Belfast Telegraph

Mark Steel: Confidence in the PM? Any word picked at random would be a truer description of this Government

Political disaster: Theresa May’s attempt to get the House of Commons to accept her Brexit withdrawal agreement failed miserably
Political disaster: Theresa May’s attempt to get the House of Commons to accept her Brexit withdrawal agreement failed miserably

By Mark Steel

The Prime Minister's plan, it seems certain, is to try once more to get her deal through, this time proposing it in Welsh and, if that doesn't work, by dressing as an astronaut.

After that, she'll try reading out the 585-page document in a squeaky voice, like Joe Pasquale, and then she'll sing her agreement, with Michael Gove doing backing vocals.

There's a charming innocence about the way she responded to utter humiliation by saying that now, finally, "the Government will listen". Because to make such a promise is to admit that, up until now, she hadn't bothered to, which some people might assume is quite fundamental in a complicated negotiation.

She began her plan to listen by insisting she wouldn't talk to anyone unless they agree with her on all the main issues.

In retrospect, she might feel her speech to the nation should have been more truthful and said: "In order to resolve this crisis, I have agreed to listen. In particular, I shall listen to lots of my old speeches, because the time has come to reach out and put personal interests to one side."

With such powers of listening, she'd make an excellent therapist.

Her patient would arrive and say: "I feel deeply insecure because of abandonment issues."

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And then May would reply: "That is why I have negotiated an excellent deal with the EU that delivers security and a bright future for the British people."

Because her astounding quality is to have no idea that anything she's done has gone wrong.

Even Frank Spencer had some idea his plan wasn't working, but she breaks records for scales of disaster every day and grins as if everything's turned out fine.

Hers is the first government in modern history to be found guilty of contempt, to lose votes on its own Budget, to be defeated by over 200 votes on its own major policy, and to lose ministers every week.

Its entire project for two years is in tatters - and still she doesn't seem to notice.

When she's finally forced out, she should get a job as a football manager, so she can give interviews that go: "I picked the best team with the right tactics, so I'm not at all disappointed with losing 18-0 when the match was abandoned. I will listen to other suggestions but will continue to play a hippopotamus up front.

"I understand the concern that he had to be shot with tranquiliser darts after eating the referee, but he offers an excellent future for us all."

It's a gleeful sign of how eccentric the British can be, that a majority of our MPs declare they have confidence in her. Confidence? You could pick any word at random and it would be more accurate as a description of this Government.

Although, it is touching when people say they admire her resilience. This is sparkly British determination to see the good in someone, just as we might if we found ourselves trapped in a house on fire and told by someone that it wasn't in fact ablaze, leaving us gasping, "They stuck to their beliefs and that's the main thing", while suffocating.

And still, David Davis tells us the EU will back down soon because "they need us to buy their German cars". We'll all be wrestling each other to death for the right to eat the last of the bats from London Zoo, and Davis will repeat that belief, because the EU are nothing without us - nothing.

So, now, the most likely route out could be that we stay in the single market and customs union, but give up being in the actual EU - abiding by the rules, but with no say in how it works. This is the situation the fiercest critics of the EU said we were in, only then it wasn't true.

So, the end result of their 40-year campaign will be to actually leave us in the state they invented, so they could have something to go berserk about. This is why it could work.

Davis, Rees-Mogg and all the angry people on phone-ins and in the corners of pubs can carry on screaming "we've been betrayed" and go all red in the face and complain, which is what keeps them happy.

And then we'll all be back to normal.

Belfast Telegraph


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