September 17: Labour must spell out policies

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Jeremy Corbyn’s low-key question time debut raised doubts as to his future effectiveness.

JEREMY Corbyn’s debut at Prime Minister’s Questions will have gone some way towards settling nervousness in the ranks of Labour MPs as to his suitability for the job.

Nevertheless, however dignified and measured he was, Mr Corbyn’s performance raised questions of its own over how effective he will prove in the longer term in both holding the Government to account and getting his message across to the electorate.

Many voters will agree with his view that question time too often descends into political theatre, a bearpit of insults being hurled and soundbites being shouted against a chorus of rowdiness.

Yet both prime ministers and leaders of the opposition have long known that what takes place across the despatch box reaches out to the electorate and helps decide how votes are cast.

Question time is where party leaders score or are skewered, where they look like potential premiers or not up to the job.

Mr Corbyn’s low-key approach in reading out questions from members of the public may have been novel and unimpeachably democratic, but it gave the Prime Minister the easiest ride he has experienced in the Commons, failed to challenge Government policies, nor indicated how Labour would do things better.

It remains to be seen if Mr Corbyn will continue to rely on the public to supply him with questions. If so, he is likely to find himself subject to the law of diminishing returns as the same topics recur and new subjects dwindle.

If Mr Corbyn is to set the party he leads on the road to being considered a credible government-in-waiting, he cannot depend on the public to supply him with a script. He must spell out what he and Labour stand for and expose Government failings, even if it is done quietly and courteously, as is his desire.

Right to buy

Need to protect council homes

THE warning by the homelessness charity Shelter that Yorkshire faces losing more than 8,000 council homes in a sell-off designed to raise funds for a new right-to-buy scheme is a matter of concern.

The aspiration to own a home is deeply ingrained in British people, and the Government is to be applauded for reviving the right-to-buy concept that was such a notable political and popular success of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

It is a policy that can make all the difference between being able to own a home and it being beyond reach. Against a backdrop of relentlessly rising property prices and ever increasing deposits being required, right-to-buy is likely to prove for some the only realistic route to home ownership.

Nevertheless, the need for social housing remains as acute as ever in the face of increasing population and the many people on low incomes who rely on the moderate rents and security of tenure offered by council accommodation to keep a roof over their heads.

Losing such numbers of council houses in Yorkshire will put local authorities under considerable pressure, not least given their duty to provide accommodation for the homeless.

It would be a dreadful misfiring of Government policy if an initiative aimed at allowing more people to own a home resulted in those needing somewhere to live being unable to find shelter.

If the new right-to-buy is match the success of Mrs Thatcher’s, the means must be found to replenish the stock of housing to be sold off.

Fine warning

Welcome crackdown on loutish

ANTI-social behaviour is a menace in communities large and small, and so the fining of a man for spitting in the street is much to be welcomed.

It sends out a clear message that such revolting behaviour will not be tolerated, and that those who engage in it will be found, punished and made an example of.

Barnsley Council did exactly the right thing in bringing the offender to court and prosecuting when he failed to pay a fixed penalty. Enforcement action against public nuisances, whether it be spitting or dropping litter, has been pursued much more vigorously in recent years by councils, and they deserve praise for that.

Our streets ought to be clean and pleasant places, but those who are anti-social make them less so. Cracking down should make the loutish think twice, for if they cannot behave, they know they will be hit where it hurts – in the pocket.