A plea to Jeremy Corbyn

Last Thursday’s council elections were the worst for the opposition party in 30 years, says our man in Westminster. Labour’s success in winning the mayoralty of London was countered by its poor results in Scotland and Wales, and once the EU referendum’s out of the way, the party would do well to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

I could hardly believe my ears when I heard Jeremy Corbyn comment, without a hint of irony, that Labour “hung on and grew support in a lot of places” after the various elections on Super Thursday last week. Hung on – as if this was some kind of great success. Let’s be absolutely clear. The local election results were the worst for an opposition party for 30 years. 

When Jeremy Corbyn talks of growing support in lots of places, he may be technically correct. Overall Labour saw its vote share increase by 4% compared to the 2015 general election – but if fell by 4% compared to the same elections in 2012.

And an increase of 4% is nowhere near where Labour needs to be to regain power. Labour should have wiped the floor with the Conservatives. Instead the party actually lost a net total of 23 councillors.

There were swings in Scotland from the SNP to the Conservatives – not to Labour. I’m not sure how Labour recovers from this. Mathematically, if it can’t win seats in Scotland, it can’t win a general election

For sure, Labour performed better in the local elections than many polls had predicted, and the Conservatives will have been a touch disappointed not to have done better in the south – although only losing 46 councillors was, by normal standards, pretty impressive.

And then there’s Scotland, where Labour now trails behind the Conservatives. This was a truly disastrous result for Labour and unless it recovers here it is really very hard to see how on earth it can ever get back into power. Never in a million years did I expect to see such a Conservative revival north of the border.

It’s worth making the point that even in those seats where the SNP won, there were still swings from the SNP to the Conservatives – not to Labour. So the Conservatives are now seen as the natural home for those who do not support the SNP. Extraordinary.

I’m not sure how Labour recovers from this, and mathematically, if it can’t win seats in Scotland, it can’t win a general election. 

In Wales too there are worrying signs for Labour. Overall it performed pretty well, even if it did lose its overall majority in the Welsh Assembly. But losing its heartland constituency of Rhondda was a serious shock, and seeing UKIP pick up seven Assembly members says to me that something is stirring in the principality.

Labour will be mightily relieved that Sadiq Khan regained the London Mayoralty for Labour, and did so convincingly. But Sadiq was careful to keep his distance from the Labour leadership throughout the campaign and was very quick indeed to distance himself from the anti-Semitism row that engulfed the party just a week before polling day.

And anyway, London has always been a pretty happy hunting ground for Labour, with Boris’s success as much down to his personality than the fact that he’s a Conservative – and remember, Boris only just squeaked home last time.

There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from these results – Labour under its current leadership will never form a government.

So after the EU referendum is out of the way I hope the parliamentary Labour Party plucks up its collective courage and challenges him for the leadership. Better still, it would be refreshing to see Jeremy Corbyn do the honourable thing and admit that he can’t lead the Labour Party to electoral victory, and stand down.

Our democracy needs a strong opposition capable of forming a government and something must be done. Jeremy, for all our sakes, please leave the stage. The trouble for Labour is that there is no longer an obvious candidate from the moderate wing of the party to replace him.