Sketch: UK politics is stuck in an endless loop
So, that’ll be Groundhog May again.
Another Downing Street press conference, another total lack of any real progress. Theresa May announcing something, without announcing anything at all. Maybe she’s only doing it out of habit now. Maybe she doesn’t know she’s doing it. She doesn’t even have enough support to resign successfully.
As the Prime Minister put it in her latest statement: “Today, I’m taking action to break the log jam. I’m offering to sit down with the Leader of the Opposition to try to agree a plan that we would both stick to, to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal. Any plan would have to agree the current withdrawal agreement.
“It has already been negotiated with the 27 other members and the EU has repeatedly said that it cannot and will not be reopened.”
So, basically, Theresa May is now willing to compromise on her plan, so long as that plan ends up being based on the withdrawal agreement she’s already negotiated unilaterally. And there does seem to be something of a contradiction in saying you want cross-party talks to thrash out a deal, before qualifying that any agreement has to be based on the one you already came up with.
But then Theresa May doesn’t have it easy. She promised to quit if they backed her deal, and that still didn’t work. She even tried to warn them: If you don’t support me, I will never leave. It’s some threat, to be honest.
And imagine needing the support of the DUP to quit your job. I mean, honestly. Imagine it. You’re desperately unhappy, and your employer and all your colleagues want you to leave too, but Arlene Foster just won’t budge. You call her up and she says no. You email your notice and she just deletes it. Arlene Foster has torn up your letter. Eventually you force a meeting with your boss, but when you get there, Nigel Dodds is waiting outside the door, arms folded, shaking his head.
“This is a difficult time for everyone,” she said, though it was hard to escape the feeling it was harder for some people in that room than others. A difficult time for prime ministers. A difficult time for the EU. A difficult time for anyone relying on vital medicines. Unless it was a generous nod to satirists everywhere, who have found themselves unable to come up with any more ludicrous situations than the ones the UK Government regularly devises for itself.
And it’s a particularly difficult time for the concept of compromise. In fact, watching the statement, you do have to wonder if Theresa May truly understands what ‘holding talks’ really means. She never seems to actually do it, after all.
Whenever something good happens – which is rare – her mouth seems to try and sneak off the side of her face, which would get anyone down. Most of the time she just looks like some haunted painting. There’s probably an old oil canvas of Theresa May in an attic somewhere, covered in dust, becoming increasingly competent over time. You stumble into the wrong room at a Downing Street function and find ‘NOTHING HAS CHANGED’ written backwards in blood on the mirror. Nick Boles escaping down the corridor on a tricycle. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Francois holding hands and calling out, ‘Play with us’ – though in that circumstance, it would probably be better to go with The Whining as a working title.
To be honest – and obviously this isn’t really the point of the whole thing – one of the most upsetting things about Brexit is that anyone outside his constituency is forced to know who Mark Francois is in the first place. It’s sort of like how an injury crisis can hand a young football star an opportunity, except no one could possibly have predicted the Tories had this much strength in depth when it comes to sheer pig-headed weirdness.
So how would these talks work? And will Corbyn be willing to keep attending? He won’t share a room with Chuka Umunna, so unless Theresa May is willing to dress up as Hassan Nasrallah, it was doubtful whether he would even show up.
Well, if she’s uncomfortable talking to Corbyn – and it certainly looked like it, given her insistence on referring to him as ‘the Leader of the Opposition’ throughout the statement, like someone attempting to maintain civility during divorce proceedings for the sake of the kids – wait till she finds out the EU have a say in the extension. And also, that they can access UK media so they were probably watching.
So what’s up for discussion, given we can’t revisit the withdrawal agreement? The font? And what good will the meetings do? Well, whatever happens, we are going to find out one way or another soon, potentially from another Theresa May statement. Another Downing Street press conference, another total lack of any real progress. Theresa May announcing something, without announcing anything at all.
So, that’ll be Groundhog May again.