Thursday 17 December 2015

Where Eagles Dare

An incident from last month illustrates the depth of Jeremy Corbyn's problems, which have not abated since.

Angela Eagle in Parliament this month.

Angela Eagle MP is the Shadow Business Secretary; in addition, as Shadow First Secretary of State, she deputises for Corbyn at Prime Minister's Questions when he is absent. So it is quite extraordinary that Eagle will not say if her party leader is fit to be Prime Minister:

Asked again if [Corbyn and McDonnell] were suited to highest office [Eagle] said: “I work with people the party gives me to work with. 
“We all have our strengths and weaknesses and the point of having a party is that you can bring together the collective wisdom and that’s what I’m in the middle of doing. It’s one of those questions that you want me to answer in a certain way so that you get a headline out of it and I’m not playing that game this morning."

Consider the Leaders of the Opposition in recent elections: Kinnock, Blair, Hague, Howard, Cameron, Miliband. In the country at large, some were better liked and more successful than others. But if you asked any of their shadow cabinet colleagues whether they were fit to be Prime Minister, the answer would have been a firm, unhesitating "yes".

For some, that answer would not have been the whole truth. In the case of Hague or Miliband, their colleagues must have had more than a few doubts. In private, they might have added, "At least, I bloody well hope he's up to the job." But in public, for the TV cameras? In a functioning opposition party, the only answer is, "Yes of course, our party leader would make an excellent Prime Minister."

A possible exception is Iain Duncan Smith, and he was defenestrated before he had the chance to lead his party into a General Election. History may or may not repeat itself for Corbyn. Either way, Labour is in deep trouble.

The fact that Eagle considers it a trick question, instead of a trivial one, speaks volumes about the state of the Labour party. Corbyn can't sack her from the Shadow Cabinet for such rank disrespect, because who could he possibly replace her with? He has few enough MPs willing to serve in shadow posts as it is.

It also leaves Eagle unable to answer an obvious follow-up question: If you won't say whether your leader is fit to be Prime Minister, why should we vote for any of your lot?

There's plenty of blame to go around for this sorry situation. I expect it will get much worse for Labour, before it has any chance of getting better.

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