Welcome to Parliament’s very own circus

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The role of the party political leader in Britain today has changed dramatically over the past five years.

Now, he, or she, on a daily basis, has to deal with the sort of hazards faced by a circus lion-tamer confronted by a cageful of snarling untrustworthy big cats. Day by day, a political leader now has to endure the kind of sniping, sudden attacks and treachery from people who are supposed to be on his side.

Until comparatively recently, political parties handled their own internal problems and squabbles in private as best they could. Often the press gallery had no knowledge of the turbulence beneath the apparently placid surface.

All that has changed. Back-benchers are now more unruly than they have ever been. Nowadays it is very much a case of washing your dirty linen in public.

Both Labour and the Conservatives are damaged by the growing breed of malcontents on their own back-benches.

Labour MPs are saddled with a leader, Jeremy Corbyn, they did not, by and large, want. He is still in the throes of a shambolic reshuffle. People have resigned in anger and Corbyn has effectively told them: “Good riddance” even though it seriously weakens his authority.

Michael Dugher, who was sacked as shadow culture secretary, has warned the party is spending all its time fighting among itself rather than attacking the Tories.

The same applies to the Conservatives. Many Tory back-benchers believe the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the European Union are half-hearted, to say the least, and that he does not want Britain to quit the EU, even though the latest poll shows the Brexit lobby is well ahead.

Rival pro and anti-factions within the party are being set up and the turmoil is expected to intensify. At least two heavyweight erstwhile Eurosceptics, Lord Hague, and the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, have apparently changed their minds.

Meanwhile, as the politicians fight, the poor old taxpaying voter is left out in the cold. And on top of the MPs’ reputation of being greedy with taxpayers’ money to feather their own nests, we have a parliament that is more like a blood-stained battlefield than a legislative assembly.

It is a shocking state of affairs.