Whilst Theresa May was off adding colour to her soggy Brexit, Leader of the House, MP David Lidington, took to defending her ambiguity in the day’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
The elephant in the room was not addressed until Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry took to the stand. May had successfully bought herself some time away from Brexit and the scrutinous Labour party leaving Lidington to deal with Corbyn’s henchmen, whose current crusade is attempting to prize open the Conservative Brexit programme.
As Thornberry began to lay out her question, it became apparent to Lidington what sort of spectacle he would face in the next segment. He sighed and looked over to Boris Johnson who pulled a pitiful half-smile back. “Good luck” he mouthed.
“So you said you’d release the plans for Brexit before Article 50 is triggered, but we want to know them now” said Thornberry. Lidington slowly groaned as he rose to the bench, unfolded a tattered piece of lined A4 paper, and read the script that May had left him before she set off.
That wasn’t enough for Thornberry, who then took to quoting back what he, personally, had to say on the customs union in February. However, Lidington had anticipated this. His time in the classroom with May had paid off, as he took his bag and pulled out his homework. “Didn’t you want to ‘go back to the British people in some way’?” He snidely remarked, looking over to the Speaker: “She needs to decide whether she accepts the democratic verdict or not”.
Thornberry wavered. For a moment, she was a parent who’s child had just spoken-back, “Of course we respect the decision, Davey”, she began, “but let me break it down for you. Leaving the customs union is bad – and this is why…”. She listed off a well rehearsed analogy, drawn from the crumbling pro-EU fear bank that Corbyn had entrusted her keys to.
“Again, Labour Members agree with what he said six months ago. The question is, does he still agree with himself?”
Obviously, Lidington did. He had spent six years as the Minister of State for Europe under David Cameron and fought for the remain side during the referendum campaign. May had trusted him to represent herself in the House that day, and he remembered her last words before getting on the plane like it was the final scene from Casablanca. She trusted him to keep up her vague charade, and that’s what he did. But he also knew that in being nebulous, he was bound to wind his opponent up.
She wasn’t happy. As she took to the stand, and began to look down her nose at the giggling Lidington, she was interrupted: “If the juvenile behaviour could stop, that would be really helpful to the scrutiny process”.
Both parties took back to their bench to gather themselves and readjust their positions. Thornberry then returned once again to, this time respectfully, address the issue of the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland trade border, and the complications that would arise if the UK left the customs union.
Lidington answered, undeviatingly, that the issue is being intently looked at by the Government, and respective representatives from both sides of the border. But this again was not enough – another Thornberry tantrum ensued with: “He can’t give answers, it’s all to be resolved in negotiations!”.
At this point, she must have realised that she was getting nowhere. She decided to drop her Paxman-esk style of questioning, took a deep breath at the bench and began to compromise.
“If the Government are going to decide their position on this issue before the 31st of March, will the Leader of the House confirm that the British people and the British Parliament will be told some answers to my questions before the Government tell the rest of Europe?”.
However, the answer had already been extensively used as a filibustering technique by May since her succession into Number 10. He stood up, this time much taller than before, and faced the Speaker of the House. “If the answers sound familiar, it might be because we need constant repetition before the hon”.
He echoed his initial message, but elaborated further to reveal the current actions of the Government; the steps they are taking to figure out which position they should assume before approaching negotiations. Thornberry suddenly snapped back into reality, then took to voice her impatience and dismay for the whole process.
She sounded unhappy that Labour are not being included in the creation of a Brexit plan, and attempted to gather support from behind her. However, many of her backbenchers had dozed off; too bored to endure any more of the same argument, so therefore her chorus was meak. For that brief moment, she resembled Ed Miliband, with a loud but quivering voice, and the sort of frustrated expression which can only be described as a ‘face like thunder’.
Lidington took this opportunity to get his penny in, and began with a scathing attack on the Labour party. As he larked on, and support from his peers grew, Emily Thornberry sat on the front bench twiddling her thumbs. All she was able to do was huff and puff whilst Lidington ripped apart Labour; their inconsistency, quarrelling and generally estranged behaviour. There was nothing that she could do as she debated over and over again whether it would be acceptable to write a tweet about the debacle.
He returned to his seat amongst a crowd of cheering Tories, however had little rest before Bob Blackman brought up the fact that they were joined in the House today by Holocaust-survivor, Kitty Hart-Moxon. Immediately Speaker Bercow searched the gallery for Mrs Hart-Moxon to mouth an apology for the unproductive display she had just witnessed.