There is now open talk of a breakaway split from Labour and the formation of a moderate party

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

What is lurking just beneath the troubled surface of the Labour Party?

Is it an incipient tsunami, about to burst over Westminster?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking in the House of Commons with Labour MPs behind him in late 2015. More and more of those backbenchers are expressing, or feeling, serious doubts about his leadership, Chris Moncrieff writes. Photo: PA Wire

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking in the House of Commons with Labour MPs behind him in late 2015. More and more of those backbenchers are expressing, or feeling, serious doubts about his leadership, Chris Moncrieff writes. Photo: PA Wire

More and more Labour MPs are expressing, or feeling, serious doubts about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, to such an extent that there’s now open talk of a split and the formation of a ‘moderate’ left-of-centre party.

Whether they have the bottle and the spirit to do it is quite another matter.

They will not be heartened by the experience of the breakaway SDP formed in similar circumstances in the early-Eighties. It chugged along for about six months before disappearing beneath the waves, swallowed up by the old Liberal Party.

If such a political cataclysm were to occur, I suspect Sir Vince Cable, leader of the scarcely visible Liberal Democrats, would want to be involved in a very senior role. He has been having secret talks about a new party in what used to be called smoke-filled rooms, so there is speculation that he is considering a merger involving what’s left of the Lib Dems and disaffected Labour MPs.

They are furious not only that the anti-semitism row is being allowed to drag on, but because Momentum, the left-wing campaign group, is trying to remove moderate Labour Kate Hoey from her seat in Vauxhall. Other similar Labour MPs are said to be in their sights as well.

Jeremy Corbyn will have to go into reverse gear pretty quickly on several issues, if he is to placate the would-be rebels.

Researchers at Edinburgh University have unearthed a shameful scandal: Namely that more than one-third of farmed fruit and vegetables involving millions of tons, is thrown away because it is misshapen or the wrong size.

This is an utter disgrace at the best of times, but made much worse by the fact that millions of underfed people across the world are crying out for food.

I once asked an EU official, in the days of butter mountains, why they were blithely destroying thousands of tons of food when starvation was so rife in some parts of the planet.

He replied complacently: “It doesn’t work like that.” I was flabbergasted. Well it jolly well should work like that.

But is anyone listening? And if they are, will they do something to end this outrage? The signs are not hopeful.

Why on earth are ministers allowed to play fast and loose with taxpayers’ money, to go on overseas jaunts just for their own convenience?

It has just come to light that Boris Johnson, when Foreign Secretary, spent £20,000 of public cash on what appeared to be a a completely pointless day-trip to Afghanistan earlier this year.

But it was not pointless for Boris: It enabled him to avoid a crucial Commons vote on a third runway for Heathrow Airport, a project to which he is bitterly opposed because it would have an adverse effect on his West London constituents.

He would have had to vote against the Government on this issue, and been forced to resign (which he did a few weeks later over Brexit). How convenient for him that he should have no trouble in raising £20,000 for his little jaunt.

That sum of money, I admit, is not even a drop in the ocean in comparison with the vast amounts of money the Government has at its disposal.

But it is still 20 grand out of the pockets of the hard-pressed British taxpayer, for what on the face of it looked like a completely unnecessary waste of time, money and fuel, simply to save the face of a Cabinet Minister.

Sir Peter Tapsell, who has died aged 88, was the last MP to have served in the House in the 1950s. Sir Peter, the former Tory MP for Louth and Horncastle, hated Margaret Thatcher’s monetarist policies and once famously said that his biggest political mistake was to listen to her.

He was a towering figure of a man, fiercely independent. People said that when he rose from his seat in the Commons, it was like the creaking of the Ark Royal.

When he made clear he wanted to stand again in 2010, and some of his local party officials, as tactfully as they could, expressed some concern about his age, Sir Peter retorted: “I have no intention of dying yet.” And so he went ahead, and retired in 2015.