A springlike sun is shining over this corner of west London as I write, but no one will be fooled by that. At Westminster, a few miles to the east, Groundhog May has popped her head out, seen a shadow, and declared that winter will continue – nominally for slightly less than the regulation six weeks, but perhaps indefinitely.
The PM, currently on a refreshing break irritating fellow EU leaders in Tony Blair’s beloved Egyptian retreat of Sharm el Sheik, has now pulled the vote scheduled for the coming days on her dodo Brexit deal. The news won’t cause a run on the defibrillator paddles being stockpiled, along with the tinned snook, powdered egg and choicest strychnine, for a no-deal exit.
Her intent has been transparent for a while. She means to keep pulling that vote, as she did just before and after Christmas, until 28 March. The only anticipated variant here concerns the scapegoat. Until now, under the curious misapprehension that he is the prime minister, she has blamed Jeremy Corbyn.
With that beginning to stale, potential rap-takers for the non-votes ahead are rumoured to include the late Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the later Clara Bow, Norse god of trickery Loki, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, Joan of Arc, Inspector Blake (“Blakey”) from On The Buses, and Taylor Swift. Finally on Brexit Day Eve, according to this devish scheme, she’ll put the deal to a House of Commons with no collective choice but to pass it to escape the yawning abyss.
The abyss is in excellent company. Who isn’t yawning as the immovable object of crushing tedium grapples the unstoppable force of abject terror?
Every so often, on this unending trek through the desert, a hope-inspiring novelty appears on the horizon. One of these days it might even be an oasis rather than a mirage. You couldn’t write off the Independent Group yet as the potential opener of floodgates. But as the electoral realities darken its dawn, the spotlight turns to malcontents who for now are staying put.
The cross party team of Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin is preparing another amendment to kill no deal, by dictating a delay to Brexit unless the Commons passes May’s deal by Wednesday (an unlikely outcome, according to procedural experts, if no vote is held).
Meanwhile, Amber Rudd emerges as leader of the cabinet’s guerilla wing, telling May she will resign to vote for the amendment unless the PM agrees to “pivot away from no deal”. For this, Rudd is accused by five anonymous cabinet colleagues of betrayal. Once again, the paddles probably won’t be required. In ERGland, where everyday is GroundMogg Day, barely an hour passes without someone being called a traitor.
How the hell would you force her out? If half the government resigned, she’d replace them with holograms and shop store dummies to stay in Downing Street
One minister describes her ultimatum as “astonishing disloyalty” to the PM who gave her a job. Whether this character accused Boris Johnson, David Davis and Dominic Raab of the same isn’t clear. Another insists that Rudd and the other cabinet refuseniks “must stop using their position to advance leadership bids”. It would be nice if that unnamed source was Sajid Javid, speaking off the record from the lower bowel of The Sun, where he inserted himself by marooning a 19-year-old and her newborn in a Syrian camp.
But if whoever said it seriously reckons Rudd has a prayer of becoming leader, someone needs to double check their degree. It’s odds-on the starred first in PPE was awarded by the famously rigorous examiners at Trump University.
Whoever succeeds May will not be a Remainer, or even a soft Brexiter. If there was any prospect of a flagrantly xenophobic Tory membership, bolstered by Ukip entryists, plumping for either, Jeremy Hunt wouldn’t have spent months posturing as an ultra. George Galloway, a genuine Leaver, has a far better chance than Rudd whenever May is put out of our misery. And that might happen, or so some of her colleagues suggest, sooner than expected. May has apparently been warned, by persons unknown, that she’ll be forced out “within weeks” of a deal being passed.
Anyone who believes that is confusing her with someone else. The respected porn star Teresa May, now she might graciously accept that, after relentlessly having done to her what her namesake is doing to the country, that it’s time time for someone else to lie back and think of England. And Wales. Not so much Scotland. And definitely not Northern Ireland.
But Theresa with an H? Safe from another confidence vote until December? How the hell would you force her out? If half the government resigned, she’d replace them with holograms and shop store dummies to stay in Downing Street. She’d even bring back Iain Duncan Smith to replace Rudd at work and pensions, and finish the universal credit job he started so splendidly.
But if May did take the ousting threat seriously, she’d have a stronger incentive to delay Article 50 than anything as mimsy as preventing social and economic catastrophe. A single-cell political organism, her only purpose is survival. If that means restarting the clock over and over again, but never letting it click to 6.01 am, she’ll do it.
So the very best of British to Rudd, Letwin, Cooper and the rest of the resistance. If they can’t stop her, May will merrily preside over eternal winter like a bargain bucket queen of Narnia.