Suppose the 2017 general election had gone very differently. Labour down to <200 seats, Tories triumphant.

Suppose that most Labour MPs were against Corbyn but couldn't remove him as leader (they've tried and failed already, of course).

Would the anti-Corbyn Labour bulk be able to nominate someone else to represent them in the House of Commons?

According to Wikipedia

The 1937 Act also contains an important provision to decide who is the Leader of the Opposition, if this is in doubt. Under section 10(3) "If any doubt arises as to which is or was at any material time the party in opposition to His Majesty's Government having the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons, or as to who is or was at any material time the leader in that House of such a party the question shall be decided for the purposes of this Act by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and his decision, certified in writing under his hand, shall be final and conclusive".

Is there any guidance for how the speaker should make this decision (like there is for a tied bill in the Commons) or does he just do what he thinks best?

During WW2, Labour was allowed to hold the post of Leader of the Opposition, even though they were in Cabinet with the Tories, and the politicians who held the title Leader of the Opposition were not leaders of the Labour party.

2 Answers 2


If 150 of those 200 Labour MPs were to resign the whip and form a new party, they would be able to choose as their leader whoever they wanted.

The act you quote is quite clear, and it is consistent with the general rule that the speaker is in charge of all matters related to the running of parliament. It is a matter for judgement and so is left to the judgement of the speaker.

This scenario is unlikely, as it would likely spell the end of the Labour Party. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

The wartime precedent is not a good guide, as the situation the country was in was exceptional.

  • Oh, of course they could create a new party. But Labour people seem to be strongly attached to their party. For example, in philosophical terms Tony Blair would clearly be more at home as a Lib Dem than in Labour under Corbyn, but he refuses to budge, ever. So I think it's plausible they would try to pull a stunt like this. We'll never know, of course.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 21:59
  • @NeMo Three letters: "SDP"
    – James K
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 22:05
  • Good point, but those letters may also explain why the Labour right is unwilling to split...
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 22:34

No I don't believe there is any guidance, the law is fairly explicit Speaker may choose whoever he so believes is most fit to be leader of the opposition, and commands the majority of MP's who are members of the largest non-governmental party.


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