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Will Jeremy Corbyn be prime minister in 2018?

PUBLISHED: 12:44 22 December 2017

Will Jeremy Corbyn ever by PM or has he already missed his best chance?

Will Jeremy Corbyn ever by PM or has he already missed his best chance?

PA Wire/PA Images

Having to sack long-time ally and friend Damian Green was not how Theresa May wanted to end the year.

Having to sack long-time ally and friend Damian Green was not how Theresa May wanted to end the year.

He was her rock in the cabinet and a much-needed friendly face alongside the vipers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Mrs May does not have many friends and, although she was left with no choice, Mr Green’s sacking will have been tough for her.

But she has proved her stoicism since the election. She has proved she is tough and willing to put the effort in the job requires, for that she should be applauded.

She will be hoping for a bit more luck in 2018. But Labour will be hoping for more of the same.

The opposition has taken the view that sitting back and watching the government flounder is the best form of attack.

If we cast our minds back to a similarly weak Tory government under John Major, Labour used a very different tactic. Tony Blair and his team employed a sophisticated, round-the-clock media operation to berate, belittle and ultimately pulverise Mr Major.

The view was Labour should keep on hammering away until the Tories were thoroughly defeated. And, of course, it worked with that landslide 1997 election victory.

These are different times though. The old battle lines have been redrawn. Although today’s Labour has shifted away from the centre ground there is another political fault line that will dominate politics for years to come: Brexit.

Under Mr Blair Labour would have come out firmly to remain in the European Union and they would have thrown everything they had at Mrs May in the current climate.

But Jeremy Corbyn is mindful a lot of his voters backed Brexit. He fears that by opposing the government it will appear to those voters his party is also opposing Brexit.

So on the issue of how we leave the EU – or even if we should – Labour has taken a nuanced, pragmatic approach.

Privately the majority of Labour MPs will say they do not want to leave Europe and don’t believe we should. And there have been confusing messages from members of the front bench on whether there should be another referendum at the end of the negotiations.

But it is not just Brexit where Labour is split. There are deep differences and rival factions are busy at work behind the scenes.

So although Labour often appear to be quiet, a fierce row over the future of the party is raging.

Momentum is on the up. They are the pressure group that formed in the wake of Mr Corbyn’s surprise leadership victory but it has become, in many ways, a party within the party.

Founder Jon Lansman - who worked closely with Labour grandees Tony Benn and Michael Meacher in the 1980s – is expected to be voted on the party’s National Executive Committee in the new year.

And Momentum is also hoping to get members of the group into council seats at the local elections. The plan is clear: slowly Labour’s politics from top to bottom will mirror that of the leader.

Those in the centre of the party will begin to fade away.

The slow seizure of power by the left is proving successful. But without a top team all singing from the same hymn sheet being an effective opposition is hard.

So will 2018 bring a front bench reshuffle that sees more Corbynistas in the shadow cabinet? Probably not.

Mr Corbyn is a patient man and he knows that with a weakened government he can allow his party to fight the internal war without too much damage being done.

But will he be prime minister next year as he predicted in a recent magazine interview? Unlikely. Even if Mrs May was to fall it is implausible that a new PM would go back to the country so soon after the last debacle.

Although he is in no rush Mr Corbyn may have already missed his chance.

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