UK Politics: Markets turn against Jeremy Corbyn as Labour's crisis deepens

This is a pivotal week for Corbyn and Labour's Oldham by-election candidate Jim McMahon.
This is a pivotal week for Corbyn and Labour's Oldham by-election candidate Jim McMahon.
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Less than three months after securing an overwhelming victory in the Labour leadership contest, Betfair markets are moving strongly against Jeremy Corbyn. Paul Krishnamurty discusses the crisis that risks splitting the party...

"If MPs were in charge of this decision, Corbyn and McDonnell would be gone in an instant. However they aren't. Whilst it will only take 46 MPs to...force a new leadership contest, Corbyn's legitimacy with the wider membership is beyond question."

After another terrible week for Labour, Betfair markets are turning fast against the party and their new leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is now rated only 17% likely to lead Labour into the 2020 General Election, at odds of [6.2]. On our Sportsbook, he's shortened to 1/4 from 11/10 to leave post before David Cameron, who has already stated he won't run in 2020.

More immediately, money continues to pile in about a massive upset in next week's Oldham West and Royton By-Election. When the contest was first announced following the death of longstanding MP Michael Meacher, Labour were rated 95% likely to retain what is, on paper, an ultra-safe seat.

That rating is now down to 75%, at odds of [1.33]. UKIP are the sole danger at [3.7] or 23%, with the Conservatives totally dismissed at [250.0].

If that upset - which would be arguably the greatest in English Labour's history - occurs, expect hostile MPs to call for immediate action. Corbyn has never commanded the support of anything like a majority of MPs and events over the past two weeks have ramped up the pressure.

First, his reaction to the Paris attacks was criticised, when failing to unequivocally back the police's right to shoot suspected terrorists.

Then, controversial Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell's response to the Autumn Statement was widely ridiculed. In an attempt to highlight George Osborne's policies of selling off state assets to the Chinese, McDonnell quoted Chairman Mao and threw a copy of the 'Little Red Book' across the despatch box.

What was intended as a joke backfired spectacularly. Worse was to come on Friday, when The Times reported McDonnell's historic support for the IRA's bombing campaign of Britain.

Further chaos within the Parliamentary party appears unavoidable, given Corbyn's refusal to back war in Syria. Whilst that will be no surprise to any follower of his career, or the hundreds of thousands that voted for him, for the party to be so deeply split over a looming war is catastrophic.

If the media and MPs were in charge of this decision, Corbyn and McDonnell would be gone in an instant. However they aren't. Whilst it will only take 46 MPs to unite behind an alternative and force a new leadership contest, Corbyn's legitimacy with the wider membership is beyond question.

Indeed, Labour members appear further from median opinion than ever. While Corbyn's national approval ratings are a dire -28%, 66% of Labour members believe he's doing a good job. Interestingly, that's 7% higher than the 59% who gave him their first preference vote in September's leadership election.

So any move from MPs to remove a leader, who has had less than three months to make an impact, would probably be seen as illegitimate by the membership. If Corbyn were to be a candidate in any forced leadership contest, he would likely win on the basis of those numbers.

Nor is there anything like consensus among his enemies regarding a replacement. The current favourite is former army major Dan Jarvis at [4.8] but, apart from being able to reverse hostility towards Corbyn's pacifism and alleged anti-patriotism, the Barnsley MP is totally unproven in frontline politics.

More likely is that any replacement would need to be a unifying figure, such as Alan Johnson or Tom Watson. The problem here is that both men have repeatedly said they don't want the job. Right now, the Next Labour Leader market looks as wide-open as any leadership contest in living memory.

In the meantime, all eyes are on Oldham. A win would give Corbyn breathing space, before next May's bigger electoral tests in London, Scotland and Wales. Defeat to UKIP, however, could send opponents into panic mode and split the party deeper than ever.


Follow me on Twitter @paulmotty and at www.politicalgambler.com


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