Jeremy Corbyn has until May next year to prove he can win the 2020 general election, the former shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has suggested as he heaped pressure on the new Labour leader.
He indicated that failing to win in a “Labour city” like London at a time when he predicts there will be “discontent” with the Tory government would mean Mr Corbyn has very little chance of winning the next general election.
His comments could be seen as laying the groundwork for a coup against Mr Corbyn to ensure he does not lead Labour into the next general election.
Centrist MPs in the party have accepted they must give Mr Corbyn time to prove himself at the polls due to the large mandate he won in the leadership election and have concluded that forcing another leadership contest too soon after his victory would produce the same result. Lord Mandelson last week urged Labour MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn to hold off from ousting him until he had proven his “ineluctability”.
But Mr Hunt piled on the pressure by saying a new Labour leader would be expected to enjoy a surge in popularity in his first test at the polls and pointed to Scotland and Wales as places he would be expect to see Labour perform well.
Mr Hunt said he refused to serve in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet due to “principled disagreements” on a number of different policy areas, but said he would consider returning to the front bench in the future if there was more “movements on policy” by the new leader.
Asked at a fringe event whether he saw next May’s London mayoral elections as an “inflection point” on Mr Corbyn’s leadership, Mr Hunt said: “It will be us heading towards mid-term territory, a government that has been in power for six years. There will be discontent. London is a Labour city… So quite rightly there is expectation on the leadership to deliver and deliver successfully next May.”
Turning to Scotland, Mr Corbyn said Labour had a “different political approach” to the SNP and suggested Labour should be able to make progress. “We’ve got a more overtly socialist approach in some senses. So is it going to be nationalism or is it going to be a more left wing politics? We’ll see the answer on that.
“But don’t forget Wales will be a tough fight as well. We saw a Tory resurgence in Wales, we’ve seen the growth of Ukip in Wales. So I would expect the new leadership to deliver in all those areas,” he added.
Mr Hunt was critical of the direction Mr Corbyn intends to take the party, saying the Labour leadership risked “losing touch with the reality-based community” with his position on issues such as immigration, austerity and welfare.
He described the new education policy of returning academies to the control of local authorities as a “retrograde” and “terrible step”. The new policy was announced by his successor as shadow education secretary Lucy Powell last week.
Asked whether he would consider returning to the front bench, Mr Hunt said: : “Yes, certainly in the future, were I to be asked… clearly we’ve seen movement on policy, which hasn’t come from people like myself who are outside the shadow cabinet and shadow front bench and I await to see more.”Reuse content