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Chris Moncrieff has a warning for Labour

By Chris Moncrieff | In-depth | Published:

Many moderate Labour MPs are looking forward to 2018 not with hope and excitement, but with a mixture of apprehension, and even fear.

Neil Kinnock

They envisage the spectre of the hard-line left-wing organisation, Momentum, which some of them suspect of trying – cunningly and clinically – to transform the traditional Labour Party.

What is happening today is like a replay – only more sinister – of the crisis that hit the party in the 1980s. Then, a hostile and also left-wing body called Militant, tried to take over the party for its own ends. But Neil Kinnock, who was the party leader, successfully and skilfully outmanoeuvred them, and they were chased way.

But this time the party leadership is entirely different. It is itself left-wing in character and very little has been said from on high about this latest threat. Jeremy Corbyn had an unexpected impressive general election campaign last May and June, appearing like a benign grandfather and astonishingly acquiring almost pop-star adulation. But it should not be forgotten that he and his senior front-bench colleagues are all hard-line left wingers, too. So there is little incentive or appetite from the party leadership to do battle with Momentum.

Momentum is anxious to acquire (and may well succeed in doing so) a foothold in Labour’s policy-making National Executive Committee, which, it is feared, could put many moderate Labour MPs at risk of de-selection and ultimately transform the entire nature of the party into something some pundits have already likened to former Eastern Europe regimes during the cold war. This may, or may not, be an exaggeration, but there seems to be little being done to stop its threatened onward march. Moderates must take up political arms and fight what has been described as this menace, otherwise they could find themselves pitched out, consigned to political oblivion in the wilderness. They have been warned.

Christmas cannot have been a very joyous occasion in the home of for Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal.

For Elphicke has been suspended from the Tory whip in the House of Commons over ‘serious allegations’ which reportedly have been passed on to the police. That was seven weeks ago.

And he first heard about his suspension from a journalist, not even by the Conservative Party which you might have thought would have had the good manners to inform him first. He checked with the chief whip who belatedly confirmed he had been suspended and mentioned allegations had been referred to the police. But he refused to say what these allegations were. So from that day to this, (up to the time of writing, anyway) Elphicke has not been told what these allegations are, nor has he, not, he says, the slightest clue what they may be.

“I have been thrown to the wolves,” he said. His marriage has been affected by this affair and since the start of November when he heard the news, he has been hounded over hill and dale. Yet still, he says, he hasn’t an inkling from anybody, no knock on the door from the police. Nothing.

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Assuming that what we know so far is true, then this whole affair should be resolved, one way or another, very quickly.

At least the sacked First Secretary Damian Green knew what the allegations were against him. But Elphicke, if he is to be believed (and why not?), still apparently hasn’t the faintest idea what the problem is. An outrage.

What is going on at the Ministry of Defence?

It appears a group of people are working on a plan to phase out terms like chaps, manpower, sportsmanship and mankind for fear it might offend. When did you last hear of someone being offended by the use of the word “chaps”? You might have thought there were more important things to think about at the MoD, like ensuring the defence of the realm.

A happy New Year – and I trust a peaceful one – to all those who frequent the Westminster drinking dens of the Palace of Westminster.

I use the word ‘peaceful’ with some misgivings after the spot of trouble in and around the Sports and Social Club led to its temporary closure. This bar is primarily patronised frequented by Parliamentary staff, probably, in most cases, as a way of escaping from politicians. This is not exactly a sedate bar, but it is not particularly rowdy and it has always been well run.The Westminster bar, which was the rowdiest of the lot, was the old Strangers’ Bar, which was also unkindly nicknamed The Kremlin. It was really the spit and sawdust of the Palace of Westminster. I have seen punch-ups in there and unseemly shouting matches. However, the location of the Strangers’ was moved down the corridor and they put a carpet on the floor. Since then, it has been a ‘model’ lounge-bar in appearance and environment. It is astonishing what the existence of a carpet will do.

Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff

Journalist and former political editor of the Press Association

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