Splitting the anti-Corbyn vote would be suicidal to their chances of deposing the incumbent party leader.
With Owen Smith announcing that he would enter the Labour leadership contest and challenge incumbent Jeremy Corbyn, there are now three names on the ballot paper for the forthcoming leadership election. Former Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Smith, joins former Shadow Secretary of State for Business Angela Eagle in challenging Corbyn. Both have launched their campaigns on the grounds that they can unite the party and heal the divisions which have opened up in the months following the election of Corbyn as the party leader. However, this promise to heal divisions within the party loses credence when it becomes apparent that the rebels cannot even agree upon who should challenge Corbyn for the leadership.
In the last Labour leadership election Jeremy Corbyn strolled to victory, winning 59.5 per cent of the first preference vote. The rebels insist that Corbyn’s support has declined to such an extent that he is beatable in the forthcoming leadership challenge. However, even with just one challenger taking part in the contest, the rebels are relying upon a significant swing away from Corbyn in order to depose him. For the original challenger Angela Eagle to have defeated Corbyn, she would have required a swing of around ten percent away from the current leader. In recent YouGov polling, data suggests that Corbyn retains enough support to defeat any challenger by a margin of around 50–47. However, this margin increases when potential challengers for the leadership are suggested. Polling undertaken at the same time suggests that Corbyn would defeat Angela Eagle by a margin of 50–40, with 10 per cent of those surveyed responding ‘don’t know’ or ‘would not vote’. This polling suggests that even when there is just one candidate opposing Corbyn, they are fighting a losing battle.
Therefore, it seems foolish that Owen Smith has also decided to enter the race. Surely all this will achieve is to split the anti-Corbyn vote? This would make it near-impossible for Corbyn to be defeated in the upcoming leadership challenge. In actual fact, Owen Smith is a more credible candidate for the leadership than Angela Eagle. Having only entered Parliament in the 2010 General Election, he is not tainted by Labour’s time in Government and so would be in a better place to win a future general election. Although having said this, Smith may be a better candidate than Eagle, but he is still a sub-par candidate overall.
In this case he has dithered too long, and by entering the leadership election at this stage, all his presence will do is split the anti-Corbyn vote. In turn, this will guarantee Jeremy Corbyn as the Leader of the Labour Party for the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, whoever challenges Corbyn seemingly has little chance of beating him. It seems likely that Corbyn will win the leadership challenge, and that this will serve to renew his mandate as party leader.
Following this, the moderate elements of the Labour Party will be forced to split if they wish to be seen as a credible option in any future general election. Overall, this would be their best option. Rather than putting their energy into promoting sub-par candidates to usurp Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party, they should look to form a new party that can seize the centre-ground and offer the UK the credible opposition that has been so lacking for the past ten months.