Labour's elections team expects the party to be left with just 140 seats after the election, The Spectator has learned.
I understand from two very good sources that this working assumption developed by Patrick Heneghan, the party’s elections director, is based on the party’s private data. This could mean that 89 sitting Labour MPs lose their seats - and means the party considers previously safe constituencies to be at risk.
This internal prediction may well explain why Len McCluskey chose this week to set 200 seats as the sign of a ‘successful campaign’. Falling so far short of that threshold would give those on the Left who have previously supported Jeremy Corbyn an excuse to move against him after the election. The Unite boss is just the latest to make clear that he expects the party to lose this election, while Corbyn and his allies insist that the polls are on the move for Labour and that they are fighting to win.
The question for those working in the party’s headquarters on the election campaign is how to stop a leader who is fighting to win from making life more difficult for those who are fighting for their political lives in their seats. Is it enough to keep Corbyn busy with visits to the seats of his allies (many MPs simply don’t want him anywhere near their campaigns) and constituencies Labour has no hope of gaining? To hide him away would be to suggest that they are running scared.
Perhaps a more effective message to get out during this strange election is that even Corbyn’s backers such as McCluskey plan to remove him after polling day, so voters can support Labour knowing that the Opposition won’t be led by someone who they do not like or trust. This would certainly help the MPs who are making a second attempt to remove the Labour leader one of the informal pledges that they make on the doorstep, which makes a change at least from talking about bins.
Update, 4.30pm: A Labour Party spokesperson says: 'There is no such prediction or poll. This is categorically untrue.'
It may well be that this working assumption is wrong - but I stand by my sources who have passed me the information about what the elections team believes is going to happen.