Questions to the future Prime Minister-in-waiting?

Patrick Burns
Political editor, Midlands

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Clean air or hot air? What will Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn think of Birmingham's proposed clean air zone charges?

"If the government can't deliver an intelligent relationship with Europe it should make way for one that can."

That's the challenge Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn never tires of issuing to Conservative ministers.

And there is increasing confidence at the top of his party that they will be in office by the end of the year, on the premise that if Parliament can't agree on a Brexit deal in November, a government collapse will trigger a general election which Labour will win.

But if internal trouble and strife have become the hallmarks of most of our governing parties in recent years, Labour's self-professed "government-in-waiting" is well-qualified in that department too.

Any questions?

In the second of my interviews with the leaders of the main parties running-up to their respective conferences, I'll be asking Mr Corbyn about the splits currently tearing at his party.

Beginning with the damaging row over anti-semitism which has dogged him for months. This week, our BBC Midlands Special Correspondent Peter Wilson is talking to members of the Jewish community: how is their opinion of the Labour Party affected by all this?

Image source, Reuters
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Will members of the Jewish community be voting with their feet and leaving Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party?

Birmingham Rabbi Shmuel Arkush says traditional Labour policies have often chimed well with Jewish values. But now he says Jewish MPs aren't comfortable in their own party.

"They are employing security guards in order to attend their own party conference, " he said.

"People will be voting with their feet and leaving."

Brexit car crash?

I'll also be asking Mr Corbyn what he makes of the warning by the Chief Executive of Jaguar Land Rover, Dr Ralf Speth that tens of thousands of jobs in the Midlands car industry could be lost if Britain leaves the EU with a bad deal, or with no deal at all.

Officially, Labour say the idea of another EU Referendum is "still on the table". It's very much on Labour MP Jack Dromey's table.

Image source, Getty Images

His Birmingham Erdington constituency includes Jaguar's Castle Bromwich plant. But other Labour MPs including Stoke Central's Gareth Snell say it's emphatically not on their table and never will be.

I'll ask Mr Corbyn to clarify what exactly is the alternative government-in-waiting's position on this?

Clean air/hot air?

And while we're on the subject of party divisions, there's a bitter battle between the senior members of Birmingham City Council's ruling Labour group and a local member of Mr Corbyn's front bench team.

Birmingham is one of several big cities proposing to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). But it is the only one where private motorists driving the most polluting vehicles would be charged every time they entered it.

Image source, Birmingham City Council
Image caption,
A map shows the proposed clean air zone in Birmingham

Councillor Waseem Zaffar says it's necessary because 900 people die in the city every year as a result of poor air quality. Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, is usually a loyal ally of the Labour council in general, and of Mr Zaffar in particular.

But he's broken ranks over the CAZ. He says the proposals reflect "faulty methodology" based on "deceit and lies" about the number if lives being lost.

Is Mr Corbyn on the side of the Shadow Minister for Europe or of Birmingham's Cabinet Member for Transport?

Inharmonious overtures?

The Midlands is home to one of the biggest concentrations of so-called "moderate" Labour MPs.

(I don't like using this weasel word because it's too often employed to confer approval at the expense of those pesky Left wingers! But it's become the accepted code word, so I'll just have to grit my teeth.....)

Much of the talk about a realignment of the Centre Left in British politics involves the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable. When I asked him what overtures he was making to those Midlands Labour 'moderate' MPs, he told me he respects many of them, but for now they're biding their time to see how the Labour Party Conference plays out.

Are they not entitled to feel unsettled by a conference agenda which includes proposed rule changes to give local activists, including Corbynite Momentum campaigners, a greater say in selection, re-selection or, yes, de-selection issues?

The answers

To find out how Jeremy Corbyn responds to these questions and more, you'll just have to watch this weekend's Sunday Politics Midlands. I'll be joined in the studio by the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, Daniel Kawczynski, the Labour Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council Brigid Jones and the former Liberal Democrat MP for Solihull Lorely, now Baroness, Burt.

And I hope you will join us too, at 11.00 BST on BBC One in the Midlands this Sunday, 23 September 2018.