Belfast Telegraph

With a government as shambolic as this one, no wonder Jeremy Corbyn's gagging for early General Election

Boris Johnson's new-found freedom to criticise the PM from the back benches can now only increase Theresa May's discomfiture

By Chris Moncrieff

No wonder Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is so desperate to go for the kill. But the prospects of an early General Election, which Corbyn so eagerly desires, seem remote, unless the Government is defeated on a vote of confidence.

Rarely has an official Opposition faced such a rag-bag of a government in such a state of fractious turmoil, mess and muddle as the present administration.

And with Labour ahead in the opinion polls (and Corbyn having, amazingly, acquired almost pop star adulation), there could hardly be a better time for him and his party to go to the polls.

Corbyn and his cronies look on, frustrated, as Theresa May's popularity in her own party is in steep decline over that dreaded word, "Brexit".

She has been openly accused by some of her own colleagues of betraying the 17-plus million who voted for Brexit in the referendum. Her latest blueprint for Brexit led to two major Cabinet resignations, along with some smaller fry, and led former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith to say scathingly: "I voted to leave the EU, not half-leave".

And Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is prominent in the assault on the new proposals, denounced Mrs May as, "a Remainer who remains a Remainer".

His view - that, if she continues along this path, she will split the Conservative Party from tip to toe - is shared by a substantial number of other Tory dissidents.

Now, parliament is waiting agog to see whether Boris Johnson's new freedom on the back benches will lead him to becoming a thorn in the flesh of the Prime Minister.

Government whips are hoping to get some Labour support when the proposals are voted on in the Commons very soon. But Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader, has doused cold water on that.

So, things could very rapidly go from bad to worse for the Government. Theresa May's own position is becoming very wobbly.

It could suddenly topple over if the situation does deteriorate much further.

As if the Prime Minister did not have enough on her plate with Brexit and all the trouble it has spawned, than she is confronted with yet another resignation.

Andrew Griffiths, a minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has quit over the "small matter" of sending some 2,000 explicit sexual text messages to two barmaids.

Two thousand! It is breathtaking to think he had the energy and time to send this number of messages. He can hardly have left himself time to do any ministerial work at all, so his departure should not make the faintest ripple.

But what a chump. Surely he must have been aware that this would eventually all come to light. Computers are far from infallible.

So, he has lost his job, thrown his political future to the wolves and, no doubt, deeply saddened his family - all for nothing.

But his stupidity does make you wonder about the quality and common sense of some of the people we elect to parliament.

If you think President Trump's manners need a lot to be desired - which they do - you would not learn much about common courtesies by watching the ill-mannered antics of the Government Chief Whip, Julian Smith, in the Commons the other day.

The role of whips has traditionally been to sit mute in the House of Commons.

But Smith, demonstrating appalling bad manners, crouched in front of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, while Raab's opposite number, Labour's Sir Keir Starmer, was speaking during exchanges on the Brexit White Paper.

Raab was trying to hear what Starmer had to say, but was plainly handicapped by this pesky little terrier biting at his heels.

One thing is for sure: the uncouth Mr Smith might benefit from attendance at a finishing school in Switzerland. Or perhaps a boot camp would be more effective.

Lord Carrington, who has died aged 99, was one of the great political figures of the 20th century and early years of this century. He was probably the last British politician to have resigned on an issue of honour.

He was Foreign Secretary and resigned because he failed to foresee the danger posed by Argentina to the Falklands in 1982.

The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, moved heaven and earth to try to persuade him to change his mind, but it was in vain.

He was also biting about what has come to be described as inverse snobbery, once saying: "Why all this palaver about class? If you are a duke, it doesn't mean to say you are stupid, or if you were educated at Eton that you were precluded from being Prime Minister."

He was a distinguished diplomat, a political strategist without equal, a patriot and a valiant soldier - a great man.

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