The sprint to the bottom is now parliament’s blue riband event. But in a highly competitive field, Theresa May is still streets ahead of the opposition. She is the Usain Bolt of failure, someone who in her prime not even MPs on stupidity steroids can hope to get near to. Even so, the Leader in Name Only’s descent into incoherence must surely now be reaching terminal velocity. Peak Lino.
We are well past the point where we can expect to be no better informed at the end of one of the prime minister’s speeches than we were when she started. We’re now actually going backwards. Every time Lino speaks, we actually know less than we did when we started. Time’s Arrow. Politics at faster than the speed of light, where the best chance of leaving the EU is to race back to the early 1970s when we were never in it.
In her latest sequence of zeros – binary is now a long forgotten Maybot language of unimaginable sophistication – to mark the latest national humiliation at the previous week’s European council in Brussels, Lino managed to confuse not just herself but the entire Commons. With her battery life on 1%, her current strategy appears to be to have no strategy whatsoever. Collective responsibility has been replaced by collective amnesia. Things are so bad that no one in cabinet even knows if there is a government plan it might be convenient to forget.
Lino began by effectively admitting that her government was now unable to govern. Which was why she had no immediate plans to bring “meaningful vote” 3 back to the Commons this week even though that had been one of the preconditions the EU had imposed if we wanted to leave on 22 May. But just because she couldn’t govern, she didn’t want anyone else to have a go. So, though she might be willing to entertain the idea of parliament wasting some of the few remaining days it had left on indicative votes, she had no intention of paying any attention to them. Taking back control had all along been an exercise in no one having any control at all.
It quickly got even more confusing. Having made it clear that one of the main reasons she had no chance of getting her deal passed was due to the opposition of the Democratic Unionist Party, she went out of her way to make sure they would never back down by blaming them for being so useless in Northern Ireland. Light the orange touch paper and stand well down. A peculiar time for Lino to indulge in kamikaze politics. For her final death spiral, she declared that she would be taking no deal off the table while still leaving it firmly on it. Or maybe just in suspended animation. Much like the current state of her psyche.
MPs are nothing if not thick-skinned, however. Despite having been told by Lino they were wasting their time voting to award themselves indicative votes, they began a five-hour debate on why they should be allowed the pleasure of being ignored by a government that cannot govern. It fell to David Lidington, the minister for the cabinet office and the closest thing to a prime minister the country now has, to make the government’s case that parliament should basically allow the government to make the wrong decision.
Normally MPs from both sides of the house are prepared to make an exception for Lidington, believing him to be at heart an honourable man, but even he no longer commands the trust of the house. No one thinks he is in a position to do the decent thing even if he wanted to. Not even Sir Oliver Letwin, a man who generally falls so far over himself to give people the benefit of the doubt that he frequently ends up arguing against himself, who could not be persuaded to drop his amendment.
Not so long ago, Letwin was the government’s very own Mr Calamity. Someone who could be relied on to attract any passing disaster. That title has long since been grabbed by Failing Grayling and we are now in such a state of clusterfuckery that Letwin has emerged as parliament’s reluctant hero.
This time, three ministers, including Alastair Burt who had clearly found being locked up at Chequers with the self-styled KKK Grand Wizards of Brexit an experience never to be repeated, chose to resign as MPs from all parties inflicted yet another humiliating defeat on the government.
Lino either did not appear to realise she had lost or else she is too punch drunk to care. As the result was announced, she giggled nervously and closed her eyes. She is now beyond reason. Almost beyond help. If anyone really cared for her wellbeing, they would stage an intervention. But no one does. No one wants her to stay as prime minister, but no one can agree on who should replace her. So she is condemned to her suffering. A victim of her own stubbornness and her party’s sadism.
There wasn’t much to say about this latest government reversal, so Jeremy Corbyn was in his element during his brief statement. The Labour leader is at his best when he says nothing at all. Something had happened, but no one could quite work out what. Parliament would get to hold indicative votes on Wednesday which the government would probably ignore. Still, at least we’re giving the rest of the world a laugh. Schadenfreude is an underrated pleasure.