by Atul Hatwal
The shock of the election announcement is already subsiding. The grim reality is clear.
A common expectation across the PLP is that Labour will lose 70 to 80 seats, reducing Labour’s Westminster representation from 231 (232 including Simon Danczuk) to around 150, its lowest level since 1931.
Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be prime minister. He’s not going to be Labour leader by close of business on June 9th.
The primary purpose of the general election campaign, for a doomed Labour party, will be as a prologue to the leadership election that is now inevitable over summer – the third year running that Labour has voted on its leader.
Brexit will define everything.
During the general election campaign, Labour’s frailties on Brexit will be brutally exposed.
Keir Starmer might have set some tests for what constitute acceptable terms for Brexit but Labour’s current position is that the party would not vote against the final deal, regardless of whether the tests have been met or not.
This position will fall apart over the coming weeks.
It’s inconceivable that Labour spokespeople can make a case that Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit that would wreck the lives of Britons while saying in the same breath that the party would not oppose such a deal in the final vote.
Theresa May will ask for a mandate for negotiating Brexit, the Lib Dems will oppose it, Labour will dither in the middle.
I’ve written before that Labour’s members and supporters are stridently anti-Brexit.
Polls suggest that two thirds of Labour voters would vote to Remain in the EU if the referendum were rerun. For party members and supporters, party officials estimate that this rises to over 80% and among those that vote in a leadership election – which is skewed towards the big city constituencies – pro-European sentiment is likely north of 90%.
A muddled general election campaign, culminating in a disastrous result, punctuated by a clear Lib Dem revival will provide the context for Labour’s impending leadership election.
Labour’s leadership voters will be frustrated and looking for clarity and passion from the party’s next leader.
Within the Labour party, the general election campaign will destroy the idea that Labour can and should offer the Tories a guarantee not to oppose their Brexit plans.
Adherents of this line who harbour leadership aspirations such as Lisa Nandy and Yvette Cooper, beware.
It will also provide a platform for pro-European potential future leaders to offer members and supporters the leadership they want.
Who, from Labour’s pro-European wing, can shine in the general election campaign and capture the imagination of members and supporters.
Clive Lewis, Heidi Alexander, Stella Creasy and Lillian Greenwood have all been talked about as pro-European standard bearers. Others could emerge.
A breakout star from the general election campaign could carry that momentum through to victory in the leadership election.
For Labour, battle is about to be joined. Just not in the national contest that Theresa May called this morning.
Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut