Manifesto leak shows division and chaos at top of Labour

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech on the general election campai

EDS NOTE ALTERNATIVE CROP Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech on the general election campaign trail at Shirecliffe Community Centre in Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 10, 2017. See PA ELECTION stories. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The outcome of this election does not seem to be in doubt.

Theresa May and the Conservatives strike a confident tone. And why wouldn't they? The party holds a colossal poll lead and, after the local elections last week, appear to be very much in the driving seat heading straight back to power.

The fact the prime minister is comfortable discussing previously toxic policies like reintroducing fox hunting and is even happy to re-heat old Labour ideas – energy prices caps – proves beyond doubt this is a politician flexing her muscles like no leader has since Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher before him.

Assuming – a dangerous thing to do in the current political climate – the Tories do not implode the most fascinating outcome from 2017's General Election will be the impact on the Labour Party.

Languishing in the polls and after suffering a bruising local election night, Jeremy Corbyn's party has lost its way. The leader retains a significant core of support among membership but he lost the majority of his MPs even before he won his first leadership battle. For those moderate Labour politicians the last two years have been like a car crash they can see on the horizon but cannot avoid no matter how hard they hit the brakes.

The leaking of the manifesto before it had even been fully signed off by the party is just another indication of the chaos and division at the top of the party. The fact that the wide-ranging proposals include some nods to the centre of Labour will do nothing to stop many focusing on the hard, left-wing themes such as re-nationalisation.

And it seems Mr Corbyn will not fall on his sword if he is heavily defeated on June 8. 'I was elected leader of this party and I will stay leader of this party,' he said this week in answer to journalists' questions about his future.

Most Read

But how can he justify this? Ed Miliband quit, Gordon Brown quit – the perceived wisdom is that if you are defeated in a general election you step down. For Mr Corbyn though – and those ardent leftie supporters he can mobilise at a moment's notice for renditions of The Red Flag – polling well is not the only aim.

I recently interviewed a committed Corbynista. She was still revelling in the glow of the Labour Party finally having a left-wing leader having joined up in support of Michael Foot in the early 1980s.

For her Corbynism is as much about ideology as it is about winning at the ballot box.

'What Jeremy is trying to do is realign the politics of this country,' she told me. 'That is not necessarily something that will happen overnight at the ballot box. It may take many years and Jeremy, I believe, will just be one of a string of Labour politicians that will get us there.'

Those quotes will strike fear in the heart of many Labour candidates as they approach polling day.

So what can they do if Corbyn clings on? What next for a Labour Party that has apparently surrendered a desire to govern?

Moderates within the party will take some heart from the rise of Emmanuel Macron across the Channel. His rhetoric has echoes of Blair and Bill Clinton's Third Way and proves there are still a lot of votes to be won in the centre ground.

So reports that as many as 100 Labour candidates - currently battling to save their seats in the face of a swell of support for Mrs May – are planning a breakaway movement if a defeated Mr Corbyn stays after June 8 should not come as a huge shock.

One senior Labour centrist told me there was 'no truth' in the claims. I think he might change his tune after polling day when the chances of dragging Labour back to the centre ground could appear all but over.

Richard Porritt is our new Political Editor