Labour is on track for a "terrible mauling" at the next general election if Jeremy Corbyn does not change his party's fortunes, a top political and polling expert told IBTimes UK on Wednesday (1 March).

Oxford Brookes University's Professor Glen O'Hara said the opposition party could be reduced to a size not seen since the 1935 general election, when Labour won just 154 seats.

"Much could change between now and an election. Brexit could go badly. There could be much slower growth, or even a recession. Real wages might fall," he said.

"The ranks of Conservative MPs might split over Brexit's consequences. Labour might pick a new leader, assemble a Shadow Cabinet of all its talents, and put together some credible policies.

"So nothing is fixed. But if the constellation in 2020 is the same as now, then the writing could be on the wall for Labour – just as it was for the Conservatives between the election of Tony Blair as Labour's leader and the 1997 election."

The stark analysis comes after Labour's historic defeat to the Conservatives at the Copeland by-election in February. It was the first time since 1982, when the Tories took the London seat of Mitcham and Morden from Labour, that the opposition had lost to the government in a by-election.

But there was some hope for Labour since the party was able to fight off Ukip leader Paul Nuttall and retain the Staffordshire seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central, albeit with a reduced majority of more than 2,600 votes, down from 5,179.

Corbyn refused to quit after the Copeland defeat, admitting that the party was "no enough" to retain the West Cumbrian constituency.

"In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies, like so many in Britain, have been let down by the political establishment," the Labour leader said. "To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to reconnect with voters, and break with the failed political consensus."

The party is facing another by-election after the death of Manchester Gorton MP Sir Gerald Kaufman at age 86. The former father of the House of Commons secured a majority of more than 24,000 votes at the general election.

The Liberal Democrats came fourth at the election behind the Greens, Conservatives and Ukip, but Tim Farron's party is expected to bounce back at the forthcoming by-election thanks to its pro-EU stance.

Around 62% of Manchester Gorton voters backed Remain at the EU referendum in June and the Liberal Democrats have come second in the North West seat between 1997 and 2010.

The latest national opinion poll from YouGov for The Times, of more than 2,000 voters between 21 and 22 February, gave the Conservatives a 16% lead over Labour (41% versus 25%).