Advertisement

Labour's extraordinary campaign

Many Labour candidates appeared to distance themselves from Corbyn. Credit: PA

I've never known an opposition campaign like Labour's in this general election - and I doubt anyone alive has either.

Because having talked to many Labour candidates tonight after the party's near rout in the local elections, their cunning plan to keep their seats is to hide from Jeremy Corbyn's national campaign, stay in their constituencies and fight on purely local issues.

The point is that they regard their leader as toxic and do not want to be publicly associated with him.

"When I knock on doors I tell people they can vote for me if they like me and not have any fear of Jeremy becoming prime minister - because there is absolutely no chance of that" said one.

Another told me: "My campaign literature makes it absolutely clear that I do not take instructions from the leadership".

And when I ask them to do interviews for ITV, most of them run a mile. Because they don't want to be seen to be endorsing Corbyn, but also fear being accused of gross disloyalty if they attack him.

So the visible public face of Labour is Corbyn and his closest left wing allies, principally the shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

Even the party's centrist deputy leader Tom Watson has been almost invisible. And he hasn't even been consulted on or involved in drafting the party's manifesto.

With the party so bitterly split is there the faintest chance that over the next 34 days till the big general-election vote that Labour can significantly close the yawning gap in public opinion opened up by Theresa May?

That seems implausible - especially since what most Labour MPs want to talk with me about is what may happen after the party loses (their assumption, not mine), and whether Corbyn would immediately resign.

More on this story