Leading article: Arrogance and insecurity

Click to follow

Clare Short has never been the most compliant of MPs. Since her - regrettably - belated resignation from the Cabinet over Iraq, she has been a veritable thorn in the Government's side.

In view of this, you would have thought that the Government and the Labour Party would be relieved to know that she intends to leave Parliament at the next election. Instead, the Labour Chief Whip has seized on Ms Short's article in yesterday's Independent to threaten "fast-track" disciplinary action that could lead to her expulsion from the party. Jacqui Smith, the loyalest of loyal Blairites, accused Ms Short of "completely unacceptable" behaviour for calling on voters to support a hung parliament that would usher in electoral reform. In her article, Ms Short also criticised the Labour Party for "losing its way" and the "error-prone arrogance of Number 10".

This is a foolish and oversensitive response to the considered verdict of an honest politician who has been a stalwart of party and Parliament for more than 20 years. Ms Short is no longer in government. The Labour Party has been, and remains, home to many shades of opinion, from traditional left-wing socialist to Blairite. And it is a hallmark of British MPs that they are free to be characters in their own right: their prime duty is to their constituents and to their constituency party organisation.

In lambasting Ms Short, Ms Smith and the Parliamentary Labour Party are only revealing their own insecurity and guaranteeing greater publicity for her views. It would be a sad reflection on the state of the Labour Party if it could no longer find a place for the likes of Clare Short.