Labour ponders a heavy defeat -- and what happens next..

It was on the second day of the unexpected 2017 General Election campaign that Labour sources started to suggest a “good result” for the party would be to lose between 30 and 45 seats.

This would take Labour to its lowest Parliamentary representation since the Second World War, and appears to many to be a rather optimistic prediction.

Labour’s hope is to avoid a total meltdown, leaving enough in the wreckage to hold out the hope of rebuilding.

In 2015, the party’s main problem was its failure to make inroads in key target seats. Its vote held up in existing strongholds. This time, the challenge is to hang on in the places once thought impregnable.

The local election show the Conservatives will chase them down across the north and midlands, as well as in Wales. The Lib Dems hope to take seats in London. There will be no hiding places.

But the abysmal poll ratings seen in the early days of the campaign are probably deceptive. Already, that yawning gap is narrowing a little bit. Labour was 11-points behind in last week’s elections, not the 20-point gap polls suggested. Still, a swing of anything up to 10% is possible, handing the Tories dozens of seats.

Jeremy Corbyn is better on the stump than in the Commons. Surrounded by like-minded supporters, he’ll come across better during the campaign. That won’t stop many Labour candidates doing everything they can to avoid mentioning him.

And he still hasn’t accepted that reasonably friendly relations with the media are at least part of his job. He struggles to retain his composure during sustained tough questioning, and that won’t help convince floating voters.

Some prominent Labour candidates view the pain of the coming weeks as a price worth paying, lancing the boil that could have held them back for a further three years. But will Mr Corbyn resign after a poor Labour result? John McDonnell may have admitted resignations must follow a heavy defeat, but don’t bet on it.

Even if Mr Corbyn does fall on his sword, the party membership would swing behind any similarly left-wing replacement. And, if the election removes dozens of moderate Labour MPs, a more radical Westminster party might just give them that choice.

Many expect this election to be Labour’s low-point — but there may be even further to fall.