Jeremy Corbyn should consider quitting as Labour leader if polls are still 'awful' in 2019, says close ally and union power broker Len McCluskey


Jeremy Corbyn should consider quitting as Labour leader if polls are still 'awful' in 2019, says close ally and union power broker Len McCluskey

Jeremy Corbyn should consider stepping down as Labour leader if the party's poll ratings do not improve by 2019, one of his closest allies has declared.

'Red' Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said the veteran left-wing leader and shadow chancellor John McDonnell would examine the situation and insisted they were not 'desperate to cling on to power for power's sake'.

He is the latest support of Mr Corbyn to suggest he might have to stand aside before the 2020 General Election.
And his comments came as new analysis predicted disaster for Labour at the next election, with the party set to lose nearly half the voters who backed Labour in 2015 under Ed Miliband.  

In a sign of hope for moderates trying to oust Mr Corbyn, Mr McCluskey told the Daily Mirror: 'Let's suppose we are not having a snap election – it buys into this question of what happens if we get to 2019 and opinion polls are still awful.

'The truth is everybody would examine that situation, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell … they are not desperate to cling on to power for power's sake.'

Last month shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, another close ally of Mr Corbyn, suggested he had 12 months to turn Labour's fortunes around.

As as Labour slumped to 25 per cent in the polls, another hard-left backer, Ken Livingstone, said: 'If it's as bad as this in a year's time, we would all be worried.'

Mr McCluskey has attempted to play down his comments, taking to Twitter to insist Mr Corbyn continues to have his 'full support'.

But his comments generated a furious backlash from his Unite rival Gerard Coyne, who is challenging Mr McCluskey for the leadership of the union.

Mr Coyne, Unite's West Midlands regional secretary, accused Mr McCluskey of acting as Labour's 'puppet master' by giving Mr Corbyn an ultimatum.

He said Mr McCluskey should be representing workers rather than 'playing politics'.

But hitting back on Twitter, the Unite chief claimed Mr Coyne's campaign was being run by 'failed plotters' who had tried to oust Mr Corbyn and for whom Unite would be 'collateral damage in their political project to bring back Blairism'.

Opponents of Mr Corbyn hope that Gerard Coyne, the moderate candidate in Unite's leadership election, will oust Mr McCluskey, which could significantly weaken the hard-left’s control of the Labour party.

It could open the way for a fresh bid by MPs to topple Mr Corbyn next year.

A change of leadership at Unite could change its relationship with Mr Corbyn's leadership and moderate Labour MPs hope that the loss in funding and support would help them in their bid to oust Mr Corbyn before the 2020 General Election.

Hitting out at Mr McCluskey's latest remarks, Mr Coyne said: 'I am astonished and deeply concerned that, at a time like this, Len McCluskey should deliver what amounts to a public ultimatum to the leader of the Labour Party.

'My criticism of his handling of the role of general secretary of Unite is not whether he has backed the right leader or the wrong leader of the Labour Party, but that he appears to think it is his job to be Labour's puppet master.

'In 2015 and in 2016, he decided the Labour Party should be led by Jeremy Corbyn, and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of Unite members' money to make that happen.

'It is not in the interest of Unite's members that the general secretary should spend so much of his time and their money playing politics.'

But Mr McCluskey responded: 'He claims that I decided that Unite should support Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015 and 2016.

'Yet the truth, as he is well aware, is that in 2015 this was a decision of our elected lay executive council, and in 2016 of our 600-strong policy conference, by a vast majority.

'To claim otherwise is to disrespect our membership and our democracy, while asserting that our union is a political 'puppet master' panders to the worst anti-Labour stereotypes of the media.

'These unscrupulous remarks show that Gerard Coyne's campaign is not being driven by concern for Unite and its members' interests.

'It is being scripted by the failed plotters in the Parliamentary Labour Party, for whom Unite would be collateral damage in their political project to bring back Blairism.'

Today's report by the Fabian Society, a moderate Labour-supporting think-tank, warns that the party has almost no chance of winning the next election.

The Blairite-affiliated group said it had become unthinkable that Labour could govern alone and urged it to form a centre-Left coalition with other parties. The swing required by Labour to win the next general election will be 8.7 per cent – almost double the 4.6 per cent threshold it required – and failed to get – at the last general election.

The Fabian Society's Andrew Harrop said: 'Labour is around twice as far from victory as it was in the run-up to 2015 … As things stand, Labour is on track to win fewer than 200 seats, whether the next election comes this year or in 2020.
'Even if Labour recovers it has almost no chance of securing a majority in a general election, because it needs over three million more votes than the Conservatives to win.'

The report predicts Labour is likely to win 140 to 200 big city and ex-industrial constituencies if its share of the vote falls to 20 per cent, which would be a further retreat from the 231 seats it currently holds.

