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Corbyn has problems too, says Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff | In-depth | Published:

n Dirty tricks, dark conspiracies and skulduggery, designed to frustrate the Brexit vote in last year’s EU referendum, are thriving 'in the heat of high summer' it seems. And this small but determined bunch of Tory 'Remainer' MPs could become a far more dangerous threat to Theresa May’s premiership than Jeremy Corbyn ever could.

Andrew Mitchell – ‘Overheated’

This anti-Brexit movement is being taken seriously by the Tory high command, who fear it could so disrupt the Brexit negotiations that it could lead to the downfall of May and possibly the Government itself. What is particularly dangerous to May is that her Chancellor Philip Hammond is no great Brexiteer and may privately have some sympathy for the malcontents.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s appeal to her opponents to share ideas with her about Brexit were immediately seized upon as a despairing cry from a seriously weakened PM, bereft of ideas and presenting a begging bowl to her political enemies. Although on the face of it, this seemed a reasonable action by May, it will probably not do her authority many favours.

There is also a similar small cabal of Labour MPs plotting, but this is not likely to have much effect on Corbyn, who is much more secure in his job than May is in hers. What these two potentially rebellious blocs fail to realise is that their actions in creating civil wars in their respective parties, simply weaken and stultify their ability to fight their legitimate political opponents.

n But other problems face the two main parties as well.

Andrew Mitchell, the former Tory chief whip who had the famous altercation with the police at the gates of Downing Street, is alleged to have said at a private dinner that Theresa May was ‘dead in the water’ and should go. Mitchell has since claimed the report of his remarks was ‘overheated’, which is a fair way from an outright denial.

Meanwhile, a group of Labour zealots are calling for deselection of a number of ‘moderate’ Labour MPs. But the group has been warned that it should desist from this because it would lead to further damaging political bloodshed within the party. Sweetness and light is hard to find at Westminster these days.

n Sir Vince Cable is hoping to become leader of the Liberal Democrats.

But his age, 74, has already given rise to comments that he is too old and that he should be regarded as a caretaker leader if he gets the job.

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However, to his credit, Sir Vince, who regards age as ‘just a number’, says: “I am not signing up to be a caretaker – I’m signing up to do the job and do it properly.” Good for him!So long as you are sound in mind and limb and are mentally alert - and Sir Vince seems to be all those things - then age and experience should be an asset and not the reverse.

Just look at the great political leaders of the past, particularly in the Victorian age. So, I say: “Go for it - and ignore those naysayers.”

n Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you wish (and plenty do), but I do not share the zeal of those who seem hell-bent on dragging the House of Commons into the 21st century.

Indeed, I would like to see someone put the brakes on the Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake who appears to be the leading ‘moderniser’ at Westminster, who has Brake has already succeeded in achieving for MPs the ‘concession’ that they need not wear ties in the Chamber. Now, he seems to have set his sights on abolishing the historical practice whereby MPs are referred to by their constituencies and not by their names.Apparently those of like mind feel that the Commons is stuck in the 18th century and should be brought up to date.But all the myriad of traditions at Westminster, which they regard as mumbo-jumbo and would like to see abolished, are in fact daily reminders of the glorious history of Parliament.But now there is a worrying chipping away of these traditions, contributed to, to his shame, by the Speaker John Bercow, who refuses to wear the traditional centuries-old Speaker’s garb.To those who say Parliament is trapped in the 18th century, I say let it stay there, an age of great courtliness and courtesy.

If Parliament simply became a soulless workplace dominated by spreadsheets and not even a nod to the past, it would be downgrading the place into a kind of clinical county council. I can imagine nothing worse.

Soon, no doubt, they will be demanding the removal of the hooks on which MPs of years gone by used to hang their swords. Shame on them.

Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff

Journalist and former political editor of the Press Association

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