At the start of this Parliament, we ran a series called Securing The Majority, urging a clampdown on electoral fraud, a cut in the number of constituencies, more Conservative public appointments, and so on. It is all still relevant (and we are doing our bit by regularly publicising some of the more prominent appointments vacancies) but the context has changed. We presumed that the next Labour leader would lead an opposition that would be competent and professional, as all such ones have been since the days of Michael Foot.
Then came Corbyn. A party that wants to strip Britain of its nuclear deterrent is no joke, but it is none the less extremely hard to take seriously as an election-winner. The voters wouldn’t support one-sided disarmament in the days of the principled but doddery Foot and won’t do so in these of the principled but deluded Corbyn either. Casting away that deterrent has been the core point of a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle that threatens to go on longer than an election count in Tower Hamlets, if that is possible.
The shuffle is only the latest in a long line of howlers that defined Corbyn almost before he got started. Some of the lampooning of him has been unfair: for example, his conduct at the Cenotaph last November was perfectly proper. But his sayings and doings past and present are a CCHQ researcher’s wet dream: Bin Laden’s death was a tragedy, IRA terrorists were worth standing in honour for, Hamas and Hezbollah are friends, and so on. He is currently out-extremed only by the collected words and deeds of John McDonnell.
Watching Team Corbyn’s daily mishaps is like watching a biopic of Karl Marx starring Groucho and his brothers. This may be good news for the Conservative leadership (and fun for ConservativeHome) but it is thoroughly bad for Britain. The country needs an opposition. At the moment it doesn’t have one. The energies of Shadow Ministers should be concentrated on holding the Government to account. At present, they are concentrating on saving their own skins and flaying each other’s. Can we have an Opposition instead, please?
The danger for Downing Street is that if Corbyn won’t provide one then Conservative MPs will, since nature abhors a vacuum. On the EU, it will be Liam Fox and the Tory Right. On the ECHR, it will be Ken Clarke and the Tory Left. On public spending, it will be MPs in marginal seats who are worried about holding them. On all these and nearly everything else it will be David Davis. Perhaps Corbyn isn’t the only leader who should remember that today’s rows can be tomorrow’s defections.