The prospects are bleak for Labour if Corbyn wins or not

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

The official Opposition in the House of Commons is not giving the British taxpayer his money’s worth - not by a long chalk.

Labour, as the second biggest party at Westminster, has a duty as the Opposition, to keep a close eye on the doings of the Government, holding it in check and challenging any excesses by the ruling party.

But none of this is happening and the taxpayer is entitled to feel disgruntled that Labour is not doing the job it is being paid it to do.

Instead, as far as Labour is concerned, the Government might just as well not exist. For the principal opposition party is spending so much of its time bruising and battering and fighting among itself, that it has no time to do its proper duty.

The taxpayer therefore has a legitimate grouse as Labour engulfs itself in another leadership contest which is taking up all its energies. If Jeremy Corbyn, the human limpet, clings on to the job - as well he might - Labour will almost certainly split up into two different factions, more interested in fighting each other than fighting the Tories.

And if Corbyn loses, then Labour will find itself led by someone called Owen Smith, a plodding politician who barely anyone had heard of outside Westminster.

In short, the prospects for Labour as a united fighting force look pretty bleak whatever happens.

Corbyn and his allies have been accused of bullying and intimidation, while the infighting becomes more bloody and intense on a daily basis.

But Labour got themselves into this mess. They have no one else to blame. How they extricate themselves from it is anybody’s guess.

As was pointed out over the weekend, if a snap election were called now, the Tories would simply bury Labour in a heap of rubble.

Rarely before has the House of Commons been in such an utter shambles.

• Skulduggery at the House of Commons? On top of all the other turmoil in which the Labour Party is now engulfed, a grave allegation has been made that aides of the leader Jeremy Corbyn have made unauthorised entry into the Commons office of Labour back-bencher Seema Malhotra, who resigned from the shadow cabinet and is now supporting Corbyn’s rival for the leadership, Owen Smith.

If this allegation is true - and there does not seem to have been much of a denial - then this is a serious breach of parliamentary privilege.

The outrage - for that is what it is - has been referred to the Speaker John Bercow, who must crack down on this behaviour with an iron fist, even suspending or possibly expelling the culprits from the building altogether.

It is intolerable that in Parliament especially, people cannot trust their colleagues, even those supposedly on their own side, not to pry and spy into their personal space.

Politics, as we are all aware, is a dirty game, but this kind of conduct, if practised outside the Palace of Westminster, would be regarded as near criminal.

• Many people have been likening Theresa May’s “maiden voyage” in Prime Minister’s question time, to that of the style of Margaret Thatcher. I totally disagree.

Thatcher’s style was far more raucous and belligerent-sounding. May gets her message across in a far less overtly hostile way. And in the key passage with which she wiped the floor with Jeremy Corbyn, she actually lowered rather than increased her decibel count. But it was hugely damaging to the Labour leader.

It is to her credit that she showed such calm and confidence at what is probably the most terrifying ordeal of the Parliamentary week.

• One of the official documents released for public consumption last week is puzzling, to say the least. It concerned a Greenham Common women’s anti-nuclear demonstration which the Government did not want to see splashed all over the newspapers.

So the idea was, according to this document, that Downing Street would issue a new photograph of the then infant Prince William designed to divert the media’s attention from the demonstration. The picture was reportedly to be circulated to the newspapers by Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary.

I can almost hear Ingham booming: “Bunkum and balderdash.” When it comes to the issue of royal photographs, this is done by Buckingham Palace. Downing Street would have nothing to do with it. And certainly Ingham would not have wanted to be associated with a cheap stunt like this - a variation on the “good day to bury bad news” syndrome.

If the Palace had smelt even the slightest whiff of politics about the issue of a photograph, they would not have touched it with a barge pole. And that is probably what happened, since a perusal of the papers showed no Prince William pictures anywhere, with the anti-nuclear demonstration reported in all its glory!

• How the authorities justify awarding Nick Clegg an expenses allowance worth up to £115,000 a year, normally reserved for former Prime Ministers, is simply beyond me. In the coalition government, Clegg held the title “Deputy Prime Minister”. But it is a title that does not even exist in the British political set-up.