Laura Pidcock’s speech shows politics of hate seeping into Westminster, says MACER HALL | Macer Hall | Columnists | Comment


Laura PidcockGETTY

Laura Pidcock described Tory MPs as the enemy

With Labour’s hard-Left strengthened and emboldened by the party’s surprise vote surge at the general election, Commons newcomers are signalling their determination to stamp out any fraternisation with the hated Tory foe.

Laura Pidcock, elected as MP for North West Durham in the June poll, this week declared her “visceral” dislike of all Tories in a series of outbursts on social media. “I have absolutely no intention of being friends with any of them,” the hardline Labour backbencher said.

“The idea that they’re not the enemy is simply delusional.”

Her uncompromising statement of intent sparked an outcry from veteran parliamentarians on both sides of the divide. Yet other supporters of Jeremy Corbyn backed her stance and vowed not to indulge in any socialising with MPs from the Government benches.

Richard Burgon, the Shadow Justice Secretary was “glad” to hear of Ms Pidcock’s contempt for all Conservatives. “Politics shouldn’t be a parlour game or cosy club,” he said.

Their posturing follows the example set by their party leader. Mr Corbyn himself radiates sullen disdain whenever obliged to stand anywhere near Theresa May at a ceremonial occasion.

Their barbs are a sign that the politics of hate seen at the general election, including widespread vile abuse of candidates on social media and spiteful vandalism of posters, is seeping into parliamentary proceedings.

Some MPs are worried that the atmosphere at Prime Minister’s Questions will turn to genuine viciousness rather than the usual noisy pantomime when the House returns.

Perhaps Ms Pidcock and her Corbynite colleagues are unaware that crossparty friendships have long been a feature of parliamentary life even for some of their Left-wing heroes of the past.

Socialist firebrand Tony Benn, an inspirational figure for Mr Corbyn and his allies, was close to the outspoken Right-winger Enoch Powell. Both MPs were drawn together by their deep dislike of the European Community and their reverence for parliamentary democracy.

When asked by Labour colleagues why he attended Powell’s funeral, Mr Benn replied: “He was my friend.”

Their relationship demonstrated that what is best for the country can frequently cut across the tribal divisions thrown up by party politics.

Margaret Thatcher enjoyed amicable relations with her Labour opposite Michael Foot in the early 1980s in spite of the gulf between their political views.

In more recent times, former Tory Chancellor George Osborne struck up a friendship with his Labour shadow Ed Balls that belied their clownish banter across the House of Commons.

Tory MPs tend to be bemused and saddened by the venom directed against them from the Left. “We think that socialists are wellmeaning but wrong whereas the Left think we are evil,” one backbencher told me.

When the Labour minister Aneurin Bevan denounced the Tories as “lower than vermin” in the late 1940s, some responded by setting up a light-hearted “Vermin Club”. Today’s Tories will be challenged to respond with similar good humour.

Labour’s hard-Left MPs are likely to swiftly learn that their own tribe is hardly full of sweet comradeship. The toxic rift over Mr Corbyn’s leadership is intensifying as the party’s autumn conference approaches. It emerged this week that elements in Unite, Labour’s biggest union backer, are on manoeuvres and are backing the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry as a potential replacement for the party’s leader.

Some Labour moderates have still not discounted the possibility of a breakaway party if the hard-Left’s grip cannot be eased by other means. For all the smugness in Labour ranks about the election, the party remains on the brink of open civil war.

Labour is in a fragile state in a volatile hung Parliament where both the main parties are split over Europe. Ms Pidcock and her comrades would do well to remember the old adage that, at Westminster, those on the opposite benches are your opponents – your real enemies are on your own side.

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DAVID DAVIS heads to Brussels next week ready to turn up the heat in the negotiations over Britain leaving the EU.

Whitehall sources say the EU Exit Secretary’s patience with the stalling tactics from the European Commission is wearing thin. While Brussels chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned repeatedly that “the clock is ticking”, British officials point out that the EU talks team is making menacing noises while failing to come up with concrete proposals for the future relationship between the UK and their bloc.

“We have published a series of papers detailing our position on EU citizens’ rights, the Irish border, settling future legal disputes and so on. When will we see something from the other side? We’re still waiting,” a source close to the Tory Cabinet minister told me.

Next week’s talks are expected to be largely technical with little potential for fireworks. But Tory Eurosceptics are increasingly convinced Mr Davis will have to walk out of talks this autumn to demonstrate that the Government will not put up with endless play-acting by Mr Barnier and his gang.

Confidence among senior Tories about taking a tough stance in the negotiations has grown following firm support from the party’s Eurosceptic backbenchers. Ministers were relieved that there was no backlash when the Government conceded this week that the EU’s Court of Justice could continue to influence UK law for a transition period for several years after leaving the EU. “We have done our best to keep our MPs up to speed with our Brexit plans,” a minister involved in the departure process told me.

Veteran Brexiteers in Tory ranks insist they are willing to be patient.”Getting Britain out of the EU has been my life’s work,” one MP said. “If it takes a few more years, it will not be problem for me as long as we achieve the ultimate goal.”

The patience from Eurosceptic ranks contrasts with an increasingly shrill tone from the anti-Brexit camp.

Pro-Brussels campaigners ended up bizarrely claiming this week that Leave voters should feel cheated because the Government’s plans for leaving the jurisdiction of the EU judges were not radical enough.

Ministers suspect such desperate babble shows the Remainer fightback is spluttering out.

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Downing StreetGETTY

Rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle are bubble away in Westminster as MPs prepare to return

MINISTERS are being kept on their toes with rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle sweeping Westminster. 

Most had thought that Theresa May’s general election disappointment left her too weak to carry out major team changes. 

But with most Tories now accepting she is not leaving Downing Street any time soon, talk is spreading of a shake-up in October. 

SOME Tory MPs are irritated by the suggestions that they are keeping well away from Westminster during Parliament’s summer break. 

“Some of us have to be here to stop the Government stuffing up Brexit,” said one Eurosceptic backbencher who has been beavering away in his Commons office all week. 

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Michael GoveGETTY

Michael Gove may need to work on his communication

MICHAEL GOVE is not averse to seeking some extra help polishing up his communication skills despite his track record as a newspaper journalist. 

The senior Tory, who recently returned to the Government in a new job as Environment Secretary, is on the hunt for a speechwriter. 

The post comes with a civil service salary of up to £59,000 a year. 

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VISITORS to the Foreign Office could be forgiven for thinking Boris Johnson is in bellicose mood about the Brexit negotiations. 

Posters have been put up around his Whitehall fiefdom headlined: “The Duel for Europe.” 

Closer inspection reveals the flyers advertise an exhibition in the building about war and diplomacy in the early 19th century. 

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GETTY

A crowd of people gathered in Parliament Square to witness Big Ben’s final toll before renovations

ANTI-Brexit campaigners attempted to hijack the gathering on Parliament Square to witness the final tolling of Big Ben before the bell was silenced for renovation work on the Elizabeth Tower. 

Their desperate stunt led to the spectacle of veteran Eurosceptic Tory MP Peter Bone being interviewed for a television news bulletin with an EU flag being waved over his head. 

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COMMONS eateries are having to cater for the growing number of MPs who have followed Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy in refusing to eat any animal products. 

Diners in Parliament’s Terrace Cafeteria are now offered “vegan protein balls”. 

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LABOUR MP Stella Creasy has spent most of this week hitting back at her Corbynite critics on social media. 

The under-fire backbencher was particularly incensed by one asking her whether she regularly used public transport. 

“No, I travel by broomstick obviously,” she replied.

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