Tuesday 11 December 2018

Carry on regardless: History will look kindly on May amid wreckage of a preposterous week

  

Good humour: Prime Minister Theresa May reacts during a press conference at 10 Downing Street, London, to discuss her Brexit plans. Picture: PA
Good humour: Prime Minister Theresa May reacts during a press conference at 10 Downing Street, London, to discuss her Brexit plans. Picture: PA

Tom Peck

To the best of my understanding, Theresa May remains prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but nobody can be quite sure.

At time of writing, party officials are still going through the list of every government minister who is understood to have resigned thus far, in a frantic attempt to work out whether the country still has a government.

A man called Shailesh Vara, claiming to be a Northern Ireland minister, got the resignation ball rolling at 7.32am on Thursday. That one's been confirmed real, after the picture in his Twitter profile was successfully cross-referenced with historic CCTV footage from the House of Commons canteen.

Then came 'Dominic Raab', but that was definitely a false alarm because he was claiming to be the actual Brexit secretary, and that would mean he was resigning over a deal he himself had negotiated, so it was instantly ruled out.

Not long later, a resignation letter from the former kids TV presenter Esther McVey was circulating online, but that included claims that she was "immensely proud" of her work as work and pensions secretary, so that too was dismissed as a hoax. Wrongly, as it turned out.

By the time the prime minister rose to address the House of Commons, her aides were frantically seeking replacements for Ben Dover, who had, "with a heavy heart", announced he could no longer carry on in good conscience as the junior minister for under carriages in the Department for Transport. Further letters were thought to have been received from Rehman Chishti, Isabelle Ringing and Phil McCracken.

Arguably the lowest point was when Downing Street called a woman named Suella Braverman, offering her a junior role in the Department for Exiting the European Union as a replacement for the departing Hugh Janus, only to be told she already worked there and was, as it happened, resigning herself, and no, she didn't have Mr Janus's number.

As the chimpanzees' tea party crashed on around her, Theresa May did her utmost to impress upon the occasion some of the gravitas stripped of it by her own excuse of a party. She is already history, that much is beyond doubt, but as she stood at the despatch box, at the start of the longest day of her political life, there emerged the first faint glimmer of a chance that history might, in fact, look kindly upon her.

If Stan Lee had lived just a short while longer, he might have seen a superhero: Behold The Unstoppable Mediocrity. She will go on to the end, whatever the cost may be. She will not be stopped. Not by her party. Not by her government. Not by Brexit. Not even, one suspects, by no Brexit. Not by anyone. If a nuclear bomb had landed eight inches to her left, it would have been a maximum of a quarter of an hour before she was straightening her hair and telling the emerging cockroaches that she was "getting on with the job".

One shouldn't forget that she chose this life for herself. But she didn't choose to be the High Priestess of this infantilised age. She didn't choose Brexit. She didn't choose Trump.

When a Brexit secretary resigns over a deal he himself has negotiated, it is so preposterous as to make her stronger, not weaker.

She has piloted a jet with a blown-up engine and a cabin full of terrorists. Theresa May is scarcely facing an opposition. The beamers are all coming in from her own side. Her wicket is coming, and after that will come defeat for the whole side.

But never has it seemed less likely that, ultimately the blame for that defeat will be placed on her.

Irish Independent

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