It’s The Posh-Off II: The Re-match.Chris Philp, now the Tory MP for Croydon South, is again to take on The Honorable Emily Benn at the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society in its first event of 2016, on a somewhat facile motion, given the venue and constituency, of, “This House prefers the Conservatives rather than Labour”. There will have been more closely contested fox hunts over the Boxing Day weekend.
Last May, Philp “inherited” the ultra-safe Conservative Croydon South seat, and its 16,000 majority, and increased his advantage to 17,400 votes when his Labour opponent was the daughter of a hereditary viscount.
The Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society meets on the first Monday of each month, with an 8pm start at Old Coulsdon Centre for the Retired, opposite Tudor Parade. But some may wonder about their choice of issue for January 4, a repeat of their January debate of 2015, ahead of the General Election.
As Inside Croydon suggested 12 months ago: “It is all-so-easy to characterise the event as self-made-millionaire and Conservative Party donor versus the daughter of a viscount and scion of a political dynasty.”
Given the recent attempts to undermine her party’s leadership, which was at least conducted in the name of The Hon Emily, and the publicly expressed views of her mother, the Viscountess Stansgate, a former advisor to Tony Bliar, there are some in Croydon’s Labour Party who have expressed some surprise that the councillor for West Thornton is speaking against the motion at all.Certainly, the timing of next Monday’s debate could prove a little awkward for The Hon Emily if a report in today’s Independent on Sunday is anything to go by, since it predicted that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is preparing for a shadow cabinet reshuffle to be announced during that week, and that Hilary Benn – or “Uncle Hilary”, as he is known to the West Thornton councillor – could be among the biggest casualties, losing his job as shadow foreign affairs spokesman.
“Corbyn wants to assert his authority by dismissing ‘disloyal’ shadow ministers who have openly defied his leadership,” the newspaper reported.
Hilary Benn defied his leader’s position by speaking in favour of British military action in Syria. The newspaper reports that Corbyn has “made the ‘seismic’ decision to move shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn”.
They also report that Corbyn will be finalising the reshuffle “with his inner circle, including Seumas Milne, his head of communications, and John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor”. Not specified, but understood to be among Corbyn’s closest advisors, is Croydon activist, and occasional Inside Croydon contributor, Andrew Fisher, the target of The Hon Emily’s complaint over “disloyalty”.
The Independent on Sunday reports that Corbyn’s team has “become increasingly angry at the failure of senior shadow cabinet ministers to back their leader in public. They also insist they will not allow another situation in which a shadow minister challenges the leader from the dispatch box, as Benn did over air-strikes on the Islamic State.
“A Labour source said: ‘That will not happen again – it can’t. If you want to do that kind of thing you need to do it from the back benches. It’s about loyalty’.”
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