Together at last. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are to meet, a deux, this afternoon to find a compromise on the withdrawal agreement. Hugely risky for both leaders. Last Wednesday, May called Corbyn ‘the biggest threat to our standing in the world.’ This week she wants him to help her write an international treaty. At PMQs, the Brexit lovebirds prepared for their tryst with a little ritualistic biting and pecking. The intention was to exhibit strength rather than to injure or kill.
Corbyn blamed the Tories for impoverishing millions of citizens, and he praised ‘the last Labour government’ for introducing SureStart and ‘halving child poverty’.
May shot back: ‘I didn’t know he was such a fan of the last Labour government.’
Both wanted their negotiating positions kept secret. But the House wouldn’t stand for it. Owen Smith itemised Labour’s demands: customs union, single market, people’s vote.
And if she signs up to all three, he said, she can toddle off into the sunset.
Stewart Hosie, of the SNP, exposed the murky core of the Lab-Con pact. He called it a booby-trap arranged by the PM to make Corbyn ‘co-owner of her Brexit failure.’
And he flipped the bargain on its head. ‘Had she been opposition leader, would she have been foolish enough to accept?’
‘Probably’, muttered many Tories.
Ian Blackford was furious that the summit will convene without him. The SNP has published ‘document after document’, he told us, on the subject of compromise. One of these exciting papers has even found its way to Brussels. ‘We know Michel Barnier has read it. He said it’s an interesting document.’ Everyone laughed, except Blackford, who resorted to his habitual illogicalities.
‘Scotland voted to Remain,’ he blustered, (inaccurately, since ‘Scotland’ didn’t appear on the ballot paper). ‘We will not simply be dragged out against our will.’ Luckily he wasn’t asked how that pledge might be enacted since it would involve overturning the Scottish referendum and the Brexit vote as well. Curious lot the SNP. They spurn the obligations of Westminster and long for the yoke of Brussels. They’re like a team of escapologists who tunnel out of an open prison and into a concentration camp.
Tory anger at the PM’s volte-face was expressed in curiously muted tones. Caroline Johnson noted in passing that she had supported May’s deal because it minimised the dangers to our economy. But she asked the PM to make the following risk-analysis:
‘No deal versus letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist anti-Semitic government’.
Julian Lewis, weary with incredulity, asked why no deal had been abandoned:
‘She is approaching Labour MPs to block a WTO Brexit when most Conservative MPs want us to leave the EU with a clean break in nine days time.’
The PM answered as if it were standard practice to nick opposition policies in a crisis. She admitted that the phrase ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ had fallen from her lips in the past, but:
‘This is a good deal,’ she trilled. She means ‘good’ as in ‘good thrashing’.
Students of political insanity are watching today’s developments with interest. The PM seems to expect Corbyn to emerge from their powwow with a historic statement in his hands:
‘I, Jeremy Corbyn, acting on behalf of the Labour movement, have betrayed every Leave voter in the country and saved the Tories from civil war.’