Jeremy Corbyn’s allies believe Labour needs to win 35 per cent of the vote in May’s elections to avert an attempt to oust him as party leader.
One source close to Mr Corbyn said he feared it could even be the “beginning of the end” for the Labour leader if the party fails to secure that level of support in contests for London Mayor, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and English local councils.
The scale of the challenge he faces is underlined by an end-of-year poll of polls for the Independent showing Labour has only achieved a modest bounce in support since he became leader in September.
The party enters 2016 on around 33 per cent, five points behind the Conservatives, suggesting it could be heading for a poor performance in the contests on 5 May.
Labour sources are braced for a hammering in Scotland and for the party to lose scores of seats in the English local elections. Labour’s Sadiq Khan is the narrow favourite to become the next Mayor of London, but will face a tough battle with the Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith.
“We need to be aiming to get 35 per cent in May to show we are making progress. If we don’t get around that level, it might be the beginning of the end,” said a Corbyn ally.
The source said the leadership team was buoyed up by the party’s comfortable victory in last month’s Oldham West and Royton by-election and intended to capitalise on the success in the new year.
“We’re using the break to look at the mistakes we’ve made and regroup. You can expect us to become more positive and policy-focused and go on the offensive.”
The comments echo claims by disaffected centrist MPs that Mr Corbyn needs to demonstrate his electoral appeal this year to prove he is not leading the party to defeat. One said: “You can expect a lot of muttering and talk of plots if we lose in London and get wiped out in Scotland.”
A weighted average of last month’s polls puts the Conservatives on 38 per cent, Labour on 33 per cent, Ukip on 10 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 8 per cent, and the Greens on 5 per cent.
Tory and Labour support have edged up since the election, with Ukip support falling slightly and the Lib Dems remaining stuck in single figures. Labour stood on 30 per cent support in August, the month before Mr Corbyn’s leadership triumph, rising to 32 per cent in September.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who calculated the averages, said: “Despite the claims of Mr Corbyn’s supporters that he will attract support from the previously disengaged, there is no evidence the party is proving particularly successful at winning over those who failed to vote in May. Indeed, all the parties find themselves at the end of the year still in much the same position as they were in the general election.”
Reshuffle: Shadow Cabinet
A Labour reshuffle is due within weeks with Jeremy Corbyn expected to sack or demote shadow cabinet members for failing to share his “direction of travel”. Big names including Hilary Benn, Maria Eagle and Michael Dugher could be replaced by Corbynists or MPs who accept his huge mandate from the party’s grassroots. Here’s who may get a promotion:
* Diane Abbott (shadow International Development Secretary): Veteran MP shares Corbyn’s politics, is his parliamentary neighbour and had a relationship with him. She served on the front bench under Ed Miliband but was sacked for “disloyalty”. She sent her son to a private school, which she admitted was “indefensible”.
* Jon Trickett (shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary): The former leader of Leeds Council nominated Corbyn for the leadership. An opponent of Trident renewal.
* Richard Burgon (shadow City minister): New MP and Motörhead fan, among Corbyn’s most enthusiastic supporters. Had a difficult start in his portfolio, admitting he could not remember Britain’s budget deficit and was yet to meet anyone from the City of London’s financial industry.
* Cat Smith (shadow minister for Women): She says: “I’m a socialist. And in no particular order I’m also a feminist, Christian, environmentalist, trade unionist, republican and proud Northerner who calls a spade and spade.”
* Emily Thornberry (shadow Employment minister): Corbyn brought his fellow Islington MP back to the front bench after she resigned over a “snobby” picture she posted of a house bedecked with England flags. Voted for Yvette Cooper as leader.
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