I joined the Conservative Party at a time which we now look back on as being a period when we were in some disarray. John Major was Prime Minister, and Ken Clarke was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Before then, I'd been 'Independent' - and I don't need any quips like "What's changed". What I could see at the time (and you may well want to express a view about my eyesight) was a Government doing a good job, restoring the British economy after it's release from the crippling chains of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Unfortunately I could also see some Conservative MPs acting in a mindlessly self-destructive way, making the business of governing Britain next to impossible. I couldn't understand what it was that led often experienced politicians to so undermine their own team. It was an impressive exercise in self destruction. Whatever, I decided to become "a rat that joined the sinking ship". Thankfully it remained afloat (just) and then rose once again to sail higher on the seas (eventually).
Today, the Labour Party looks to be in the same state of self destruction. What on earth can have possessed Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt to write to all Labour MPs this morning, proposing a referendum on whether Gordon Brown's should remain leader of the Labour Party (and the country). It made no sense at all. Labour MPs do not have the right to choose their leader anyway. That rests with a much broader 'college'. And they did not have the support of anyone with the weight to make their letter count. If they'd written it the day after James Purnell resigned, it might have been a different matter. It might even have been enough to put some steel into David Miliband's rubbery backbone. Speaking of the Foreign Secretary, his obligatory 'statement of support' is worth reading.
"I am working closely with the Prime Minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election campaign for a Labour Government that he is leading."
Don't try to tell me that this is a supporting statement. It just adds fuel to a flame that for some reason he wants to see carry on burning - but not enough to create a real fire. We have a Government in disarray, a party at war with itself. And all the time, our public debt is ballooning and our soldiers are being killed and injured in Afghanistan. Suddenly, May 6th seems a very, very long way off.