Headlines, puns and infighting

Connect Account Manager James Moseley writes for PubAffairs on the week’s developments as Jeremy Corbyn talks Trident and the Falklands, Parliament debates Donald Trump, and infighting spreads through the Leave campaign and Labour HQ. The original article can be found here.


The week began with one of the more eventful Andrew Marr Shows in recent memory. Leonardo DiCaprio was on the sofa to promote his new film, The Revenant, in which he is left bloodied and bruised in the wilderness and must fight his way back to civilization.

Also on the sofa was Jeremy Corbyn, who continued his apparent effort to drag the Labour Party into its own electoral wilderness. Having delivered a speech at the Fabian conference on Saturday that tried to, finally, shift the debate away from Trident and on to domestic policy, Corbyn spent almost all of his interview with Marr talking about foreign policy. Generating fresh headlines with every sentence, he introduced a new twist to the ongoing row over Trident by suggesting we could have the submarines but without nuclear weapons and, most controversially, that the UK should bring about “some reasonable accommodation with Argentina” over the Falklands over which the Islanders themselves, in Corbyn’s view, should not have a veto. To put it mildly, it was not the start to the week that most in Labour had been hoping for.

Turning to Parliament, the low point of the week, and perhaps the Parliament, was the unedifying spectacle of a 3-hour debate on the pros and cons of banning Donald Trump from entering the UK. The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon summed it all up nicely, describing it as “the most asinine debate in modern political history.” If Parliament’s willingness to waste time debating Donald Trump is a cause for concern, more worrying still is David Cameron’s increasing tendency to use puns in his answers at PMQs. Following on from his string of Shakespeare puns earlier this month mocking the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, this week the Prime Minister came out with a barrage of Beatles’ based puns poking fun at the Labour leader’s position on Trident. The Prime Minister once again looked very pleased with himself but the rest of us are just hoping this is not an innovation that’s here to stay.

Away from the Chamber, there was more fun to be had this week watching the continuing in-fighting amongst the various EU Leave campaigns. The two main groups, Leave.EU and Vote Leave, now appear to have resorted to name calling, with Leave.EU co-chair and UKIP donor Arron Banks writing an open letter attacking Vote Leave campaign director, Dominic Cummings, as “a liability and danger” to the cause. As if things weren’t confused enough on the Leave team, another group entered the fray this week with the launch of LabourLeave, though their impact was somewhat reduced by having their website down for maintenance during the launch.

It’s hard to tell right now which is more riven by in-fighting, the Leave campaign or the Labour Party, but Labour got the last word this week with the unexpected departure of Corbyn’s head of policy and rebuttal, Neale Coleman, reportedly following a series of disputes with Corbyn’s communications and strategy chief, Seamus Milne. With the Conservatives’ own internal battles sure to start in earnest as soon as Cameron concludes his ‘renegotiation’ at the all-important EU leader’s summit in February, 2016 is gearing up to be a year dominated by internecine warfare. If nothing else, it should give us Westminster watchers plenty to stay on top of.

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