Empty benches, stony silence, and the howl of one MP – ‘She doesn’t listen!’… HENRY DEEDES watches as a wounded Mrs May is humiliated by both sides of the House
Parliament recently introduced a bill to outlaw the use of wild animals in circuses.
Parading defenceless creatures in front of an audience to be bayed and laughed at is cruel and demeaning. No place for it in today’s civilised society.
But while MPs go all gooey over pandas, horses and bunny rabbits, they have decided the Prime Minister deserves no such clemency.
At 6pm last night, it looked as though the Cabinet was about to tell her it was time to go. False alarm. She would be hunkering down in No 10 for at least one more night.
Parliament recently introduced a bill to outlaw the use of wild animals in circuses, writes Henry Deedes
Parading defenceless creatures in front of an audience to be bayed and laughed at is cruel and demeaning. No place for it in today’s civilised society, writes Henry Deedes
But considering her experience in the Commons earlier, few would have blamed her for handing over the keys. For more than two hours, the PM was subjected to the sort of humiliation which would have had weaker souls reaching for the smelling salts.
First, during PMQs, then while delivering her statement on her fourth (and valedictory) Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
At times, the Labour benches resembled a toga-clad mob inside Rome’s Colosseum. They snarled, they cackled, they jabbed their fingers. It was wince-inducing stuff.
Mrs May, dignified and business-like in a funereal black suit and high heels, somehow absorbed it all, like a vicarage tea sponge cake.
Behind her, meanwhile, the Government benches echoed to the sound of stony indifference. Support was scant. Empty spaces everywhere.
Behind her, meanwhile, the Government benches echoed to the sound of stony indifference. Support was scant. Empty spaces everywhere, writes Henry Deedes
Those backbenchers who stayed to hear her out thumbed their phones, plotting their next career move, writes Henry Deedes
Those backbenchers who stayed to hear her out thumbed their phones, plotting their next career move. No sooner had she finished her speech, laying the finer points of the bill, than verbal missiles began raining in from all angles.
‘You’ve come to the end of the road,’ was the verdict of gum-chewing former footballer Liz Kendall (Lab, Leicester West).
Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) suggested the PM’s authority was ‘slipping from her grasp with every passing hour.’
Tim Farron (Lib Dem,Westmorland and Lonsdale) claimed he’d witnessed Mrs May getting a friendlier reception in a working men’s club in Durham than from her own benches.
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con, North East Somerset) asked whether the Prime Minister really believed in what she was doing or whether she was simply ‘going through the motions.’
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, incidentally, had been joltingly bad. Jumbled, hesitant, incoherent. I’m not sure how much he actually believes of what he is saying, writes Henry Deedes
He described her failing strategy as ‘folderol’ – a word dating back to 1820, meaning ‘hogwash’.
In front of him, Lee Rowley (Con, North East Derbyshire) sat slumped, scanning the chamber with a pained face as if to say ‘Why is she doing this to herself?’
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, incidentally, had been joltingly bad. Jumbled, hesitant, incoherent. I’m not sure how much he actually believes of what he is saying. Recently I’ve been watching Sky’s brilliant drama Chernobyl, which depicts most Soviet apparatchiks as lifeless incompetents. Amazing how similar they are to Corbyn.
Briefly, there were some honey-voiced words of support from Charles Walker (Con, Broxbourne), hoping for a mention in her Resignation Honours List, perhaps. Similarly, Vicky Ford (Con, Chelmsford) observed that MPs needed to ‘stop saying No to everything on the table, just because it is not our favourite dish.’
Perhaps the most measured intervention came from Caroline Flint (Lab, Don Valley) who suggested members ‘take a breath’ and view what the bill says when it is published tomorrow. As doughty Ms Flint sat down, both sides of the Commons fell eerily quiet as though she’d made them feel guilty and given them all something to think about.
PMQs earlier had been equally agonising. Brexit-supporting ministers Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox, Liz Truss and Geoffrey Cox didn’t even bother showing up.
It became clear later why Ms Leadsom wasn’t there: she was sharpening her knife ahead of her tea-time Cabinet resignation.
Boris Johnson sat in the furthest corner, within whispering distance from 1922 Committee chief Sir Graham Brady. He didn’t stay long. Palms to grease, text messages to send, I don’t doubt.
Most the heat came from Conservative MPs on the subject of Northern Ireland, since the PM is reported to have blocked ministers from proposing a law that would prevent Army veterans from facing murder charges.
Mark Francois (Con, Rayleigh and Wickford) accused the PM of ‘pandering to Sinn Fein and the IRA while throwing veterans to the wolves.’
Johnny Mercer (Con, Plymouth Moor View) said the Government was showing ‘equivalence between those who got up in the morning to go and murder women, children and civilians, and those who donned a uniform to go and protect the Crown.’
Mrs May offered a limp response. ‘You’re not listening!’ Francois bellowed, face pucer than an ice lolly. ‘She. Doesn’t. Listen.’
I fear that might just be her political epitaph.
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