Parliament is in recess at the moment, though the difference between a House of Commons Chamber that is sitting and one that isn’t is scarcely noticeable at present, given how few votes MPs are being required to attend. There is a similarly thin distinction between a government led by Theresa May as she insists she’s not going anywhere, and one led by the Theresa May who, last week, finally conceded that she was going. Not much is happening, as per usual.
In fact, there will be even less happening as a result of May’s resignation announcement. Today at the Number 10 lobby briefing, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked whether the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was really going to return to the Commons next week as planned. He answered: ‘We have to reflect on the position we are in now.’
This doesn’t mean ministers are all happily unwinding or busy tending to their leadership bids. In fact, a number of them have privately told me that they see this period without any oversight as an opportunity to try to get a few things done that they felt Number 10 was blocking. May has been a notorious micromanager of ministers, asking for reams of detail on even the smallest policies. This initially struck those government colleagues as a welcome change from the rather chillaxed David Cameron, before they then realised that May’s demands for more detail were merely a way of resisting making a decision on anything. As I wrote last week, Brexit hasn’t been the only reason there has been so little domestic policymaking under May’s premiership.
There are a lot of things ministers can do which don’t require legislation to go before MPs, and a lot of them have a list of things they want to get on with. So it might be that the government actually ends up doing more in this limbo before a new leader than it has managed over the past three years.