New year, new start? Not for Labour. The party’s 2017 has got off to a bad start with the publication of a sobering report on its election prospects for 2020. The Fabian Society predicts that Labour will win less than 20pc of the vote and just 150 seats (to put this into context, Labour has not won fewer than 200 seats since 1935). The thinktank concludes that the party’s only real hope is to work with other ‘progressive’ forces, like the SNP and Greens.
Now none of this is hugely surprising. Labour’s poll ratings have been hitting new lows for some time now. But the Fabian Society is a Labour thinktank and its report is a sign that it is becoming a widely-accepted truth that the party is on a path to electoral disaster. Even Corbyn’s closest allies — from Diane Abbott to Len McCluskey — have made comments of late suggesting the Labour leader must turn things around or go. So, what will Corbyn do about it? The answer is most likely nothing — with the Leader’s office responding that Corbyn is the alternative to ‘failed’ UK politics.
However, if Corbyn really is the answer — why not put this to the test? The party could select a true Corbynite to stand in the upcoming Copeland by-election, sparked by Jamie Reed’s resignation. The constituency ought to be a safe seat for the party given that it’s been held by Labour since 1935, but the result is expected to be tight with Labour, Ukip and the Conservatives all vying to take the Leave constituency. This battle will give Labour a taste of the forces they will be up against in 2020. By running a pro-Corbyn candidate and putting in a big campaign effort (perhaps Momentum could even help out), the Left of the party can finally test the Corbyn effect on the wider electorate.