LABOUR will today back a vote in the House of Commons that, if the reports are correct, will bring them close to extinction.
Theresa May’s rush for a snap election on June 8 will undoubtedly have been spurred by two polls over the weekend giving the Tories a lead of over 21 per cent.
The Opinium poll for the Observer even suggested that when voters were asked who they wanted as Prime Minister 47 per cent of the UK said May and just 14 per cent said Jeremy Corbyn.
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Even among Labour voters, just 45 per cent said they would like to see Corbyn in No 10. Despite this, most of the party’s MPs will back the government’s efforts to unpick the Fixed-term Parliaments Act and allow an early vote.
“Do Turkeys vote for Christmas?” Labour MP Mike Gapes asked.
Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: “I’m still a bit in shock. I think that Theresa May has lied to the country again and again – and she is being opportunistic. I think it is rubbish what she is saying about a country divided – she obviously doesn’t live round where I live.
“People just want to get on with their lives.
“She’s playing a game and it’s a shame. I don’t think there was any appetite for a General Election from the public and this is Westminster politics once again.”
One rumour doing the rounds yesterday was the May called for an early election because Corbyn was planning on standing down after next month’s council elections. Under this scenario, he is forced to be the opposition.
However, his former aide Matt Zarb-Cousin said Labour had been planning for an early General Election since May became Prime Minister. Labour are to have an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting within days to draw up plans and organise its candidate selection and plan the manifesto.
That too could cause difficulty for Labour, with splits over whether to let the NEC automatically reselect standing MPs as candidates or whether to let local associations deselect their sitting representative.
Before Corbyn had even had a chance to gather his thoughts and respond to the Prime Minister’s Downing Street announcement, he was already facing resignations from Labour MPs who would rather stand down then be subject to what they think will be a brutal election campaign.
Tom Blenkinsop, who had a slender majority of 2268, announced that he would not stand for re-election in his seat of Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East. His constituency is a key target for the Tories.
Former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, who has managed to somehow be popular with all sides in Labour’s eternal internal feuds, announced he would not be seeking re-election.
Next month would have been his 20th anniversary as the MP for Hull West and Hessle, and in a letter to his local party, Johnson said: “Every day has been a privilege and a pleasure but it can’t go on for ever and the electoral cycle means that each incumbent has to think again about what’s best for them, the constituency and the party.”
Party bosses are hopeful some MPs who lost their seats in 2015 could be tempted to stand again, which in England could mean the return of former Chief Secretary to the Treasury turned celebrity hoofer Ed Balls.
In Scotland, the party started the process of selecting and confirming candidates yesterday afternoon.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s local election campaign launch happened at the same time as May made her surprise announcement.
Dugdale’s plea for voters “sick to the back teeth” of debating the constitution to back her party was understandably overshadowed by May announcing an intense 50 days of debating the constitution.
Aside from their leader’s poor standing in the polls, and a lack of candidates, Labour could also suffer from a lack of cash. Corbyn made a personal plea to supporters last night for extra funds. Though the party have raked in a small fortune from members over the last few years, they will be easily outspent by a flush Conservative party who “already have a war chest provided by a small group of multimillionaires”.
Ukip also believe they can win seats in the North East of England.