by Atul Hatwal
This is Jeremy Corbyn. Like Wile E Coyote he has run off the cliff. Yes, he’s still leader, but after Copeland, it’s just a matter of time until political gravity exerts its force, most likely in 2018.
Croydon Central is in many ways a bellwether CLP for Corbyn. In 2015, it voted to endorse him 80% to 20%, reflecting the final vote among registered supporters. Last year, it backed him against Owen Smith by 60% to 40%, in line with the eventual overall result. Speaking to party members and local officials over the weekend, estimates of the balance between pro and anti-Corbyn support were 50-50, tipping steadily against the Labour leader with each passing month. Similar movement is being reported in pro-Corbyn CLPs across the country.
By 2018, whether Jeremy Corbyn steps down voluntarily or is challenged, his time as leader will end.
When that happens, four criteria will determine the identity of Corbyn’s successor: parliamentary nominations, Brexit, baggage (absence thereof) and whether they are a woman or a minority.
The first goal for candidates is to secure the backing of 15% of their UK and European parliamentary colleagues. This translates as 37 nominations in the PLP and 1 from European Parliamentary Party.
Regardless of how a candidate polls among the general public, their popularity with journalists or the polish of their performance on TV, they need the support of their colleagues to get on the ballot.
The Corbynites are desperate to secure an amendment, which would reduce the nomination threshold from 15% to 5%. The McDonnell amendment – so called after the barely concealed ambition of the shadow Chancellor – would need to be passed by conference and at this stage, it looks unlikely.
The threshold will remain as will the need for a credible level of PLP support. This time round, no nominations will be lent to candidates unable to make the ballot unaided.
More than any other issue, Brexit has undone Corbyn. It has united Blairites, the soft left and even sections of the hard left. Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard, Momentum, surveyed its 11,000 members during the referendum campaign with 66% backing Remain and 20% Brexit.