Corbyn is a pacifist but he was elected leader by a big majority

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Can Jeremy Corbyn survive as Labour’s leader, amid the turmoil that has engulfed the party and the attacks and criticism directed at him by his own colleagues?

It is almost unprecedented for members of a shadow cabinet to openly and publicly criticise their leader – the issue largely being that of whether or not to support the government in agreeing to the bombing of Syria.

Corbyn, a pacifist, is firmly against any such action and has responded stubbornly to those calling for him to step down: “I am not going anywhere,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

But this row could have a dire effect on the Labour Party, even splitting it down the middle, leading to the formation of an SDP-style breakaway movement of the early 1980s. But the fact remains that Corbyn was elected by a big majority and that no one should be surprised that, having elected a pacifist leader, Labour Party activists are finding he is pursuing pacifist policies.

And the spectacle of him the other day sitting alone on the Opposition front-bench, his shadow Cabinet colleagues having disgracefully abandoned him, says more about them than it does about him.

And if the Labour Party did not, overall, want a pacifist as their leader, they should have devised a more watertight leadership election process than the one that exists.

In short, they have brought all this trouble on themselves.

The Conservative Party also seems to be doing its best to tear itself apart. Amid astonishing allegations of blackmail, sex and bullying, one minister, in a responsible position at the time, Grant Shapps, has had to resign.

One party activist committed suicide, although it has not yet been established that this was because of bullying he allegedly suffered.

When some of these alleged practices came to light, it was claimed that those who should have stepped in and acted to stop them, did not do so. Shapps was co-chairman of the Conservative Party at the time.

The accusations centred on the so called Tatler Tory, one Mark Clarke, who has been labelled a “Tory cad”.

Clarke ran the Road Trip youth campaign during the May general election. But it was dogged by allegations that he harassed and sexually abused young female activists, took drugs and blackmailed MPs about alleged infidelities. Clarke has strenuously denied all these allegations.

Now, of course, there will be deep investigations into all these accusations - but months after the horse has bolted.

If those to whom complaints were directed had acted at the time, the party might have been spared all this anguish. They can hardly be surprised if they are labelled the “nasty party” again.

Chancellor George Osborne delivered his spending review in the Commons the other day with his customary aplomb and upbeat manner.

He has the ability, as I said last week, to make bad news sound like good news, so you have to resort to the small print to dig out the real truth.

It seems that council tax payers will be the hardest hit. Nor did he properly explain where all the money is coming from to pay for his “generosity” in many areas, including his unexpected U-turn on tax credits. It was surprising that didn’t leak out beforehand.

Meanwhile, in the few days before the statement, the papers were full of foreboding about large cuts to the police service. It sounded like the Treasury dropping hints all over the place. But then, it did not happen.

In the past the Treasury has been guilty of deliberately putting about rumours about adverse proposals in a forthcoming budget, so that when they don’t happen, it makes the budget appear far less harsh than it actually is.

It looks as though the Treasury is up to its old tricks again...

Lord (David) Steel, the former leader of the Liberal Party, seems to be a trifle muddle-headed about the definition of a one-party state, if I may say so, and with the utmost respect.

He said the other day: “We in Scotland have to wake up to the dangers of a one-party state.”

A one-party state is a country where there is only one party available to vote for, all their opponents having been banned and outlawed as political parties.

Unless I am hugely mistaken, I see no signs that the Scottish Nationalists, who wiped the floor with their opponents North of the Border at the last general election, have any plans to extinguish the Tories, Labour or the Liberal Democrats in Scotland. The fact that the SNP did so well was not their fault.

It was, to a large extent , the failure of the other parties to attract enough voters to support them. So Steel and the other non-nationalist political grandees had better get their act together for future elections.

Meanwhile, some years ago, I remember Margaret Thatcher saying, after Labour had snatched a lot of Tory seats in Scotland: “I want to see the map of Scotland painted blue again.”

Well, belatedly she got her way, but not how she would have wanted it. The map of Scotland is now largely painted blue, the blue of the saltire, not the royal blue of the Conservative Party.

There is a proposition that the House of Commons should abandon Friday sittings altogether, giving MPs a regular three-day weekend.

But before you start whingeing and griping about our lazy and featherbedded MPs, consider this: by cutting down on their sitting days, MPs save the taxpayer whole wads of money.

So every cloud ...