Another tumultuous week in Westminster is coming to a close, so here’s a reminder. No. 10 and ministers assure everyone over the weekend the meaningful vote will go ahead, Monday morning they’re still all over the media asserting same but later that day its announced the government have pulled it.
Tuesday the PM travels to European cities to get concessions only to be met with refusal, Tuesday evening Parliament is rife there’ll be a vote of confidence in Theresa May from her own Tory colleagues, which is confirmed Wednesday morning. The result is announced Wednesday night, she wins by 200 votes to 117, says she’s heard her party colleagues’ concerns and will now fly back to Brussels to renegotiate elements of the deal.
This despite being told 24 hours earlier the answer is no, and that she’s now carrying the scars of a Prime Minister who doesn’t have the confidence of almost 40 per cent of her own MPs. All in all it was another busy week in this non-governing Conservative Party free-for-all that you and I know, rather quaintly, as Her Majesty’s Government.
However, In the spirit of enlightenment I will try to unpick what really happened in Parliament over the last few days.
Firstly, despite voluble protestations to the contrary (shades of ‘there will be no snap election’) the government pulled the meaningful vote on Tuesday because they saw they would lose by over 100, which would have meant the PM was vulnerable to a leadership challenge.
This significantly weakened her authority, not helped by her very publicly flying off to a number of European capitals to ‘improve’ the deal only for various EU luminaries to inform her and the world’s media they’d change nothing. Coincidently, in Westminster on Tuesday night, I was talking to a normally loyal Tory backbencher and asked where she thought Theresa May was in being able to continue as PM. Her answer was brutal: “She’s finished.”
Now you might say that after having won the subsequent internal poll amongst her own MPs, she’s home and dry? She isn’t. Readers will no doubt remember Mrs Thatcher’s de-fenestration whilst she was at a European summit in Paris all those years ago, but you may not remember the exact number of Tory MPs who backed her? It was 204 and she resigned within a week.
Theresa May was backed by four fewer of her MPs and says she is determined to continue. To what end I am not sure because two pertinent questions remain; will she be able to carry on as if nothing has happened, and has her diminished authority made it more or less likely she’ll get those changes to the Brexit Treaty she needs to win a parliamentary vote?
I’ll answer that by relating another conversation I had with a different Conservative MP after the leadership vote was announced. His take was that she would continue as PM as she saw it as her duty “to carry Brexit like a delicate glass ornament carefully over the threshold.” I appreciated the elegance of his metaphor and it was certainly more charitable than his colleague the previous night, but I’m bound to conclude after such an incredibly topsy-turvy week for the government the question we, you, all of us, are now asking is:
Does Theresa May have the clout to deliver Brexit after we all saw (as will have the EU leaders) almost 40 per cent of her own backbench MPs tell her - you should go...
My Christmas Appeal: As you know, every year I do a local Christmas Appeal. Last year it was for Christmas presents for those elderly patients in the DGH on Christmas Day, and the previous year for youngsters who’d recently left being in care. On both occasions Eastbourne stepped up with great generosity for which I remain extremely grateful. This year another vulnerable group is in need. Only it’s an animal - our very own wild baby hedgehogs. A great local wildlife charity which many of you will know is called WRAS (their founder Trevor Weeks has an excellent column in the Herald).
They’ve been protecting wild animals for decades and told me recently that what they could really do with this year, are 20 new hedgehog houses. I was initially as surprised as you as didn’t know they lived in houses! Apparently though, the 100 or so baby hedgehogs WRAS rescue every year, after they’ve been weaned by the hedgehog volunteer team, need to spend a little time in a sort of halfway house before being released to an outside pen, and then back into the wild.
The target is £800 which is a lot of money but with each house costing £40 it will mean WRAS are totally in-stock for the rest of this winter.
Will you be able to support my appeal? If so and you’d like to donate on-line please see their Justgiving website at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/MPsChristmasAppeal18 Or if you’d prefer to write a cheque, make it out to WRAS and send to me at my office and I’ll pass it on. To Stephen Lloyd MP, 100 Seaside Road, Eastbourne BN21 1PF. Thank you.
That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.