Is the Labour party right to be so worried that Jeremy Corbyn is its leader and John McDonnell is its Shadow Chancellor? Neither of them seem to be putting much effort into pushing the policies that have upset their colleagues the most. The Labour party will maintain its position on Trident after constituency party delegates decided not to debate the matter this week. Jeremy Corbyn is quite happy for his colleagues to take a different view on this issue, too. Similarly, on Heathrow, both Corbyn and McDonnell are opposed to expansion of the airport, but today the Shadow Chancellor told the Press Association that he might take one position as a constituency MP and another as Shadow Chancellor:
‘As a constituency MP I will be opposed to Heathrow. The decision on Heathrow itself will be a democratic decision within our party itself. If there is a difference between me and the rest of the party, just as we always do, we respect the individual constituency MP’s view to protect his constituency.’
As well as raising the intriguing possibility of McDonnell grabbing the mace to protest a policy that he has just announced, this also adds weight to the idea that the two most powerful men in the Labour party are, on any controversial issues, happy to act as chairs of the debate, rather than advancing their own ideas. McDonnell is considered far more confrontational than Corbyn, who colleagues observe really doesn’t like friction. But both are clearly trying to avoid strife in their party, even on issues they’ve campaigned on for years.