Chris Moncrieff: Lumbered with Miliband, Labour grows restless

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IT is not panic stations yet, but alarm bells are certainly starting to ring in the ears of Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

Just look at the scenario: the Conservatives have edged ahead in the opinion polls, the potency of Ukip’s electoral impact will become clearer when the results of the local and European elections are declared, and worst of all, there is growing disquiet and unease among the Labour party rank-and-file about the performance of the party leadership. Some are already saying openly that they elected the wrong man to succeed Gordon Brown.

And this final problem will simply not go away. The ludicrous rules governing Labour Party leadership election processes meant that Miliband was given the job on a plate by the trade unions and not by the politicians with whom he has to work cheek by jowl, day by day. It is beyond belief that the Labour Party hierarchy has done nothing to remedy this glaring anomaly.

Be that as it may though, Labour is now lumbered with Ed Miliband and his shortcomings. With the General Election less than a year away, there is precious little they can do about it without creating severe ructions within the party. These ructions would be more electorally damaging than the present unimpressive leadership.

It has taken a new Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, to draw attention publicly to what he considers to be at fault. He says that some of the strategy is “suicidal” – he could hardly have put it more strongly. He also says that regularly rolling out a “mantra of misery” of what he sees are the failings of the Government is no substitute for the Labour Party rolling out what they would do to remedy this situation.

Mr Danczuk warns that as the Conservatives find their feet again, this is no way for Labour to win elections. Mr Miliband and his henchmen and women had better listen to this and take note.

Mr Danczuk may not be a household name, but he is talking the sort of sense which you might have thought would 
be obvious to any political 
party leader. Unfortunately for him, Mr Miliband has to be reminded of it.

ALL sorts of feeble excuses are being peddled around to explain the unjustified and indeed shameful delay in publishing the critical Chilcot Report into the Iraq war.

But MPs are suspicious that the real reason for its non-publication so far – said to be four years overdue – is that its contents could destroy the reputation of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

That cannot be a good reason to delay, and especially not to censor, a report which deals with an event which cost hundreds of British lives as well as maiming many more British servicemen and women for life.

They, their relatives and the British taxpayer have a right to know what went on in their name and with their money.

The problem, it appears, is about the disclosure of communications between Blair and President George W Bush and we are left with the distinct impression that Britain’s top civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, the powerful Cabinet Secretary, is worried about this aspect of the affair.

However, it looks as though David Cameron has seemingly overruled the fears of Sir Jeremy and announced that the report will be published this year.

About time, too.

Needless to say, this has led to another row, with certain Labour MPs saying that publication of this report so near to a general election could adversely affect Labour’s prospects.

They fear that the report will contain damning material about the Labour government, led by Blair at the time.

Well, again, that is no 
excuse for not publishing it. Indeed, complaining about the timing of its proposed publication seems to be implying that it will contain bad news for Labour.

We shall see...

NICK Clegg’s plan for free school meals for all children aged between three and seven must rank as one of the daftest “offers” made by a politician for years – and that is saying something.

Pie in the sky, you could say.

This was the “promise” he waved at faithful Lib Dem supporters at their recent party conference. It was as batty and impracticable as some of Jamie Oliver’s own ideas in this regard.

No one, for instance, had bothered to cost this idea. Nor had any one checked to see which schools had the facilities to cope with it. And indeed, Clegg has been told that if such a ridiculous plan were put into practice, the money would have to come out of the budget for school maintenance. In short, leaky roofs, broken windows and plumbing crises would remain undealt with.

Margaret Thatcher once said: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” This still applies today as much as it did when she uttered those words, all those years ago.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political editor of the Press Association.