The British public as a whole, irrespective of Party allegiance, is regretting the shambles that is the Labour Party at the moment. It is not just moderate Labour supporters and neutrals who regret the absence of an effective opposition at a time when Britain is in turmoil. Indeed even the new Prime Minister can’t relish the prospect of the total absence of challenge across the despatch box. Easy victories (and she’ll have a few) can be pyrrhic ones.

The oft maligned “Centre Ground” of politics is actually at the heart of our democracy. The turmoil I refer to above has come in part because that centre ground has recently been vacated by significant elements in both the two main political parties. I tried to explain what the Brexit Conservatives were up to for an American Blog site here. It was, I thought, an attempted coup by the Tory Right. The disappointment in some quarters at the accession of Theresa May, not really “one of them”, suggests that I was right!

We will see in the coming months whether the Tories have got truly their act together – will Mrs May actually occupy the Centre Ground vacated by David Cameron or be forced to shift to the Right? The Brexit progress will be the key. In her pro “Remain” speech of 25th April (a masterpiece of pragmatic analysis!) she said this:

“We have become so used to being in this permanently defensive crouch that when it comes to the EU, Britain has forgotten how to stand up and lead.  And to those who say Britain cannot achieve what it needs in Europe, I say have more belief in what Britain can do.  I say think about how Britain built the single market, and let’s be that ambitious – in the British national interest – once again. Let us set clear objectives to complete the single market, to pursue new free trade deals with other countries, to reform the European economy and make it more competitive”

The single market is, as Mrs. May correctly identified, in need of reform and expansion. It is inconceivable that she has changed her mind about the benefits to Britain of being in it and of being part of the reform process – despite the Referendum vote. But the single market requires free movement of labour so there will be some challenging months ahead to find a solution for Britain that the EU accepts, and one that honours the referendum outcome!

The coming months demand not just competent Government but competent Opposition. A one Party system is inimical to democracy. One of the reason I welcome the presence of Conservative Ruth Davidson as a major political force in Scotland is that she takes the fight to the SNP where Labour has failed to do so. I don’t have suddenly to become a Conservative to wish Ms Davidson well and hope she proposers! At Westminster the release of Chilcot has reminded us that opposition in Parliament is essential. Although there was an unholy alliance back in 2003 between Labour loyalists and Conservatives to go to war in Iraq this did not go unopposed. The Labour Left (mostly) and especially the Liberal Democrats challenged the basis of and the need for War. That they did not succeed (sadly) is not the point. The opposition forced the debate and that was Parliament at its best.

If we saw Parliament at its best back in 2003 we see it at its worst at the moment. On the Conservative side I would be surprised if there is not unity (or at least a lack of dissention) behind Mrs. May. But what about Labour!? It is a disaster that the Leader of the Opposition does not have support from his own side in the House. Shades of Neville Chamberlain except that Jeremy Corbyn has not responded to the many “Speak for England Arthur” moments from both sides in the House, as well as in the country at large. His stance is belligerently stubborn and frankly unpatriotic. Somehow the Conservatives managed to avoid the unnecessary risk of an Andrea Leadsom premiership and found a way for sanity to prevail. But with ample evidence of Corbyn’s totally unsuitability to be Leader of the Opposition (tested and failing) Labour hasn’t found a similar route to commonsense.

The position of “Leader of the Opposition” is an official one and that is why the incumbent receives a salary funded by the taxpayer. We are entitled to expect that it will be competently carried out. I wish Theresa May well, but I don’t want her not to be held to account and we need a strong opposition to do this. Corbyn and his cohorts have treated us all with total disrespect and have approached the challenge to his control as if it was a dispute in a second rate Council of a third rate town. It’s time for him to see that his job and his position on the Privy Council bring with them something more than the fighting of petty internal battles in his shambles of a Party.

 

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