A Brexmas Miracle, but May’s on Thin Ice
We begin this week’s Christmassy edition with an extract of the Gospel according to Morgan:
“And lo, Theresa went unto Brussels, and there was given unto her a deal. But returning to Westminster she found that there was no room for her deal in Parliament. Indeed, there could be found no one willing to take her and her deal in, such that even a (strong and stable) stable would suffice. Then, in the bleak mid-winter, many not-so-wise men saw that Theresa was making the Party look a little donkey and plotted to slay her leadership. But by the grace of 200 votes she was redeemed. Verily a miracle!”
Yes, that’s right, everyone’s favourite pantomime returned with vengeance this week as we nearly saw the PM ousted over her handling of Brexit. As mentioned last week, Mrs May looked set to lose the vote on her Brexit deal scheduled for Tuesday by quite a hefty margin. After a weekend of everybody telling her this, on Monday she cancelled the vote, promising to reschedule it in the new year. The PM was now on very thin ice indeed, with Parliament breathing heavily down her neck either to let them vote (as parliaments do) or to renegotiate with the EU. By Tuesday evening it was becoming clear that some of the angriest were many of her own MPs, with many claiming to have submitted letters of no confidence in her leadership.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
You may remember a few weeks ago when P.G. Wodehouse villain, Jacob Rees-Mogg, tried to rally enough dissent to reach the 48 no-confidence letters required to trigger a vote on Mrs May’s party leadership. Back then he failed miserably, this week it was a different story. Early on Wednesday morning Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, informed the PM that 48 letters had been received and that there would be a vote for all Conservative MPs that evening to decide whether she would be allowed to continue as leader of the party and, by extension, as Prime Minister.
Thus, for the duration of Wednesday, Westminster went mental. But fear not – I despairingly watched hours of footage of MPs trying to gather support for either side, ministers rushing to the media village on College Green to wax lyrical about how great the PM is and how terrible too, so you wouldn’t have to. The reason for this madness is that there was more at stake than the career of one Prime Minister. If she won, there would still be deadlock in Parliament over her deal and no guarantee that the EU would be open to alterations on the existing Brexit agreement. If she lost, the Conservatives would have to spend weeks conducting a leadership contest while the countdown to Brexit continued, leading many to believe that a loss for the PM would mean Brexit was either temporarily paused or put on more long-term stasis – possibly resulting in no Brexit at all. Ah now there’s a thought! The BBC even squeezed a special news program into their schedule to bring us the result of the vote – delaying this week’s Apprentice semi-final by a full five minutes! Oh, the horror!
At 9 pm Graham Brady accounted to the nation that we were still suck with the same Prime Minister. She needed the support of just 153 Conservative MPs to stay in power and, in the end, she managed 200 – quite a comfortable victory, but that still leaves 117 of her own MPs who voted to oust her. What swayed it? Possibly her promise that she would not lead the party into the next General Election, meaning that she will stand down at some time before then. She was likely to have scraped a win without making this declaration, but now she has she effectively becomes a lame-duck PM – there’s a sell-by date on her leadership, so to speak.
So, after all this fuss we’re back where we were at the start of the week: May has a deal that Parliament won’t accept, many in her own party despise her, and the EU is repeatedly telling her that they are not open to renegotiating the deal on offer – not many tidings of comfort and joy coming her way this Christmas.
After all that I think I need a mince pie and a large scotch… and I recommend you do the same.