ANALYSIS: Splits on the left erupt as race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn heats up
It was all so much simpler before 12 December; Jeremy Corbyn was going to be Prime Minister and serve a full five-year term, during which his radical plans for mass nationalisation and wealth redistribution would change the face of Britain.
Annoyingly for Labour, the British public had other ideas, and decided to hand Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority.
Suddenly, Corbyn was a two-time election loser left with no option but to quit as leader of his party after more than four years at the helm.
While he had failed to turn Labour into a party of government in that time, he and his allies did manage to seize control of all the significant levers of power within the party itself.
Choosing a successor to carry on his work should therefore have been relatively straightforward. But the events of Sunday evening showed that it is proving to be anything but.
Within hours of one another both Ian Lavery and Rebecca Long Bailey announced that they were considering a tilt at the top job.
Lavery, the party chairman and a close Corbyn ally, said he had had “a tremendous amount of support” from those urging him to stand. A glance at the replies to his tweets in the past few days show that to be the case.
By contrast, Long Bailey, who was quickly installed as the preferred “continuity Corbyn” candidate after the election, has been almost mute since polling day.
She finally broke cover at precisely 10.30pm on Sunday in the pages of The Guardian. In a fairly underwhelming piece, the Salford-born frontbencher said Labour must unite again if it is to win back the northern seats it lost to the Tories and “return real wealth and power” to people across the UK.
With Sir Keir Starmer on course to be the standard bearer for Labour’s moderate wing in the upcoming leadership contest, an unexpected battle has now erupted on the left.
Throw Clive Lewis into the mix and it is clear that the pro-Corbyn camp is split over who should be entrusted with carrying on their man’s work when he returns to his allotment.
Already there is talk of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by Karie Murphy, Corbyn’s chief of staff who survived an attempt to have her sacked by John McDonnell, a key supporter of Long Bailey.
Party insiders say Long Bailey - who wants Angela Rayner to become deputy leader - has vowed to get rid of Murphy and Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s communications and strategy chief, if she wins the top job.
It is understood this has led to Murphy urging Lavery to stand.
Others, however, accuse Murphy of using Lavery’s potential candidacy as “leverage” in order to win a place on Long Bailey’s team further down the line.
One party insider said: “There’s open warfare on the left between those who think they can just hand over the leadership.”
But there is also a belief that Long Bailey is having second thoughts about whether to run for leader at all, and that Lavery is therefore the fallback option if no other potential left-wing successor to Corbyn can be found.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn has suddenly become very interesting indeed.