EVEN though Theresa May put up one of her better performances at Prime Minister’s Questions when she debated income inequality with Jeremy Corbyn, it spoke volumes that the loudest cheers in a sparsely-attended chamber came from Brexit-backing Tory MPs whenever mention was made of Margaret Thatcher who was first elected 40 years ago.
It was also indicative of Britain’s current political malaise that Mrs May faced more challenging questions from her own backbenchers rather than the Leader of the Opposition who, once again, ignored Brexit to mask his party’s divisions. What the exchanges did reveal, however, is the extent to which Parliament – and Britain – is in limbo.
When Mrs May lost her majority in 2017, she struck a costly deal with Northern Ireland’s DUP to pass a Queen’s Speech which would span two years so the Government could agree, and implement, Brexit. The consequence now is a legislative programme which has run its full course – Commons business only lasted three and a half hours on Monday – and Mrs May is unable to put forward a new policy prospectus because it will, in all likelihood, be voted down and hasten an early election that the Tories now want to avoid as their poll ratings plummet.
Yet, while Mrs May is due to meet Tory backbenchers today to discuss her future, no definitive clarity is expected. Next Thursday’s European elections will be followed by the Whitsun recess before the PM’s Brexit deal – already heavily defeated on three previous occasions – is put to a fourth vote in the first week of June, assuming the Government survives until then and goes through with this promise. And, irrespective of the outcome, there’s little indication over when a new premier will be in post or if the Tories can pass a new Queen’s Speech which addresses neglected issues like social care. Whatever happens, Britain cannot afford to be run like this for much longer.