Theresa May’s final Prime Minister’s Questions had all the tributes you’d expect for an outgoing leader. Members from across the House praised her commitment to public service and the way in which she has made tackling mental illness, modern slavery and domestic abuse her priority throughout her time in government. She received a standing ovation from her party at the end, with the Liberal Democrats and the DUP joining in from the opposition benches. A few female Labour MPs clapped too.
Her final remarks made a dignified end to a premiership beset by failure and procrastination. She told MPs that the Commons was ‘rightly at the centre’ of ‘extraordinary times’ and that her greatest motivation would always remain her constituents.
What was more striking than any of this was the way in which Theresa May is still clearly very personally angry about the way the Commons behaved over her Brexit deal. She mentioned its failure to back that deal several times, whether in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s questions, or comments from backbenchers such as Yvette Cooper. There was little love lost between her and the Labour leader, who she dispatched with the advice that given she had recognised when her time was up in politics, now might be the time for Corbyn to do the same.
May refrained from either praising or criticising Boris Johnson, even when pressed humorously by MPs such as Jo Swinson, who asked about ‘those men who think they could do a better job but are not prepared to do the actual work’.
Her tactic was to fail to answer the question at all – something she has grown very good at over the past three years – by listing facts about how Boris Johnson was going to be prime minister. But while her backbench life looks to be characterised by the commitment to her constituency and those domestic causes mentioned above, she is still likely to spend quite some time pointing out that parliament could have got over the Brexit crisis by now, had it only voted for her deal.