YP Comment: May or Corbyn? It is no contest. PM exposes Labour's disarray

EVEN before the honour '“ dubious or otherwise '“ of becoming the first foreign leader to be fêted in Washington by the newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump, this has been one of Theresa May's more trying weeks as PM.

Theresa May at PMQs.

She’s faced questions about the safety of the Trident nuclear deterrent; the Supreme Court ruled that only Parliament can trigger Article 50 to begin the Brexit divorce talks and, in another major u-turn, she’s now accepted the need to publish a White Paper setting out her negotiating principles.

Some will say Mrs May has been a victim of Harold Macmillan’s ‘events’ 
maxim. Less generous critics will say the Tory leader is being buffeted 
by such events and by the vulnerability of her slim Parliamentary majority.

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Yet, despite this, the Tory leader’s appearance at a potentially troublesome Prime Minister’s Questions only served to expose the ineffectiveness of the Opposition and the weak leadership being offered by Jeremy Corbyn.

When Mr Corbyn said the Government wanted to weaken workers’ rights, Mrs May pointed out that she said the precise opposite in her Brexit speech last week and that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, concurred. “As usual with Labour, the right hand is not talking to the far left,” she retorted.

She’s right. Two respected former shadow ministers have already concluded this year that their future is not at Westminster. Two others, including Mr Corbyn’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, expect to become city-region mayors in May. Meanwhile the rest of the country despairs at the Labour leader’s inability to ask probing questions – or articulate a clear, and costed, policy when it comes to issues like immigration. He might have won two leadership contests by a wide margin – but it doesn’t mean that Jeremy Corbyn has the skills, or possesses statesmanship, that a Leader of the Opposition requires.

Elite decisions

TODAY’S report on elitism by the Social Mobility Commission provides added impetus – and justification – to Theresa May’s conscientious decision to lead a Government for all “and not just the privileged few”.

Even without the complication of Brexit, Mrs May faces an uphill struggle. Even though John Major promised “a classless society”, there remains a massive wage gap between the salary commanded by people from working class backgrounds and those individuals who had a more affluent upbringing.

Of course there are countless examples of inspiring individuals who have overcome hardship to reach the very top of their vocation – it’s about individuals making the most of the opportunities afforded to them.

Yet, while former New Labour minister Alan Milburn has become a champion for social mobility since leaving Westminster’s front line, today’s study is too important to be left to party politics. It needs to make constructive suggestions and two areas stand out.

First, all youngsters – irrespective of their social status – deserve a world-class education. Teachers matter, a lesson that the more combative Education Secretaries did not learn. Indeed, Tory veteran Ken Clarke’s memoir, Kind of Blue, name-checks the teachers who inspired him and shaped his career.

Second, Britain is too London-centric. If there was greater recognition of the economic importance of regions as drivers of growth, and decision-makers were not so concentrated in 
the capital, Mr Milburn may have less reason to complain that the UK is “deeply elitist”.

Hull penny-pinching

EVEN though Hull’s year as City of Culture is exceeding expectations, it’s even more regrettable that rail chiefs feel the need to close the toilets, and waiting rooms, at Paragon Station in the early evening due to anti-social behaviour. With 342,000 visitors to Hull in the first week of 2017, it is regrettable that they’re insufficient staff at Hull’s transport hub to protect and reassure the public – their very presence will help to deter the tiny minority intent on spoiling the party.

David Cameron could not have been clearer when questioned by local MP Diana Johnson in May 2016. The then Prime Minister said: “Some £1.4m of investment is going into Hull Station to be delivered before it becomes the UK City of Culture.” Really?

Both the Government and the station’s operator FirstGroup, have a lot of explaining to do after receiving a joint letter from Hull’s three MPs. With an unique opportunity to welcome the world to East Yorkshire, this is not a time for penny-pinching.