How times change. Two months ago a statement by the prime minister on the latest EU council meeting would have been considered a significant occasion. One worthy of a full House of Commons. Now the government is so marginal – not just to the EU but to the country itself – that the chamber was barely a third full. And those who did bother to turn up were only there because it was a slow Monday afternoon, there was sod all on TV and they had nothing better to do with their lives.
Semi-retirement seems to suit Theresa May. When she first announced she had been forced out of No 10, her face and body appeared contorted with grief and anger. As if the loss was unbearable. Time is proving a quick healer. She is learning to cope with the indifference of her Tory MPs by being equally as indifferent to them. Where once their jibes and accusations might hurt, now they bounce off. She has a perspective on her life. She knows she is surrounded by shabby, untrustworthy careerists and she is going to enjoy every second of schadenfreude as her successors inevitably crash and burn.
Not that she’s going to let that stop her giving them a little nudge towards the edge of the abyss. Why deny herself such pleasures? May began by trying to rack her brains for anything that had happened in Brussels the previous week. To be honest, she’d been a bit demob happy, helping herself to several too many glasses of wine and hadn’t really paid attention to a word anyone had said. What was the point? It wasn’t as if either she or the UK were going to be involved for much longer.
“Er … ” she said. There had been some chat about the climate crisis and something about Turkey drilling in the eastern Mediterranean she hadn’t quite followed. Ah yes! There had also been something about disinformation and fake news and how it was generally a bad idea.
Why only that morning there had been a photograph of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds on the front page of the Evening Standard that had been photoshopped from the front cover of Nadine Dorries’ latest tear-jerking novel about a pair of star-crossed lovers who surmounted impossible odds to find true happiness in Downing Street. The prime minister was so outraged she was thinking of reporting Johnson to the Independent Press Standards Organisation for breaching his own privacy.
In reply, Jeremy Corbyn chose to focus on Brexit. Could May think of anything useful that had happened over the past three years? Did she regret legitimising a no deal for either of the two idiots in line to succeed her? Did she agree that Johnson clearly had no idea what he was talking about in regard to both tariffs and an implementation period in a no-deal Brexit? Philip Hammond, the only member of the cabinet who bothered to turn up – presumably he’s making the most of his time on the frontbench before he too is fired – nodded enthusiastically in response
Read my lips, May yawned. God this was dull. Why was she even here? There had been no discussion of Brexit because the EU was sick to death of the UK. They’d fallen over themselves to be accommodating but now just wanted us to piss off. The sooner the better. We were an embarrassment to them and to ourselves. So she really didn’t have anything to say about Brexit. But since she was here and only had a few more weeks of this shitshow to get through, she’d offer some thoughts. Of course Boris was an incompetent liar who didn’t have a clue what he was doing. That was the whole point of him. So good luck to the Tory party and the country.
Sensing there was going to be no pushback, the SNP’s Ian Blackford joined the pile-on with a dig about Johnson’s record as foreign secretary. May smirked. Yes, she admitted. It had been a terrible decision to appoint him to a job that required concentration and diplomacy. It had always been the government’s view that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been visiting Iran on holiday and she’d been horrified when Johnson had apparently tried to get her banged up in jail for longer. And don’t get her started on his trip to Myanmar.
The session ended with Chris Bryant and Sarah Wollaston asking if the new prime minister would address parliament before the recess. May shrugged. This was above her pay grade. It was down to whoever took over from her. But if, as looked likely, it turned out to be Johnson, then the answer was almost certainly no. He had a lot of holiday booked. Fences to mend. Children to count. Somewhere secluded and quiet. Somewhere no one could hear you screaming.