Bernard Ingham: Labour are all top show to attract the unthinking

If you are not already fed up with the sight of politicians, you may well be by this time next week.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn congratulates shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry following her speech at the Labour Party conference at the Brighton Centre, Brighton. PA

First, we have had the TUC waging class war. And don’t tell me that the TUC is not in the business of politics. Then came the irrelevant Liberal Democrats conference at which their leader, Sir Vince Cable, claimed he could become Prime Minister. Not, I think, this side of Armageddon.

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Now we have the Labour Party conference in Brighton with Momentum’s ultra-red rallies reaching a climax today when their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, addresses the adoring multitude – and the not-so-adoring who are cowed by the hard left mob. They are not even to be allowed to debate Brexit.

Then, this weekend, the Conservatives in Manchester, will, I assume, try to put on a show of unity as a government. It is not a confident assumption since too many think that Theresa May’s vision in Florence of a sovereign Britain outside the European Union by 2021 is 
altogether too leisurely, though not leisurely enough for Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Can’t they see that it will be better for the Tories – and Britain – if, in this dangerous world, we preserve a measure of amity in Europe, provided we do not pay through the nose for it? Discharging time-limited obligations that we have already entered into is not paying through the nose.

This is the time for statesmanship. We cannot expect it from Labour who are all top show to attract the unthinking. Their twists and turns have eventually found them wishing to remain tied to Brussels’ apron strings, even though Labour moderates think this is alienating the party from the grass roots.

Corbyn is owt for tuppence and will be encouraged in his flexibility by the staged adoration of his leadership by gullible and youthful idealists who emerge at his every public presence.

He may also be emboldened by the number of businesses attending the conference and fringe events to learn more of how their pips will be squeaked by the arch taxer and spender. It is said the number of business “delegates” is up from 1,832 last year to 2,787.

We shall have to see whether Angela Merkel is capable of the statesmanship that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, singularly lacks. His response to Mrs May’s conciliatory speech about Brexit in Florence was dismissive.

But why we should expect the EU to respond positively is beyond me when from the start it has got a kick out of trying to humiliate Britain and is furious that Brexit has upset Brussels’ systematic drive for a federal Europe with its member-states shorn, Germany apart, of power.

That leaves us with the Tory Party. Are the Hammond/Boris Johnson warring tribes within it prepared to secure their future – and Britain’s – by uniting behind Mrs May’s banner of Brexit by 2021 and not just putting on a show of unity? It is this week’s unanswered question. But if they don’t, expect the Corbynistas to try to sabotage the Government, both in and outside Westminster, to fulfil their boast that they will be in office within six months.

After all, Labour is ahead in the polls probably largely because the Tories are daily at each other’s throats and the media in a state of frenzied speculation as to who would succeed Mrs May. The pollsters tell us that the voters do not like a disunited government.

Why should they? Except that the alternative to a bickering Tory government is an impoverished Britain.

The Tories need to search their consciences about this. But let us have no doubt that their future and the future of Britain is in their hands this weekend.

They know that Mrs May lacks TV charisma and is not at ease in a promotional role. You might say she is not purpose-built for politics.

But her resolve to remain as PM after her election debacle is a clear indication of her inner qualities: the concept of duty, steadfastness and perseverance that above all are required to lead us out of Europe.

She may well have had enough of front-line politics by the time she has performed the mammoth political task of extricating the UK from the EU. But a generally acceptable settlement would transform the British political scene before the next election, due in 2022, even though only a spell in government would leave Corbyn a busted flush.

If you are absolutely fed up with politicians come next week, 
God help us.

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