Alan Johnson: Jeremy Corbyn could quit to avoid general election campaign

Posted On: 
3rd March 2017

Jeremy Corbyn could try to quit as Labour leader to avoid the strain of a general election campaign, party grandee Alan Johnson has claimed.

Jeremy Corbyn and Alan Johnson at an EU referendum campaign event
Credit: 
PA

Allies of the Labour leader have made clear he has no intention of throwing in the towel, despite the party’s dismal polling performance and defeat in last week's Copeland by-election.

The pressure on the top team has also increased with PoliticsHome’s revelation that thousands of members have quit the party, many in protest over Mr Corbyn’s position on Brexit.

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In an interview with the Times, former Home Secretary Mr Johnson suggested the Labour leader could yet decide to call time on his leadership.

He said: "If he thinks it is bad now, wait until we get close to a general election when there will be enormous pressure on him and his team. I think if he could find a way to get out of it [he would],”

Mr Johnson also revealed he had not taken a run for the Labour leadership in the past because he “did not have the appetite for it”.

Lord Watts, the former chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, told the same paper the drop-off in membership could be a sign that supporters were now re-appraising the Corbyn project.

“I think the tide is turning . . . I imagine people are losing heart because they can see the polls, they’re talking to their neighbours and people they work with, and are coming to the conclusion Labour is not doing well and, at this point, not convincing the public.,” he said.

MEMBERSHIP FALL

An internal party document seen by PoliticsHome shows the dramatic drop in membership that took place from 13-19 February.

The total is made up of 4,651 who allowed their membership to lapse, 781 who resigned and 52 who died.

Because of the way Labour records its figures, lapsed memberships are not officially recorded for six months.

The 781 resignations were "a decrease on last week’s figure", the report says.

It adds: "The main reason for resigning this week was: 'Not happy with the party’s approach to Brexit'."

A total of 433 people joined Labour over the same seven-day period and the party's total membership still stood at 528,720, meaning it is still the largest political organisation in western Europe.