Local election signs are promising – but don’t expect gains, MPs told

1st March, 2016 10:52 am

PLP Labour MPs Corbyn

Labour MPs have been told that the signs for May’s local elections are encouraging, although party sources have played down expectations of gaining councils.

This came as Jeremy Corbyn last night addressed the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) for the first time this year. A source present at the meeting said that Corbyn was “warmly received” despite having to leave early and so being unable to answer MPs’ questions – which prompted some disgruntled backbenchers to also duck out before the end.

The Labour leader was applauded during his address for his campaigning on tax credits, although this was fairly restrained. He stressed that it was important to retain message discipline in the run-up to May’s elections, which raised eyebrows with some MPs who noted that Corbyn had spoken at an anti-Trident demo on Saturday, which had been earmarked as an EU campaign day.

The meeting was then interrupted as MPs went to vote, and Corbyn departed to film ITV’s The Agenda, on which he appeared late last night. Although a number left on discovering he wouldn’t return, one anti-Corbyn MP who stayed until the end downplayed the idea of an organised walkout. They told LabourList that “people leave whenever the leader goes early, whoever it is.”

Corbyn has promised to attend next week’s meeting in order to answer questions.

Jon Trickett, who has been tasked with co-ordinating Labour’s May election campaign, also gave a briefing on the party’s planned campaign messaging, which is set to be publicly revealed in the coming weeks. He noted that several recent polls have shown the gap between Labour and the Tories narrowing, and that local by-election results over the past few months have been promising.

However, a source denied that Trickett had predicted Labour gains in May, and conceded that the presentation had led to a “robust discussion” with MPs.


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