 9% lower than in 2012 and 1% behind the Conservatives. Considering the Tories haven’t exactly been going through a golden period themselves, these elections may serve to fracture the Labour Party even further.
Kilt off in Scotland
With polls consistently placing the SNP at about 50% of the vote, the SNP are expected to win the majority of constituency seats, whilst Labour and the Conservatives are locked in an battle for second place. If Labour can manage to come in second under the moderate Kezia Dugdale, Corbyn may be able to escape any personal blame, due to wide spread acknowledgement within the party that turning round their fortunes in Scotland will take time. However, in the event that Labour slips to third place in Holyrood, the argument will be rather different, whilst this seems unlikely, recent polling has Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck.
Beached in Wales
The Labour administration in Wales is one of the world’s longest surviving governments and after 17 years, this may come to an end as Labour shed votes to UKIP. A well run campaign highlighting Corbyn’s lack of patriotism and new found love of Europe could see UKIP pick up 5 seats from Labour, denying Labour overall control of the Welsh Assembly. Rivals within Labour will see this as a prime example of Corbyn’s lack of appeal to working class voters and question how on earth he can deliver in a General Election.
Yes we Khan?
Whilst Khan is currently the favourite to take over from Boris, his constant attempts to distance himself from Corbyn may stop the Labour leader from claiming this victory as his own. When recently asked whether he supported Corbyn’s leadership, Khan remarked ‘Of course I support the Labour party!’ As the London Mayoral race may be the only decisive victory of the day, come Thursday Corbyn’s team may try to characterise the Tooting MP as the Goldsmith campaign has been trying to do for months – ‘Corbyn’s man in London’.
Jeremy won’t be binned (much to the Tories relief) and will remain as Labour Leader, but he will have a lot of explaining to do on why he isn’t cutting through to the electorate. In an effort to bring voters round and show opponents he’s listening, Corbyn may be forced to re-organise his back office team (goodbye Seamus?) and front bench to give ‘moderates’ a stronger voice. His opponents also know that the Labour Party would still overwhelmingly re-elect Corbyn in any leadership ballot (as reported in The Guardian today), but the moderates within the party will view any defeats this Thursday as their first steps down the long road to ridding their party of Corbyn.