Jeremy Corbyn faces a “stalking horse” leadership challenge next year from Simon Danczuk, the backbencher known for his campaigning work, if Labour performs poorly at May’s Scottish, Welsh and London elections.
Mr Danczuk, who is on the party’s right wing, is understood to be considering a challenge that he hopes would trigger a wider contest.
The MP confirmed to The Independent on Sunday that he “wouldn’t rule out” standing should Labour continue to struggle at the ballot box in the wake of its disastrous general election in May. The former leader, Ed Miliband, entered the ballot with hopes of winning, only to see the party reduced from 258 to 232 seats; the Conservatives, by contrast, secured their first outright majority since 1992.
Labour rules dictate that 20 per cent of the party’s MPs – 47 – need to back a single challenger to the party leader to force a fresh election. Mr Corbyn has suffered a difficult start to his leadership, and is backed by only a few of his MPs because many in the Parliamentary Labour Party think he is too left wing.
Lord Warner, a Health minister under Tony Blair, resigned the party whip last week, arguing that Labour “is no longer a credible government in waiting”. Lord Grabiner, Master of Clare College, Cambridge, has also quit the Labour benches, stating that he has “nothing in common whatever with Mr Corbyn”.
But Mr Corbyn, 66, is hugely popular among the party membership – he seized the leadership last month with the biggest mandate in Labour’s history. It is thought Mr Danczuk, who was named campaigning MP of the year in 2014 for his work on historical child sex abuse, is aware that a direct leadership assault on such a beloved figure will see him defeated, but is willing to be a sacrificial lamb.
Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, who tried and failed to succeed Margaret Thatcher in 1990 after years of plotting, once said: “He who wields the knife never wears the crown.” But Sir Anthony Meyer, a Europhile Conservative backbencher at the time, sparked Mrs Thatcher’s downfall through a stalking horse candidacy in 1989, which saw him heavily defeated but the prime minister significantly undermined.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/20 26 June 2017
A festival-goer sleeps outside their tent at the end of the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
2/20 26 June 2017
Canadian Captain Megan Couto (C) leading out troops of the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from Wellington Barracks heading for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London. Media reports state that Megan Couto, will be at the head of some 40 Canadian soldiers along with the Royal Canadian Artillery Band at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace becoming the first female soldier in history to become Captain of the Guard. Canadian soldiers are serving as the Queen's Guard as sentries at Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle until 03 July 2017. Queen Elizabeth II invited Canada to send troops take part in the ceremonial duties in 2017 marking 150 years since Canadian Confederation
3/20 26 June 2017
Residents leave their home on the Taplow Block on the Chalcots Estate on June 26, 2017 in London, England. Residents of the Chalcots Estate have been urged to leave their homes due to fire safety fears in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Four of the five Chalcots Estate towers in Camden, North London, are being evacuated after they were found to have similar cladding to that on Grenfell, attributed to contributing to the rapid spread of the blaze last week that killed at least 79 people
4/20 25 June 2017
Police officers on Romford Road in Forest Gate, east London, as people protest over the death of Edir Frederico Da Costa, who died on June 21 six days after he was stopped in a car by Metropolitan Police officers in Woodcocks, Beckton, in Newham, east London
5/20 24 June 2017
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses revellers from the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival
6/20 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
7/20 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
8/20 22 June 2017
Racegoers cheer on their horse on Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot horse racing meet, in Ascot, west of London
9/20 21 June 2017
A reveller walks among the tipi tents at the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England
10/20 20 June 2017
A police officer lays some flowers passed over by a member of the public, close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after one man died and eight people were taken to hospital and a person arrested after a rental van struck pedestrian
The Borough Market bell is seen in Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, with one of his daughters, visit Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack
A woman reacts in front of a wall of messages in Borough Market, which officially re-opened today following the recent attack, in central London
Vivenne Westwood walks the runway at the Vivenne Westwood show during the London Fashion Week Men's June 2017 collections
Millwall fan and London Bridge hero Roy Larner on 'Good Morning Britain'
Richard Arnold, Roy Larner, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on 'Good Morning Britain'
20/20 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
Mr Danczuk hopes his candidacy would open up a contest so that another, emerging talent with an interesting background, such as former Army major Dan Jarvis, could mount a challenge without being tainted by accusations of stabbing the leader in the back. Mr Danczuk is also thought to be a fan of Emma Reynolds, the fiercely intelligent former shadow Communities and Local Government secretary who quit on Mr Corbyn’s victory.
Mr Danczuk said: “I wouldn’t rule it [standing as a stalking horse] out. It’s no secret that I think we need a more moderate leader if we’re to win in 2020.”
A Labour source added that Mr Danczuk should follow through with the idea if he thought it would result in “a better leader”. A second source said the plan would depend on “how bad” May’s election results are, but felt it was “a bit early” for such a challenge.
Mr Danczuk’s efforts could be helped – or hindered – by a rumoured appearance on the forthcoming series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!. It was reported last week that the 49-year-old has been approached to take part, but he declined to comment on this.
Mr Corbyn’s position could be decided by electoral results in Scotland, London and Wales. Labour was annihilated north of the border by the SNP at the general election, having been reduced from 41 to only one of 59 seats in Scotland, but there were hopes that Mr Corbyn’s anti-austerity message could win back some voters in the Holyrood elections. Yet the Conservatives are increasingly hopeful of replacing Labour as the main opposition party in the Scottish Parliament (see story on facing page).
London could be crucial because it is widely considered a natural Labour stronghold and was a focal point for “Corbynmania” during the leadership campaign. Mr Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983.
The Labour leader has a strong candidate for the London mayor’s job in Sadiq Khan, the former shadow Lord Chancellor. However, the mayoralty has been held by Boris Johnson since 2008 and the Conservative Party’s nominee, Zac Goldsmith, is well liked by the wider electorate. The pair were running neck-and-neck at 10/11 with Paddy Power, though Mr Khan edged slightly ahead with the bookmaker late on 24 October.
A strong performance in Wales is possibly less important, given that Cardiff assembly elections tend to be largely ignored by the mainstream media. But Wales is another of Labour’s greatest areas of electoral strength – the only non-local chunk of government where it is in power – and the party needs only one seat to gain an outright majority of 31.
Ukip, however, has been wooing working-class voters who are worried about immigration, with one analysis last year and a more recent poll suggesting the party is on course for eight seats in Cardiff in May.
Labour’s support had been sliding in Wales, but a YouGov poll last month suggested a large enough bounce on Mr Corbyn’s election that the party would lose only one assembly seat, well ahead of the Tories and Plaid Cymru.
Many MPs think any early leadership challenge would be difficult, however, suggesting the crushing nature of Mr Corbyn’s recent victory means he would easily win again.
Also, even if he were to stand aside, a younger and more centrist left wing candidate who might be considered a more plausible future prime minister, notably the Shadow Energy Secretary, Lisa Nandy, could emerge and win the contest.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn declined to comment.Reuse content