Monday, January 30, 2017

Quote of the day 30th January 2017

"We are in the most ludicrous, unreal, pretend, unreal b******* position as an opposition"

This quote is from Labour MP Lucy Powell, who is a former front-bencher and was Chief of Staff to Ed Miliband, in a WhatsApp message she accidentally sent this week to a wider circulation than extended.

Still a circulation entirely consisting of Labour MPs but one of them evidently found the idea of leaking the story to the press irresistible.

The most damning aspect of this is not the fact that a Labour MP had this very low opinion of her party's position - embarrassing though that is, you always get some extreme disagreements from time to time in any party.

The fact that Lucy Powell apparently had not intended to be forthcoming with the public about what she really thought on the issue concerned is a more serious matter, though this is not the worst of the story either.

The British constitution provides for something called "collective responsibility" which means that all the members of a government accept responsibility for what the government does: the safety valve in the constitution is that if you really cannot accept something or defend it, you resign from the government and then you can make your position clear. Resignation speeches can bring down even the most powerful Prime Ministers so this means they have to make some effort to listen to their ministers if they want to stay in the job.

Lucy Powell is an opposition MP not a member of the government, and she had already resigned from the Labour front bench. So she is not covered by "collective responsibility."

But the most damning aspect of this story is the fact that nobody is surprised that, after Powell accidentally sent this message via WhatsApp to a much larger group of Labour MPs than she intended, it immediately appeared in the press.

In other words, we're all taking it for granted that one of the Corbynista MPs would rather see this message in the public domain where it will damage someone they consider "Blairite" (or even, horror of horrors, a "red Tory") than resist the temptation to leak it, even though the resulting publicity will have damaged not just Powell but the Labour party and allowed people like me to write articles and blog posts like this.

Governments need to work together. Any party in which the different factions will grab any opportunity to harm one another even if it harms the party is not in a position to form a government. Labour's problem is wider than just Jeremy Corbyn: even without him, while they are fighting one another like this there is no chance that Labour could form a coherent government able to successfully run Britain. 

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