WHAT on earth do you make of a major political party which for years has campaigned passionately for equality and “inclusiveness”, but may now be in the business of abruptly standing all that on its head and doing precisely the opposite?

Harriet Harman, the hugely popular and influential former deputy leader of Labour, is advocating the next party leadership campaign should be an all-woman affair, with men barred from entering the fray.

This is simply hypocrisy writ large.

And there is every possibility, with women now on the rampage, that this nefarious idea might catch on and that the next Labour leader could be elected on the basis of a disgraceful example of social engineering. Harman ludicrously implies that Labour is on catch-up because the Tories have had two female leaders and Labour, so far, none.

But politicians should be chosen for jobs on the basis of their ability to do them, irrespective of gender. Neither Margaret Thatcher nor Theresa May had any help (or wanted any) from feminist organisations to get to the top.

Harman’s plan is an insult to women. My view is that if Harman had contested the Labour leadership election, ultimately won by Jeremy Corbyn, she would have won hands down, without recourse to any of the kind of disgraceful manipulation she now advocates. All-women by-election shortlists were bad enough – this is that much worse. It has been weakly described by its supporters as “positive discrimination”. How feeble is that?

HOW refreshing to see Owen Smith who was sacked as shadow Northern Ireland Secretary for demanding a second Brexit referendum, sticking so resolutely to his guns.

It is, of course, desirable that Cabinets and Shadow Cabinets give an outward impression of unity, but this has meant that often some ministers and shadow ministers have had to pretend to support policies they wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole.

Not so, Owen Smith. He is determined to carry on his campaign and could prove a painful and distracting thorn in Corbyn’s side, a situation which a large number of disaffected Labour MPs would quietly enjoy, and even relish. Labour peer Lord Hain, a former Northern Ireland Secretary, has described the sacking as “a Stalinist purge”. It may indeed be something Corbyn will regret. Owen Smith’s slings and arrows aimed at the leadership from outside the shadow Cabinet are a far more dangerous prospect for the Labour leadership than if Owen Smith were still in the fold. Watch out, Jeremy!

IT is good to see the former Tory Scottish Secretary, Lord Lang of Monkton, has been boning up on comic writer P. G. Wodehouse. In one of his Blandings Castle books, Wodehouse wrote: “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” In the House of Lords, Lord Lang told fellow peers: “The SNP would make a grievance out of a ray of sunshine” Or is it a case of great minds ...?