Theresa May has never been a scintillating parliamentary performer. She has never been particularly comfortable with that very House of Commons brand of humour that marks occasions such as today. So, in her first major appearance at the despatch box since the election, May played to her strengths. She largely eschewed humour and was instead earnest and serious. She apologised as Prime Minister for the failings of government, both local and national, in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire and spoke at length about the various terrorist incidents of recent months.
Overall, this approach worked for May. Her workmanlike performance steadied things. It didn’t have Tory MPs hoping she’d lead them into the next election, but it did show that she can hold the fort for a while longer. Crucially, she showed that she is prepared to face down the slings and arrows she’ll face following her election failure; she didn’t buckle when Labour MPs took a pop at her.
The next parliamentary test for May will be PMQs next Wednesday. While the Labour benches aren’t quite ready to rally behind Jeremy Corby, they are prepared to give her a hard time. She will have to get through that to reassure Tory MPs that her staying on in sustainable. Then, the next day there is the vote on the Queen’s Speech, which May must get a majority on.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.