Chris Grayling is Leader of the House of Commons, and MP for Epsom and Ewell.
You can still spot them huddled in the corners and in the corridors of Westminster. Deep in conversation, with an air of shock and anxiety around them. Small groups of Labour MPs desperately trying to work out what to do next.
It’s two months since the revolution in the Labour Party, when the serial rebel in the back row of the Commons and a group of far left activists seized control of the Labour Party. Two months of chaos and confusion.
The Blairites and Labour moderates claim they want to be a resistance movement, aiming to turn back the hard left tide that has engulfed their party. Indeed this week the rebel-in-chief, Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, talked about the battle beginning.
But from our side of the chamber, we see an Opposition wracked by infighting, unable to offer a coherent strategy from one week to the next, and now starting to fear for their jobs as the threat of compulsory reselection looms again for Labour.
None of us can remember anything quite like it in Parliament. One day the leadership sets out a clear policy position. The next day it is utterly rejected by the Shadow Cabinet. When Scottish Labour decided to reject the renewal of Trident, the Labour leadership praised them openly…only to have their Shadow Defence Minister say just the opposite a day later. This chaos poses a serious risk to our national security.
Senior Labour figures make no attempt to hide their disdain for the new leadership and its policies. Liam Byrne, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, says that its economic policies are “unworkable”. The Labour Leader of Manchester City Council has described the new leadership’s ideas for the North as a “load of rubbish”. There is no shortage of material for the disgruntled of Rochdale or any other Labour constituency.
It’s now almost a daily event to see Labour MPs speak out against their Party. Every Party has its splits and divisions, but this is something way beyond the normal.
The atmosphere of the House of Commons has changed. The old days of Labour MPs cheering on their leader, even when it was Ed Miliband, have long gone. Now the Corbyn questions to the Prime Minister are greeted by walls of Labour silence, or at best pretty muted sounds of approval from behind. Only the small number of his acolytes are still in good voice on a Wednesday lunchtime.
But despite the talk of rebellion against the leadership, there’s precious little sign that the moderate wing of Labour Party really know how to restore order to their Party. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case.
What’s striking now is just how many of their MPs are now scared for their futures. The huge new wave of mostly left-wing activists who joined Labour over the summer now dominate local Labour Parties. Mainstream MPs dare not speak out for fear of triggering a reselection process from which they have little chance of emerging with their careers intact.
Thirty years ago Labour tore itself apart over the same issues. Left-wing local Labour parties set about getting rid of sensible MPs, to replace them with people who shared their own extreme views. If the new far left get their way, then this time round the battle will be even bloodier.
Ironically, it was the veteran minister Tony Benn who was at the heart of the trouble back in the 1980s, and his granddaughter, Emily Benn, who was – for different reasons – caught up in these latest battles. She was the candidate who Andrew Fisher, the Corbyn aide suspended last week, urged people to vote against, and instead to support a Class War candidate back in May. That is the reality of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
Labour today is a million miles away from being credible, let alone a credible alternative Government. But as Conservatives, we have to be very careful. It is clear that Labour have become a serious threat both to our national and economic security. The ideology that now lies at the heart of Labour would be deeply damaging to this country, and they would take us back to some of our most difficult years in modern peacetime. It has to be taken on and beaten.
We have set out a vision for our country and we are delivering on the promises made in our manifesto. Cutting taxes, extending Right to Buy, introducing a National Living Wage, just some of the things we’ve started to do in Government.
These aren’t easy times, nor are these easy decisions. But they are ones that are improving with hard work: economic security and opportunity are on the up. This strong sense of purpose and plan makes the contrast between our Government and the Opposition benches even more striking.