If the polls are to be believed, we’re just weeks away from Jeremy Corbyn becoming the unlikeliest of Labour leaders.
The other leadership contenders are scrambling to negate the groundswell of support for Mr Corbyn’s campaign, with everything from attacks on his policies and their effect on Labour’s future to suggestions of collaboration to defeat the left-winger.
But what are the scenarios that could unfold if Mr Corbyn is elected at the Party conference in September? And how likely are they?
- Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister in 2020
Nothing’s impossible, but Mr Corbyn’s election as Prime Minister in 2020 would dwarf even the surprise of the leadership contest. The continued criticism of Mr Corbyn’s platform by Labour frontbenchers and grandees means he would inherit a fractious party. Uniting them behind his leadership will be difficult, particularly when some Party heavyweights have suggested they wouldn’t serve in his Shadow Cabinet. And the Tories will continue to capitalise on a positive economic narrative, comforted that the electorate rejected Ed Miliband’s vision in May. Mr Corbyn would have an uphill battle to convince the electorate of the merits of his manifesto, particularly in terms of the economy and the NHS.
Any prospect of Mr Corbyn as PM would also rely heavily on him being able to strike a deal with the SNP – and Scotland remaining part of the Union.
- A parliamentary coup ousts Mr Corbyn before the end of the year
Unlikely. Even highly unlikely. The simple question is – who would launch such a revolt? Anyone with leadership aspirations would have thrown their hat in the ring this time around. Otherwise, they’ll keep their powder dry for either a change of leader in 2018 or post-election in 2020.
And Mr Corbyn’s fellow leadership candidates won’t lead an uprising. They wouldn’t be able to command the support of the wider Party having just been defeated by him.
- Labour is routed in 2020
Impossible to say. Much will depend on who is the leader come the next election – and what their manifesto says.
Who the Labour leader is in 2020 probably won’t even be determined by this contest. Suggestions of a review by 2018 have long been mooted, and there seems to be a greater willingness amongst at least the parliamentary party to jettison a leader unlikely to take them to general election victory.
What is certain is that Labour will have a monumental challenge to weaken the vice-like grip of the SNP in Scotland. And defeating the Tories in England will require a major shift in public opinion from that expressed in May.
One thing Labour could have going for it is the increased and potentially more engaged grassroots membership it could mobilise – along with the accompanying boost to its funding. That is, if significant numbers of these new members aren’t wolves in sheep’s clothing, as has been suggested across the media in recent weeks.
- There’s another leadership battle in 2018
Or perhaps even sooner. The suggestion has been floating around for the duration of the leadership campaign, and a review or contest by 2018 would allow Labour time to correct its course if members feel the Party has little chance of electoral success.
If that happens, then the likes of Chuka Umunna might feel their time has come. Or alternatively, it might mean the return of a Miliband (not Ed this time)…
- A Corbyn leadership prompts a Lib Dem revival
This is an interesting possibility. Former MP and Home Office Minister Norman Baker suggested last week that the UK could be facing the hegemony of the Conservatives following the success of the SNP in Scotland and with Labour and the Lib Dems in disarray.
If a Corbyn manifesto were to prove a turn-off to voters, it’s entirely possible they could look elsewhere if they’re considering an opposition vote to the Tories. Such a move could allow the Lib Dems to recover some of the hectares of ground lost in May. Unless, of course, a Corbyn leadership prompts an irrevocable split in the Labour Party and the formation of a new party.