Given Labour’s current weakness on defence, it might not be wise for Jeremy Corbyn to be prolonging a dispute with one of Britain’s leading generals.
The source of the leader’s ire were remarks made on Marr yesterday by Sir Nicholas Houghton, the outgoing chief of the defence staff. He claimed that Corbyn’s public stance that he’d never push the nuclear button “undermined the credibility of deterrence”.
Labour have accused the general of breaching his constitutional duty, and there’s been some debate about whether or not he overstepped the mark (although Corbyn has previously quoted and supported outspoken military chiefs when they were criticising wars he didn’t like).
But that’s rather a side issue when one reads in the same story that Maria Eagle, the Shadow Defence Secretary, welcomed Sir Nicholas’ remarks. The remarks Corbyn’s team are claiming were unconstitutional.
Indeed, she’s quoted as remarking: “It’s a point that I made myself when Jeremy said what he said.”
Surely, at this point, we’re approaching the limit of Labour’s ability to reconcile the conflicting programmes of its leadership and the Parliamentary Labour Party.
The membership who overwhelmingly backed Corbyn for the leadership of the party were not, put mildly, electing someone to be an effective salesman for the policies of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
He ran on a distinct, if hackneyed and nonsensical, policy agenda, and they want it enacted.
But the Labour Party doesn’t afford the leader control over policy, and Corbyn has so little support amongst his MPs that his supporters didn’t manage to secure a single one of the party’s policy committees.
Every major point of conflict between the leader’s office and the Shadow Cabinet is just left unresolved. In place of policies, Labour now has tendencies.
This, for what it’s worth, does cast the rumoured attempts by Corbynites to deselect moderate Labour MPs in a slightly different light. They want their boss’s policy agenda, and if changing the makeup of the PLP is the only way to get it it’s difficult to see why they wouldn’t attempt it.
Indeed, if he’s unable to get his ideas onto the party platform and given how lamentable a front man he is for the platform as it currently stands, the only other logical conclusion to this head-on collision would be Corbyn’s resignation.