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Lindy McDowell: With the PM looking thinner and more strained than ever, are we asking too much of one woman?

Lone ranger: Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels
Lone ranger: Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels
Ian Paisley
Stand-off: Meghan Markle

By Lindy McDowell

This week was one of those weeks shaping up to be that classic "long time in politics". One of those weeks where the status quo was set to be upended. And all changed, changed utterly.

There was to have been a Meaningful Vote. There wasn't.

Then, next up, a vote on confidence or otherwise in Mrs May. A gunfight at the Tory OK Corral which, when the smoke cleared, promised to reveal a whole new team in town. But it didn't.

Instead we are where we were.

Theresa still clinging on by her fingernails to the Sheriff's badge as Boris and his band of renegades holster their six-shooters and mosey on back to the political prairie.

I've mentioned before how, while I'm not a fan of Mrs May's politics, I do admire her tenacity.

But after another week when she's again been putting in the hours flitting from marathon question time in the House to that no-confidence vote showdown and then on to the EU for further barneys with Barnier, she now looks thinner, more strained than ever.

The thought does occur that if you and I were this woman's employers we could be had up under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations for neglecting our duty of care to an employee visibly working herself into the ground. The thing is that, in a way, we are her employers. And I'm starting to think we are all asking way too much of one person here.

There doesn't seem to be anybody close to Mrs May (including her 'rock' of a husband Philip) currently telling her she might need to take it a bit easier.

And certainly she's not surrounded in the Westminster sense by volunteers offering to take up a bit of the slack.

She's like one of those road workmen you occasionally see digging a hole surrounded by onlookers all going: "Hmmm. Wouldn't dig there if I was you."

"That's a bit deep."

"It's not deep enough."

Lots of advice. Nobody actually keen to wield the shovel themselves.

This week (this year) at Westminster has certainly been a revelation not just in terms of Theresa's Duracell tenacity but, equally tellingly, re the failings of an opposition that has permitted, indeed propelled, her to stagger ever onwards.

First, there's been the very obvious opposition within her own party, with Boris Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg to the fore. Both men have worked hard, although primarily at cultivating their distinctive media images. Boris the dishevelled eccentric, Jacob, the fogeyish throw-back. Ironically they've both worked so hard at that, it's now difficult to take either man all that seriously.

They come across as cartoon characters - not serious players. Wannabe Winstons neither of whom could lace the great man's shoes.

And they aren't making inroads into public affection because, like a few others in the party, they give the distinct impression that all they really care about is their own career advancement - that all they're really after are the keys of Number 10.

As for the official Opposition...

This crisis should have been a godsend to Labour - an opportunity to offer a credible alternative in terms of both Brexit and government.

Instead the party under Corbyn's leadership has come across as dithering and whinging. Quick to deride Mrs May's efforts but offering no replacement strategy.

It's noticeable that Jeremy hasn't exactly been putting himself around the media to capitalise politically on events.

Theresa May has been fortunate in her opponents. So no mystery why they haven't been able to derail her.

We're all in this together, David Cameron used to say. Where Brexit bargaining is concerned though, it's now solely a one-woman production.

I don't think this is good for the country. And it's certainly not good for her.

Foreign pastures not always greener

Ian Paisley, the DUP's minister for foreign travel, is rarely out of the headlines these days. This week it's been revelations about his holiday in the Maldives. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this, and who paid for what, one thing is clear. He certainly does get around, doesn't he, the sitting (on a sun lounger) member for Antrim North? Bearing in mind that he represents one of the most scenic constituencies you would think he'd be spoilt for choice when it comes to holidays closer to home. What's South Asia got that Portrush hasn't, Ian?

No contest with AI versus mankind

Exciting tech news from Russia where a robot has appeared on television, talking, walking, dancing around and generally enthralling an audience who agreed: "Wow, this thing is almost human." There was a good reason for that. He was human. Eagle-eyed viewers spotted that the robot had a bit of a neck on him. The neck of the man who was inside the robot costume acting the automaton. People ask could robots one day take over the world? Answer, yes. Not just on account of their increasing sophistication. But our enduring gullibility.

How can Meghan the humanitarian cold shoulder her old dad?

Meghan Markle has had a bit of a trying week.

It began with yet another newspaper interview where her dear old dad was once again bemoaning how his now Duchess daughter has cut him out her life entirely.

Then, after Meghan had appeared at a fashion awards ‘do’ mid-week, she was mocked for posing on stage clasping her burgeoning baby bump like it was a bowling ball.

True, the pics were a bit daft looking. But Meghan isn’t the first pregnant woman so thrilled with her condition that she feels it necessary to highlight that to all and sundry.

The Earth Mother posturing is a bit at odds right now though with her Ice Maiden alter ego — the unforgiving daughter determined to so comprehensively cold-shoulder her da. There’s a bit of a mixed message there.

So given that this is the season of goodwill it might be a timely and kindly gesture for Meghan to get in touch with her father again.

A smarter one too than maintaining the current stand-off. Not just because that ongoing stand-off encourages Thomas Markle to give even more interviews.

But because it makes Meghan herself look bad.

It’s not those odd baby bump pictures that people see as most strange. It’s how this supposed humanitarian who hugs all round her continues to turn her back so determinedly on her own old da.

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