Theresa’s hard-fought win earned her a bigger cheer than for many a month: QUENTIN LETTS sees a confident May return to the battlefield
Back to the battlefield we tiptoed yesterday after Tuesday night’s affray. Mornings after big votes, the Commons is seldom as lively. A low mist hung over the scene, the odd smouldering cannonball in ditches amid severed limbs of once knightly Normans.
Oh look, wasn’t that Yvette Cooper’s lance, with her petite gauntlet still pitifully attached? Was that Dominic Grieve’s suit of armour, minus its helmet? Pauvre Dominique. With his amendment disaster, le Duc d’Autosatisfaction certainly had his head blown off on Tuesday. It may be time for a commemorative statue on Boulevard Haussmann.
As for once nightly Norman, I don’t know how he crept into this sketch. A stage-hand at the Oxford Playhouse in olden days. Forget I even mentioned him.
Theresa May, mostly victorious on Tuesday, received, on her arrival in the Chamber at 11.58am, a bigger cheer from Tory troops than she has had for some months. She was stooped and thin but Tuesday’s hard-clawed wins had done her confidence good.
Theresa May arrived to cheers from the Conservative benches on Tuesday before winning victories in the Commons
Clad in purple, she was unusually brisk with Jeremy Corbyn. She also dealt firmly with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry after Lady Wobbles honked up some of her habitual heckles. Were Ms Thornberry a terrier she would chase post vans.
Mr Corbyn needed to retrieve some dignity after his Tuesday pratfall and he did so to a small extent by pressing Mrs May to accept that the Commons had indicated its distaste for a No Deal Brexit. So it has, but in a way that means nothing in legislation. No Deal is still the legal reality if the Commons does not ratify a deal by March 29.
For all Mr Corbyn’s efforts, the Labour benches were glum. Cheers for his questions rose from only a handful of ululating Corbynite beauties.
Nicky Morgan (Con, Loughborough) was not among a quartet of Tory Remainers who came blowing in together as one after six minutes. Mrs Morgan, whose career antennae are not yet completely kaput, has peeled herself away from the most zealous Remainers and is working with Brexiteer Steve Baker to look for a route to Brexit. This has, one hears, earned her the spluttering wrath of Soubry.
Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday after a tough night on Tuesday
Theresa May had added confidence during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons
Mrs Morgan’s shimmy away from Europhile extremism shows that the next phase of the game is upon us: MPs are thinking of their prospects once Brexit has been achieved. Both she and Mr Baker, a trenchant Leaver, may have calculated that a return to ministerial office will be assisted by being constructive.
Kit Malthouse, the Housing Minister who is trying to broker a Brexit compromise, will be a dead cert for Cabinet if his gambit succeeds.
Some MPs (quite apart from carpet-chewers such as Soubry) have damaged their prospects by their Brexit foot-stamping. It is hard to see much of a future for the Remainer likes of Greg Clark, P. Hammond, strange Sandbach, dotty Letwin and, I fear, the engaging Greening. On the Brexiteer side, shoutier figures such as Mark Francois have probably put themselves beyond the pale. Purple-faced Francois is still good value, though. Yesterday he sparked a lashing bate from Speaker Bercow, another figure who has been undone by Brexit.
A closing note: as PMQs ended, Tory Chief Whip Julian Smith was heading for the door when he was patted on the back, in a congratulatory way, by Ronnie Campbell. Mr Campbell is an old-school Labour man and Eurosceptic. There, perhaps, was a sign of what Corbynites really think about Tuesday’s Blairite efforts to neuter Brexit.