In the days when Murray Walker commentated on Formula 1 motor racing, he ceased to predict what might happen: the Curse of Murray had seen so many last minute changes of fortune. Even when victory for a race leader seemed inevitable, he remembered what happened to Jack Brabham at Monaco all those years ago, and told viewers that leader was on “His last and po-tentially victorious lap”. If only Theresa May had been watching.
The so-called “definitive vote” on her Brexit deal would not, we were told repeatedly, be delayed. Recalcitrant MPs would be won round, some on the opposition benches would vote with the Government, the DUP objections would be snuffed out, and all would be well. The likes of Michael “Oiky” Gove told whoever would listen that the vote would go ahead tomorrow. May was going to win. Yes, she was going to win. Er, no she wasn’t.
At the Independent, sketch writer Tom Peck observed 45 minutes that may define the end of the May premiership. “A vintage hour of British politics, that … 10.45 news leaks that May will pull the vote at 11.30 … 11.00 Westminster evacuated by fire alarm … 11.07 Delayed PM's media briefing begins … Journos told ‘vote is going ahead as planned’ … 11.21 Briefing ends … 11.30 Vote cancelled”. Team Shambles strikes again.
ITV political editor Robert Peston summed up the chaos. “@theresa_may taking astonishing risk in trying to cancel vote on her Brexit plan. Absolutely no sign in other European capitals of willingness to re-open and renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement that DUP and her Brexiter MPs hate. Delay and then second failure to get deal that MPs could support would surely mean the end of her time in Number 10. Although she is always saying none of this is about her, it is about the nation, it is currently seen by her colleagues as all about her”. So along to the Commons she came.
Then, as the BBC has reported, “She says that after three days of debate on the withdrawal agreement in the Commons and much discussion outside Parliament, it is clear that there is ‘broad support’ for many of the key aspects to the deal. However, there remains widespread concern about the backstop. This would result in defeat for the deal, she says, were MPs to vote on it.Therefore, she says the government has made the decision to defer the vote”. And that was that.
Labour MPs shouted “Weak!” They need not have said anything. The stony silence on the Government benches said all that needed saying. Ministers who had been sent out to tell broadcast audiences that the vote was going ahead were seething. The end had come.
Theresa May rambled on. Putting food on the tables of working families. Control of our borders, our money and our laws. It was the right deal. Strong and stable. She commended her statement to the House. No timetable has been given for when the vote will take place. She claims she will journey to Brussels to talk about the Backstop.
But then we learn that the text of the Withdrawal Agreement will not change. So, as she said herself, “nothing has changed”. Except perhaps one thing. She might not realise that she has run out of road. But those who sit behind her on the Government benches do.
As Matt Foster of Politics Home has told, “Commons Speaker John Bercow says a minister should move that the debate be adjourned - giving MPs chance to vote on whether or not to pull it. Says this is the best option for democracy. Major fireworks ahead”. But the Government does not want to give the House a vote, despite Bercow’s strong hint that not to do so would be discourteous to those who had already spoken in the debate on the Wighdrawal Agreement. The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman was withering in her criticism.
The PM was incapable of making decisions about the future. She was “wasting precious time”. The Lib Dems would now back a No Confidence vote. Andrew Adonis has concluded that ”We have just witnessed the abdication of a prime minister - without leaving office”. And all the while, Sterling tumbles on the foreign exchanges.
Flat earth fantasists like Iain Duncan Cough, refusing to inhabit the real world to the very end, are blithely claiming that we can just go to Brussels and renegotiate something which we have been told is not renegotiable. There will be others on the idiot fringe of like mind.
Moreover, the whole process has been unsettled by the European Court of Justice ruling that the UK can unilaterally halt the Article 50 process and preserve its EU membership on the same terms as those that had been negotiated and refined over more than 40 years.
Theresa May cannot even bear to face the Commons on her own Withdrawal Agreement. We have a Government adrift. No-one is in control. No-one is home. Worse, no-one in the Tory Party would do any better. Right now, this country is utterly and totally screwed.
Something has got to give. And it looks like the Tories. Full stop, end of story.
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