It warns that at the next election, Labour could hold no seats in Scotland – it only has one at present – and there are no signs of the Scottish party successfully fighting the SNP landslide.

But despite the warnings, Scottish Labour rejected the suggestion it should make a pact with the Scottish nationalists. 'Labour is a socialist party. The SNP most certainly isn't,' a spokesperson said.

Only the first-past-the-post system saves Labour from wipeout, meaning it will almost certainly remain the main opposition party – the Lib Dems or Ukip could only break through if they won many more votes than Labour nationally.

A poll for the Times by YouGov yesterday put Labour support at a record low for eight years – just 24 per cent. The Tories were at 39 per cent, Ukip 14 per cent and the Lib Dems 12 per cent.


Len McCluskey insists he fully supports Jeremy Corbyn after party ratings remark

Union chief Len McCluskey has insisted that Jeremy Corbyn continues to have his "full support" after appearing to indicate that the Labour leader could step down before the general election if the party's poll ratings remained "awful".

The Unite general secretary, a key ally of Mr Corbyn, used a series of social media posts to say the Labour leader was a "genuine, decent man fighting for a fairer Britain".

His comments came after he said in a Daily Mirror interview that Mr Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell would examine the situation if Labour was still polling badly in 2019 and were not "desperate to cling on to power for power's sake".

Mr McCluskey's comments triggered a bitter exchange with his rival for the Unite leadership, Gerard Coyne, with the challenger claiming that the union chief was acting as Labour's "puppet master".

The union boss shot back, claiming that Mr Coyne's campaign was being orchestrated by the "failed plotters" who had sought to oust Mr Corbyn.

In his Daily Mirror interview, Mr McCluskey said Mr Corbyn should be given the time to prove himself as Labour leader.

But he added that the situation could change if Theresa May did not call an early election and Labour was still struggling in 2019.

"Let's suppose we are not having a snap election. It buys into this question of what happens if we get to 2019 and opinion polls are still awful," he said.

"The truth is everybody would examine that situation, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell."

Mr Coyne said: "I am astonished and deeply concerned that, at a time like this, Len McCluskey should deliver what amounts to a public ultimatum to the leader of the Labour Party.

"My criticism of his handling of the role of general secretary of Unite is not whether he has backed the right leader or the wrong leader of the Labour Party, but that he appears to think it is his job to be Labour's puppet master.

"In 2015 and in 2016, he decided the Labour Party should be led by Jeremy Corbyn, and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of Unite members' money to make that happen.

"It is not in the interest of Unite's members that the general secretary should spend so much of his time and their money playing politics."

But Mr McCluskey responded: "He claims that I decided that Unite should support Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015 and 2016.

"Yet the truth, as he is well aware, is that in 2015 this was a decision of our elected lay executive council, and in 2016 of our 600-strong policy conference, by a vast majority.

"To claim otherwise is to disrespect our membership and our democracy, while asserting that our union is a political 'puppet master' panders to the worst anti-Labour stereotypes of the media.

"These unscrupulous remarks show that Gerard Coyne's campaign is not being driven by concern for Unite and its members' interests.

"It is being scripted by the failed plotters in the Parliamentary Labour Party, for whom Unite would be collateral damage in their political project to bring back Blairism."


Len McCluskey: 'Jeremy Corbyn retains my full support'

Union leader Len McCluskey will continue to give Jeremy Corbyn his "full support" - after appearing to indicate the Labour leader might step down.

The Unite general secretary appeared to have suggested Corbyn could resign before a general election if the party's poll ratings remained "awful."

But in a series of new tweets, McCluskey described the Islington North MP as a "genuine, decent man fighting for a fairer Britain".

A key ally of Corbyn, 66-year-old McCluskey had said in a Daily Mirror interview that Corbyn and shadow John McDonnell would examine the situation if Labour was still polling badly in 2019.

He had even said that the pair were not "desperate to cling on to power for power's sake."

Those comments then triggered a bitter exchange with McCluskey's Unite leadership rival, Gerard Coyne, who claimed the union chief was acting as Labour's "puppet master".

McCluskey shot back, claiming that Coyne's campaign was being orchestrated by the "failed plotters" who had sought to oust Corbyn.

And after his Daily Mirror interview was published, McCluskey took to Twitter to re-affirm his support for Corbyn.

"Jeremy Corbyn continues to have my full support, he's a genuine, decent man fighting for a fairer Britain - media headlines distort facts!" he said.

In his interview, McCluskey said Corbyn should be given the time to prove himself as Labour leader.

But he added that the situation could change if Theresa May did not call an early election and Labour was still struggling in 2019.

"Let's suppose we are not having a snap election. It buys into this question of what happens if we get to 2019 and opinion polls are still awful," he said.

"The truth is everybody would examine that situation, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell."

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