Politicians in meltdown as Brexit breaks the mother of parliaments
Prime minister pulls out of Wednesday's debate after painful hours at the despatch box
Struggling through successive defeats, Theresa May has not been helped by the loss of her voice.
Her rasping delivery is symbolic of the loss of authority under her leadership as contradictions of Brexit have mounted. It is not the only toll that the process is taking. Many members of parliament, who are cultured in rules and manners of the institution, have thrown off all pretence of camaraderie to openly attack their own party colleagues. This is unfolding on social media and face-to-face.
The view of Theresa May from the press gallery as she made pleas with her party is of a leader standing with divisions both behind her as well as in front where the Labour Party and other opposition sat.
During the crunch debate, it was clear that the prime minister had lost even as she first stood up to speak. Around the prime minister sat the cabinet - not all are fully behind her Brexit vision. Immediately around her was clustered the so-called payroll vote of junior ministers and other loyalists.
At the same level as the press but in another gallery, Philip May, the prime minister’s husband, sat watching with obvious concern as his wife tried to sustain her arguments.
Even those who supported the deal Mrs May presented appeared to accept it was doomed. Nicky Morgan, a former Conservative cabinet minister, said the dispute was over a provision that everybody hoped was never needed for a problem that everybody hoped they would never see.
Meanwhile in the corridors, lobbies and cyberspace, members were engaged in a free-for-fall of attacks on each other.
Alistair Burt, the middle east minister, used his Twitter feed to point out that he, a Remainer, had voted for Brexit yet Jacob Rees Mogg, the leader of the Leave rebels had not. Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, observed that 15 different MPs would be perfectly capable of coming up with as many Brexit solutions. With just 15 days to go before the Brexit date, none were capable to reaching consensus.
Johnny Mercer, an ambitious backbencher, called for leadership where there was none. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, described Wednesday’s vote as a meaningless exercise by a “looking glass” parliament, an allusion to the Alice in Wonderland fables.
With logic seemingly beyond the grasp of the frazzled parliamentarians, it was appropriate that Lenny Henry, who made his name as one of Britain’s great funny men, had been in the building during the debates.
Unfortunately, Mr Henry was focused on his charitable works and provided nothing in the way of light relief.
Updated: March 13, 2019 07:36 PM