Splat! Here we go, back to square one again, writes HENRY DEEDES

Splat! Here we go, back to square one all over again: HENRY DEEDES on why watching Mrs May is like seeing Tom Cruise fight off aliens

On TV the other day there was a showing of Tom Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow, a pacey sci-fi thriller in which our hero must save the world from aliens.

He is forced to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies.

Eventually, on his umpteen-millionth attempt, Cruise emerges victorious. He and Emily Blunt have a passionate clinch. Job done. Fade out. The end. Roll credits.

Over the past three months, a similar plotline has played out in the House of Commons on almost a weekly basis. Except, as yet, it’s not job done. No fade out. No end. No roll credits.

Prime Minister Theresa May poses with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a summit between Arab league and European Union member states (file photo)

What we have seen is Theresa May returning endlessly with minute changes to her Brexit plan, looking for just a hint of approval from MPs. Then splat! Back to square one we go again.

The trouble is, however many times she tries, she seems to get no closer to reaching her goal.


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Yesterday’s announcement of a Commons vote, which could lead to Brexit being delayed until June, undoubtedly buys her time. But time’s not what she needs. She needs a deal.

We could be in for another three months of this hoo-ha.

Sadly, the pattern of these PM statements is eerily predictable. She insists she remains committed to securing the best deal possible. She says she’s making progress with her EU counterparts. Everyone is ‘genuinely worried’ that time is running out to get a Brexit deal approved etc etc.

In Tom Cruise’s Edge Of Tomorrow Cruise emerges victorious. He and Emily Blunt have a passionate clinch. Job done. Fade out. The end. Roll credits. Over the past three months, a similar plotline has played out in the House of Commons on almost a weekly basis. Except, as yet, it’s not job done. No fade out. No end. No roll credits.

The Tories’ Peter Bone (Wellingborough) captured the mood perfectly when he sarcastically pointed out that the PM ‘has said 108 times we will leave the EU on March 29’.

And there was a vaudevillian moment when Mrs May was mocked for uttering the ‘Simples’ meerkat catchphrase from the TV comparison site advert after she called on the SNP’s Westminster leader to vote for her deal.

Jeremy Corbyn, fresh from thrashing out his own awkward deal with his party by opening the door for a second referendum, was a gale of overblown jibes. ‘Incompetent’, ‘shambolic’ and ‘grotesquely reckless’ were among those he lobbed in for good measure.

Then he sat down and fiddled with his mobile phone for the rest of the session. At one point, his redoubtable education spokesman Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) perched next to him, making an urgent lunge for a piece of Parliamentary writing paper from the table in front.

Did she need to scribble a billet-doux to her Dear Leader? Alas, no. She was (ugh!) looking for somewhere to put her chewed bubblegum.

Elsewhere, all was tediously predictable. Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley) hissing and barracking the PM with shrieks of ‘Spineless!’ Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) twisting and contorting like a constipated dowager.

Out front, 87-year-old Dennis Skinner (Lab, Bolsover) dozing, a model of detachment and disinterest.

The only novelty was a surprisingly short new mop for Boris Johnson (Con, Uxbridge and South Ruislip). At the other end of the Tories’ EU spectrum, Ken Clarke (Rushcliffe) made the reasonable point that by delaying matters for three months, Parliament would continue in the ‘present pantomime’.

Oh yes, and there was another group who will be desperate for a mention. The newbies from The Independent Group were out in force.

Salty Anna Soubry (Ind, Broxtowe) enjoyed the new geography of the Commons seating plan and noted: ‘Some of us who were sitting over there are now sitting over here.’

‘Do you want her back?’ roared a mischievous Labour heckler. Response: ‘Noooo!’

La Soubry’s turncoat colleague Heidi Allen (Ind, South Cambridgeshire), an excitable tomcat last week, now sat glum and cross-armed throughout. Having second thoughts, perhaps? 

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