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Why did Theresa May bother giving a statement in Downing Street tonight?

16 January 2019

10:51 PM

16 January 2019

10:51 PM

Theresa May has just given a statement in Downing Street in which she apparently said absolutely nothing. The Prime Minister walked out to the lectern outside No.10 and offered the sort of update on her diary that is normally sent out by email from the Downing Street press office. She said that she had held talks this evening ‘with the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the Westminster leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru’, adding that ‘I am disappointed that the leader of the Labour Party has not so far chosen to take part’.

After a day of complaining that the Prime Minister hadn’t yet picked up the phone to him, Jeremy Corbyn has refused to meet May until she rules out a no-deal Brexit. The first complaint, made while holding the no confidence vote in the government, was a bit like complaining that your neighbour hasn’t invited you in for tea because they’re too busy trying to put out the fire that you set in their letterbox. The second doesn’t seem to have bothered the other parties enough to stop them from walking into Downing Street – though the absence of the Labour Party will have been an even greater motivation for those smaller parties to attend, as they can claim that they are the real opposition parties.

May clearly wanted to highlight that Labour aren’t being constructive in trying to come up with an alternative Brexit that will pass through the Commons. She did, though, strike a rather odd note by saying ‘our door remains open’, while standing in front of the closed door to No.10. But after much uncertainty about whether the government is still showing any vital signs, it makes sense for the Prime Minister to appear in Downing Street to show, if nothing else, that someone is still in charge. The problem is that May has rarely managed to match up to her own words even when times have been relatively rosy. Chances are that the next few weeks will provide a far more potent picture of her premiership than any Downing Street statement could manage.


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