In government, Burnham says, Labour had been in the “stultifying position” of not being able to act on the concerns of its voters and alter free movement rules, because the EU would never have accepted it. While he backed Remain in the referendum, he now sees an opportunity to smooth out the inconsistencies of Labour’s position.“We need to change from a speculative form of free movement to a form of free movement where people can move if they have a job secured that they can go to,” he said. “It’s perfectly doable and can respond to the public concern that you get in areas like mine, without closing yourself off from the world.”The May election in Greater Manchester, along with other “metro mayor” elections in regions including Liverpool and the West Midlands, would be “the right opportunity at the right time,” Burnham said, for Labour to reconnect with the millions it feels like it lost in the EU referendum.Anti-establishment firebrandWhile critics view Burnham’s newly-voiced enthusiasm for ending freedom of movement as an opportunistic appeal to his forthcoming electorate in Greater Manchester, his approach is likely to mark a stark contrast to the party’s national position.Corbyn’s team say his 2017 strategy will be to assume the mantle of an anti-establishment force for change – in an attempt to seize upon the anti-elite, anti-status quo atmosphere pervading Western politics.Unite union boss Len McCluskey sounded a note of warning for the Labour leader that the clock is ticking. Immigration discordOne issue above all looks set to divide Labour in 2017: immigration.Almost no-one in the Labour party is fundamentally anti-immigration but, since the Brexit vote, the party has come under increasing pressure to take a harder line on the issue. Labour MPs in Leave-voting constituencies say that immigration was at, or near, the top of their supporter’s concerns.Corbyn has maintained a defiantly pro-immigration stance. He told the Guardian newspaper at the end of last month that there was a “level of exaggeration” about the negative impact of immigration, and has hinted that freedom of movement would have to be maintained to achieve the single market access that he says he wants to see as part of a Brexit deal.Many senior Labour figures disagree and think freedom of movement must end as part of the Brexit deal.Andy Burnham, a former minister under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and the MP who ran closest to Corbyn in the 2015 leadership contest, will this year run for the new position of directly elected mayor of Greater Manchester, a region with around 3.5 million inhabitants, which includes strongly Leave-voting towns like Oldham, Rochdale and Bolton. If he wins, he intends to stand down as an MP.A delegate at the Labour Party Leadership Conference in Liverpool in September 2016 | Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty ImagesThe fallout from the referendum “has the potential to break us out of a long-term bind, if we are prepared to listen to what the voters outside of the cities, of the big metropolitan areas, are saying,” Burnham told POLITICO. A new poll published Monday put the party at 24 percent, their lowest since 2009 and a dire rating for an opposition party. The same day, respected Labour-affiliated think tank the Fabian Society projected that the party could sink to as few as 150 MPs at the next general election, a performance that would be its worst since the 1930s.“I think we’re all better off spending this year actually thinking through ideas” — Wes Streeting, Labour MPRival parties smell blood. According to the Fabians, the two million Labour voters who backed Leave are now prime targets for Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit” Conservatives and also for the United Kingdom Independence Party under new leader Paul Nuttall. Meanwhile, the five million party supporters who backed Remain will be courted by the centrist Liberal Democrats, who have surged back into the political limelight by casting themselves as the natural home of Remainers – unashamedly pro-EU and holding out hope for a second referendum.A year for soul-searchingWes Streeting, one of only 10 Labour MPs who gained a seat from a Conservative at the 2015 general election, said that despite assertions made by Corbyn in a recent interview with The Independent, the party now looked anything but election-ready and that 2017 was a year for soul-searching for the entire party.“There’s a lot of work for us to do to answer some pretty fundamental questions about the role and purpose of the Labour party,” he told POLITICO. “If you look at the politics of Europe and North America, social democratic parties are in absolute crisis everywhere apart from in Canada.” A source close to the Labour leader told POLITICO: “The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have signaled a rejection of the status quo, which has served only the interests of the establishment. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn will be taking its case to every part of Britain in the coming months with a radical policy platform, offering the only genuine alternative to a failed parliamentary political establishment and the fake anti-elitists of the hard right.”Precisely what this will entail awaits to be seen. But as 2017 dawned, one of Corbyn’s most important backers, the Unite union boss Len McCluskey, sounded a note of warning for the Labour leader that the clock is ticking.“Let’s suppose we are not having a snap election [in 2017],” he told the left-leaning Daily Mirror this week. “It buys into this question of what happens if we get to 2019 and opinion polls are still awful. The truth is everybody would examine that situation, including Jeremy Corbyn and (Shadow Chancellor) John McDonnell …These two are not egomaniacs, they are not desperate to cling on to power for power’s sake.”This coming year may be a fallow one for Labour. But if its anti-establishment leader hasn’t brought about a revolution in the polling by the end of it, expect the winds of change to start blowing. Also On POLITICO Brexit Files Insight Labour’s unhappy New Year By Charlie Cooper EU’s Brexit strategy: Grab the popcorn By David M. Herszenhorn Brexit Files Insight Why Jeremy Corbyn likes Trump By Charlie Cooper and Tom McTague LONDON — Add the U.K.’s opposition Labour party to the list of those who would rather forget 2016. And 2017 isn’t looking much better.Left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn is betting that he can harness the anti-establishment winds that swept through Western politics in 2016 and use them to reverse his party’s fortunes in the coming year. Senior figures within his party, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, worry that Labour has succumbed to that most fatal of political maladies: irrelevance.The party has struggled to find a distinctive voice on the single issue consuming British politics: Brexit. It officially backed Remain, although many were unconvinced by Corbyn’s conviction. Since June’s referendum, it has accepted the will of the people and won’t attempt to block Britain’s exit from the European Union. But a growing number of internal critics claim that it hasn’t been clear enough in setting out what a successful Brexit looks like. “I think we’re all better off spending this year actually thinking through ideas, coming up with a sensible analysis of where things are and what the alternative is,” he said.Streeting was one of the vast majority of Labour MPs who backed a vote of no confidence in the Labour leader in June 2016 and then backed the doomed campaign of challenger Owen Smith during the summer.A Labour supporter listens as Leader Jeremy Corbyn speak | Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesBut while the parliamentary party remains broadly opposed to Corbyn’s leadership, there is little expectation of another leadership challenge in 2017, MPs hostile to Corbyn said.Instead, they said, Corbyn’s rivals intend to submit him to the silent treatment. Rather than the constant chorus of criticism that characterized 2016, MPs said they were more likely to let Corbyn and his team carry on and hope that his backers among the wider membership and within trade unions start to change their view of Corbyn independently, without being able to blame an uncooperative parliamentary party for his low poll ratings.There is also an acknowledgment among MPs that they have now lost two leadership elections to Corbyn, and need a clearer vision for the future in a post-Brexit, post-Trump landscape in which the old rules don’t apply.“Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the cause of all our woes in the Labour Party, he’s a symptom of it,” said one MP, reflecting the mood among the one-time rebels.