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This site, and most of the press, have quite understandably focused on the internal dynamics of the Conservative Party since the scale of Theresa May’s electoral setback really set in on Friday morning.

But it mustn’t be forgotten that the result also poses a challenge to another group: Labour’s anti-Corbynites, a group which (at least until 10pm on Thursday) included the vast majority of its MPs.

Many had hoped that a serious defeat would lead the party membership, Jeremy Corbyn’s support base, to abandon their champion. Instead he now enjoys – at least relative to expectations – a vindication from the electorate, and plans to tighten the left’s grip on the party.

Analysis of the result seems to fall into two broad camps. The first is that if even Labour’s present, shambolic leadership could fight May to a hung parliament then imagine what a properly-led campaign could have achieved.

This is the line taken up by Chris Leslie, a veteran critic of Corbyn, on the Today programme this morning when he said that the result wasn’t good enough given the “open goal” the party had faced.

(This thinking seems to mirror that of Tory MPs such as Johnny Mercer, who seems to think that if even May could get 42.4 per cent of the vote just imagine what a Cameroon leader would have accomplished.)

Another, possibly more cautious, school of thought focuses on the fact that Labour’s previous leaders and approaches didn’t lead to 40 per cent of the vote (which they last achieved under Tony Blair in 2001), and are prepared to concede that the result may represent an achievement for Corbyn rather than any sort of electoral floor.

With the Government now operating as a minority, with DUP support, how these MPs choose to act over the next few months could have a huge impact on the country.

If they row in behind Corbyn, would he now be able to provide effective opposition? Or would the current pattern hold, where he excels in campaigns but not in the day-to-day political grind. And if he is effective, does that create the risk that he might actually end up as Prime Minister if the country ends up at the polls again in the autumn or the spring?

For all that they never thought it a remote possibility, many Labour MPs genuinely don’t want that to happen even if it could. Not only do they profoundly disagree with their leader on major issues, but a spell in government could also do what his leadership in opposition has yet to do and ‘retoxify’ Labour.

In the course of this campaign the Tories have learned that the Winter of Discontent is now too far in the past to be electorally potent. A huge proportion of the electorate can’t really remember a pre-Blair Labour government. That’s a gift to the modern Labour Party which a Corbynite administration would squander in short order.

On the other hand, they’ll want to go on the attack against a deeply wounded Prime Minister and Government. Maintaining their party’s divisions risks giving Theresa May and the Conservatives the breathing room they need to regroup.

All that’s certain for now is that Corbyn’s hold on the leadership is secure. The influence of his faction over the machinery of the Labour Party may yet increase. This poses his internal opponents with a painful dilemma, and a lot may hinge on how they resolve it.

76 comments for: Anti-Corbyn Labour MPs – they haven’t gone away, but what do they do now?

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