In a year the Labour Party has gone from gloomy to jubilant

What a difference a year makes! Just 12 months ago, Labour were assembling for their annual conference in what appeared to be a chronic state of gloom and pessimism.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 26th September 2017, 11:06 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:37 am

Now, this week they are gathering for their 2017 conference in a mood so jubilant and hopeful they could be heading for the sunlit uplands of government, a prospect which last year seemed an impossible goal.

And they could be right.

What is more, they should be offering heartfelt thanks to Theresa May for the buoyancy they are now experiencing. The prime minister’s ill-judged and (for the Tories) disastrous general election call, merely served to uplift Labour’s spirits.

Labour went into that election fearful Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left leadership would deter prospective Labour supporters in huge numbers, and that the outcome would find them vanquished and flat on their backs.

But to everyone’s astonishment, the reverse was the case. Corbyn conducted an impressive campaign and was a hit with the hitherto untapped power of the youth vote.

Jeremy became the hero of the hour and ensconced himself even more firmly in the leadership, while Theresa had to accept her gamble had badly misfired and that the Tories had lost their overall Commons majority.

Corbyn has proclaimed Labour is now the mainstream political party and he will no doubt be acclaimed at their conference.

But he should beware. There are plenty of orthodox non-left wing Labour MPs and activists who deplore the threats of the Momentum faction to get rid of those members who do not toe the party line. So there is plenty of scope for backbench problems to confront Corbyn.

It may seem now that he is holding the key to the front door of Number 10 – but it would be wise for him to stop bragging about it.

l Theresa May was not so naive as to believe her much-heralded Florence speech on Brexit would be applauded from all quarters. But she can scarcely have expected the intensity of the virulent criticism of it, some of it from people you would have expected to back her.

She seemed to have pleased hardly anybody, except perhaps Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Her address has been described as containing “banalities” and “blather”, while (unsurprisingly) Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, accused her of putting two fingers up to the millions who backed Brexit last year.

But what set alarm bells ringing was the fact those few who did approve of the contents of her speech were those very Brussels grandees who seem to be doing their utmost to make things awkward and expensive for Britain to leave the EU.

What it all means to the Brexiteers is that the UK has to endure two more years of domineering from the Eurocrats.

But Theresa May must be alert about the problems in her own party. Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond appear to be at daggers drawn, and a worrying number of backbenchers would like to see her replaced. She cannot afford to ignore any of that.

How ironic it is that all those years ago, when the UK was pleading to join what was then the Common Market, French President de Gaulle imperiously put his foot down and proclaimed: “Non, non, non,” loud and clear. Now we are facing massive difficulties of escaping from it.

Why can’t it be more simple? After all, 52% of the British electorate have spoken.

l Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, evidently wants half of all political journalists at Westminster to be women. Why on earth do busybody politicians feel it necessary to poke their noses into matters which are not their business at all?

In my experience, all the editors I know pick their editorial staff on the basis that the person appointed is regarded as the best one for the job. Questions of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or whatever, do not enter an editor’s mind at all – they do what they are supposed to do: Not discriminate.

It might be helpful if Watson at least demonstrated some support for his leader when Corbyn’s doing battle with the prime minister every Wednesday. At the moment, he just sits there, like a stodgy pudding, exhibiting no interest at all in the proceedings.

l The former Tory MP Sir Teddy Taylor, who has just died aged 80, was as fierce a temperance man as he was a Eurosceptic. He was introduced to the alleged evils of drink when he was still in short pants and maintained that position throughout his life.

On one occasion, a well-meaning constituent sent him a case of the finest vintage wine. His immediate reaction was to pour it all down the plughole – which he did.

There goes a man of principle. But what a waste.