Is the Labour Party careering out of control?
Jeremy Corbyn fiercely denies this suggestion (he would, wouldn’t he?). But there is no doubt that HM Opposition is in dire straits.
Some Jeremiahs are predicting that a Labour government is too far ahead to be contemplated, and others even say the party is on the verge of extinction.
This is too much for many Labour MPs for whom the prospect of virtual perpetuity in Opposition at Westminster, is something of a nightmare.
They are about to lose two of their most talented MPs, Jamie Reed (to industry) and Tristram Hunt (to the Victoria and Albert Museum), while Lord Mandelson, who keeps his ears close to the ground, says more will follow.
The two seats now facing by-elections, Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central, are no long impregnable Labour strongholds.
The political massacre that Labour suffered in Scotland in 2015 is spreading like a contagious disease into England. Labour has hitherto relied on Scotland to give it its majorities, and there is now no guarantee that Labour will hold on to these constituencies. Indeed, if the Tories and Ukip could reach a pact (pie in the sky) at these two by-elections, Labour would surely lose them.
Corbyn’s leadership is a major part of the problem, although he naturally will not admit it. And attempts to dump him have failed abysmally.
Labour’s big-hitters of yesterday are appalled at the state of the party. And they have every justification in feeling that way.
• A future Labour Government, says Jeremy Corbyn optimistically (since one may be a long time a-coming) would take over Britain’s care homes - an entirely laudable idea.
It seems quite wrong that old and infirm people, as of now, have to sell their homes and drain their savings dry in the last months of their lives, in order to be looked after properly by professionals. Their relatives are also often liable to be hard-hit financially as well.
Such a commendable move, to make care homes an arm of the National Health Service, would add only a fraction to what people pay for the existence of the NHS and would avoid all the terrible hardship now faced by many people.
Would the Conservatives ever consider doing this? I doubt it since they run a mile from anything that smacks of the “dirty word” nationalisation.
• Surely there are already more than enough potholes, bumps and hairpin bends along the road to Brexit without the highest echelons of the British civil service making that journey even more hazardous.
Yet the Sir Humphreys of Whitehall are doing just that. They have the impudence to ask for more money to deal with the “unprecedented” extra workload that Brexit negotiations will incur.
But it cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be suggested that these people are underpaid. Their average payment is £77,000 a year, while many of them are receiving even more than the Prime Minister herself, well into six figures.
The British civil servant is expected to do the bidding of the Government of the day, whether they agree with it or nor. There is a suspicion here that this pay demand has an element of anti-Brexit about it.
Surely, what they already generously receive in their pay packets should be enough to satisfy them, even if they do have more work to do. The demand for more cash smacks of greed.
I hope they will come to their senses and heed the “advice” of Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, that they should “shut up and get on with it”.
• The Prime Minister, in a major speech this week, will underline that her mantra “Brexit means Brexit” is more than a mere slogan. The lady means business.
Brussels grandees are already starting to tremble in their boots at the prospect of much tougher negotiations than they had anticipated.
Theresa May may not use her handbag to swing about, but Brussels will find her a resolute, tough, no-nonsense negotiator.
• Questions have been asked about Donald Trump’s manners. Some commentators have suggested he is bad mannered and probably eats with his fingers, without the aid of a knife and fork.
I remember once watching, without relish, the rumbustious Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, who so nearly became Tory Prime Minister in the 1960s, scooping up handfuls of a risotto with his bare hands and stuffing them in his mouth. Not a pretty sight.