Belfast Telegraph

Labour at war with itself never mind Tories as May pays for riling 'grey vote'

A new weekly column by the Press Association's veteran political insider

By Chris Moncrieff

Labour Party in-fighting is likely to be a turn-off for voters - but there are some jangling nerves among the Tories too

Will they never learn? You would have thought that by now the Labour Party would have been aware of the perils of public and internal squabbling during a general election campaign.

Yet here we have Nia Griffith, the shadow defence secretary, having a very public blast with Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, over the key issue of Trident.

It does not appear to have entered their heads that a political party, whose members fight among each other rather than reserving their energies for their real opponents, is a real turn-off for voters.

There will be plenty of time and excuses for Labour bloodletting after the election if the party finds itself still in opposition. Indeed there is even talk already among some resigned members of setting up a breakaway party if this happens, in the style of the old and ill-fated SDP in the early 1980s.

Such pessimistic talk (even if justified) is no way to conduct a general election campaign - it almost invites defeat.

But for many Labour MPs, the prospect of another five years in opposition, especially under Jeremy Corbyn, is more than they can bear.

There is bound to be a leadership election in the event of a Labour defeat, but unless Corbyn quits, he may be more difficult to shift than is realised

So, stormy days ahead for Labour. Indeed, there will still be huge problems for Corbyn even if Labour win. So take cover!

There must have been some jangling nerves among the Conservative leadership at the weekend when Labour reduced their deficit in the opinion polls. This has almost certainly come about because of the Conservative proposal to make more old people pay for care.

Despite this setback, the Tories say they have no plans to amend this policy.

Politicians who upset what is known as the 'grey vote' do so at their peril. It is the older people, more than any other section of the electorate, who turn out to vote in the biggest numbers on polling day. So this was a gamble by Theresa May.

But this is the reason why the Tories have stepped up their attack on Corbyn, warning tough Brussels grandees would make mincemeat of him if he led Britain's Brexit negotiations.

This has given Corbyn a new line of attack on the Tories which, to his credit, he has successfully exploited.

President Trump no doubt hopes that his eight-day overseas trip will lessen his problems in Washington over his firing of the FBI chief James Comey. Well, it won't and indeed there are growing signs that Trump is sinking even deeper into the mire.

And although Trump is far more amiably disposed towards the UK than predecessor Barack Obama, there appears to be a growing groundswell of opinion here that would like to see the back of him.

Perhaps soon we shall be talking about Mr President Pence...

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