After the resounding defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the recent General Election, the Labour leadership - not only Corbyn himself, but other top members of his leadership team, such as John McDonnell, have said that they will be standing down ‘after a period of reflection’.

Labour candidates who lost their seats in the election, as well the wider Labour have mostly reacted with incredulity and anger, and some have demanded his immediate resignation.

Does a mechanism exist for a leadership contest to be forced, or to remove an incumbent Labour Party leader outright? In the Conservative party, for example, a leadership challenge can be mounted by just 15% of Conservative MPs, although the incumbent can still stand as a candidate in the leadership election. Does a similar process exist for the Labour Party?

  • I'd imagine that the answer is no, purely on the basis that if such a mechanism existed, they would have already triggered it.
    – F1Krazy
    Dec 20, 2019 at 14:25
  • to be fair, isn't he leaving in January? and, did the party as a whole not pretty much follow his lead, with some dissidence, until the rubber hit the road and his ideas were shown to be totally out of touch with actual voters? the BBC had an article about how the Democrats in the US might very well want to pay attention to be being well-left of popular opinion in the 2020 elections due to thought leaders and influencers. Dec 20, 2019 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


The Labour Party Rulebook defines how challenges to the leadership function.

Chapter 4, Clause II (2)(B)(ii) (Page 21):

Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of Party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.The sitting Leader or Deputy Leader shall not be required to seek nominations in the event of a challenge under this rule.

So 20% of both sitting MPs and MEPs must nominate a single alternative candidate to Corbyn before a leadership contest can be triggered. Note that all this achieves is the triggering of a contest, not the leader's removal. The last time this happened, Corbyn comfortably won the triggered contest.

Tl;dr No, there is no method to forcibly remove a leader. This is a method to force a leadership contest, but the incumbent is guaranteed by Party rules to be a candidate in that contest. Moreover (C4,CII (2)(D)(i):

When the PLP is in opposition in the House of Commons, the election of the leader and deputy leader shall take place at each annual session of Party conference.

The 2020 conference is in September. So even if there were enough votes to trigger a leadership election that might unseat Corbyn, that contest wouldn't take place until sometime in the Autumn of 2020.

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