May I be excused? No, Theresa, no you may not!
As the Brexit psychodrama unfolds the political chaos gets steadily worse. All the signs are Theresa May’s got virtually nowhere in her attempts to find common ground with other parties. But, as our political correspondent Peter Spencer reports, she’s got no choice but to face her enemies on all sides of the chamber on Monday…
In the English breakfast, the hen is involved but the pig is committed.
Which is where Brexit has left our MP’s.
Grunty, snorty porkers.
In normal times politicians are involved in the cut and thrust of debate.
Now they are committed.
Which is why Theresa May’s attempts at cross-party talks are as likely to succeed as taking out an army with a spud gun.
Each of the many factions doesn’t think, it knows, exactly what the seventeen million leavers and sixteen million remainers really wanted.
Complete cojones, of course. The referendum question was yay or nay. No details, no subdivisions, no shades of grey.
Makes no odds. No one’s listening to anyone now.
Trying to sort the mess is as tricky as reversing a vasectomy. Simply too many loose ends to tie up.
Love her or hate her, you have to admire Mrs May’s sticking power.
Last week’s commons rejection of her departure deal looked like the biggest defeat for any British government since the Battle of Hastings.
And yet she soldiers on, trying to get someone to agree to something. Anything, really.
A big ask, when even her own cabinet is riven with dissent. Up to twenty ministers are reportedly ready to quit if she doesn’t make sure we don’t crash out of the EU with no deal.
Still, she’s in good company there. Jeremy Corbyn faces a tranche of top table resignations if he goes for a second referendum. One reason why he’s swerving her cross-party Downing Street talks.
Yup. It’s that polarised. And we’re now only weeks away from Departure Day – March 29th.
Little wonder everyone’s getting the jitters. Fears escalate of food and drug shortages. The motorway out of Dover turning into a car park. A serious slump in the housing market. Possible problems for anybody trying to fly to or drive in Europe. The list goes on. Happy days.
Theresa May’s Monday despatch box gig never was going to produce anything much, though the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, deserves a mention for making it happen at all.
In so doing he overturned centuries of parliamentary practice and really put one on the powers that be.
Calls to mind Mr Speaker Lenthal. He it was who stood up to King Charles 1st when he barged into the chamber with a load of soldiers and demanded to know where the MP’s he’d come to arrest had gone.
‘May it please your majesty,’ Lenthal replied, ‘I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me.’
In short, up yours.
Some suspect that’s Bercow’s attitude too, seeing as his wife got a sticker for her car that reads ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.
He may yet play a pivotal role when the voting that matters takes place on January 29th. Tilting the balance of power still further from the government to the commons.
Not that anyone’s in charge just now, meaning anything’s possible.
Currently, the second referendum is creeping up the likelihood stakes, as is a much softer Brexit than Mrs May has in mind. While a delay to the scheduled departure date is definitely a runner. Though the spectre of a no-deal departure continues to hover round Westminster.
Most MP’s fear it’d be the greatest act of self-harm since the Suez Crisis, though Brexit ultras see it as the greatest escape since Steve McQueen got on his bike at Stalag Luft 111.
Be it a threat or a promise, it’s potent. Which is why the game everyone’s playing now is something between strip poker and Russian roulette.
No messing around, this is a constitutional as well as a political crisis. And the stakes could hardly be higher.
And yet this week David Cameron managed to keep a straight face when he claimed he didn’t regret calling the referendum in the first place. Because he’d promised one.
It’s worth remembering that in those faraway tranquil days surveys clearly showed Europe was way down almost everyone’s priority list.
Everyone, that is, except a hardcore of right-wing agitators. And of course Cameron did have an election to win. Had to keep his people sweet.
Harsh though it sounds, the word appeasement springs to mind.
Of course, he did his best in trying circumstances. But so did Neville Chamberlain…
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his wonderful takes on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.
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