Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May has to be asking herself: should I stay or should I go now?

 

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons yesterday
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons yesterday
John Bercow

By Chris Moncrieff

Whither Theresa May? At the time of writing, she is still Prime Minister, but her position seems to be highly precarious, with varying factions of Tories - including some ministers - fighting each other over her fate.

One group assures her that she will get her Withdrawal Agreement through parliament if she offers to resign. What kind of logic are these people employing? It sounds more like political blackmail to me.

Others, including senior Cabinet figures like Environment Secretary Michael Gove and David Lidington, her effective deputy, say it would be insane to oust her at this stage.

Even that old warhorse, Kenneth Clarke, who is no fan of Theresa May, said it would be regarded as madness to change the leadership now.

The fact remains that, although a Remainer by instinct, Theresa May has honourably stuck to the solemn undertaking parliament gave to carry out the wishes of the winners of the referendum, which is more than many of her colleagues have done.

No one should be surprised that these shameful tactics on the part of some MPs - to deny the referendum result - have reduced the reputation of parliament to a new low.

To her eternal credit, Theresa May has not flinched an inch in the face of some vicious Westminster hostility towards her.

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It will take a lot more than a box of plasters to repair the shattered Conservative Party once - if ever - the present crisis is over.

The present Tory party is now the absolute antithesis of its former self. It was once the bedrock of the British political landscape; now it is a crumbling derelict political wreck.

Loyalty and discretion were once its watchwords.

Now those epithets have been flung out of the window.

The party has broken up into feuding factions, the Cabinet is in tatters, with its members openly squabbling, while ministers at all levels have been resigning almost on an industrial scale.

Conservatives from the Macmillan and Thatcher years would not recognise the party as it is today. They would be in despair.

Nor is the media to blame for this new, ugly image. What is actually happening is that MPs are approaching reporters - not the other way around - with their gripes and moans.

Some even fear that the party is engaged in a brutal civil war to the death. That may sound like a shocking indictment - which it is - but it is certainly not fanciful.

Someone needs to come along pretty soon and knock a few heads together to bring people to their senses.

They probably don't appreciate the dire peril they are in.

The other day, I heard on the radio some Premiership footballer prima donnas being described as "preening popinjays".

And, a day or two later, by a strange coincidence, I heard the same epithet applied to John Bercow, who is rapidly developing into (or should I say "degenerating into"?) the most controversial Commons Speaker in living memory.

No Speaker, however much he may enjoy the notoriety, should be controversial.

Yet, this one, in the broadest possible terms, is loved by the Labour Party and detested by the Conservatives, his old party. No good Speaker should find himself in that position.

But Bercow has made some bad mistakes. He let it be known that he had voted Remain in the EU referendum, thus giving rise to suspicion, rightly or wrongly, about things he has said about Brexit.

He has also, occasionally, been gratuitously rude to some MPs, mostly Conservatives.

And he is still in post long after the time when he himself undertook to leave the chair.

It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that there is a desire to remove him.

But it is easier said than done.

However the Tories, untypically, seem ready to break the convention that the sitting Speaker is not opposed in his constituency at a general election.

They are considering putting up a candidate in Buckingham, Bercow's seat, at the next election.

That could bring about Bercow's ignominious downfall.

A major shift in British conversational habits has occurred.

No longer do we talk about the weather: it's Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, morning, noon and night.

I fear it could be years before we start noticing the sun and the rain again.

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