Unlike Jude, Theresa May takes a sad song and makes it worse

Just when you thought that Theresa May had fouled things up so much that she had reached rock bottom, she managed to sink even lower. Yesterday she gave a televised address to the nation where she said that she was not at fault for the current mess and put it all on the members of parliament. (You can see her four-minute speech here, though for some reason the video starts with 44 minutes of showing just the podium.) It is true that parliament has voted down her proposed deal twice but it was hardly a profile in courage to pass the buck like this. MPs were understandably furious, saying that they were already worried about their safety because of threats against them and for May to throw them under the bus was unconscionable.

Meanwhile her talks with European leaders are not going that well either, with them proposing that the extension she seeks to June 30 be shortened to May 22 or even May 7. According to one report:

She addressed her fellow leaders earlier, in a 90-minute question and answer session that by all accounts did not go well, as she flatly refused to say what she plans to do if her deal is rejected for a third time.

Another report said:

According to a source, the prime minister “dismally” failed to offer any answers as to what she would do if the deal was blocked by MPs again

One aide is quoted as saying:

“She didn’t even give clarity if she is organising a vote. Asked three times what she would do if she lost the vote, she couldn’t say. It was awful. Dreadful. Evasive even by her standards.”

When [European] leaders asked May what she was going to do if her deal was voted down, an official added that the prime minister replied that she was following her ‘Plan A’ of getting it through.

It was then the EU decided that “she didn’t have a plan so they needed to come up with one for her”, the source added.

And the plan they came up with is to set a deadline of May 22 if parliament passes her plan and a deadline of April 12 if they reject it again.

May has also ruled out revoking Article 50 that started the clock on leaving the EU that created the current March 29 deadline. Doing so would mean that UK remains in the EU until Article 50 is invoked again and the two-year clock restarted, presumably with a much better thought out plan in place. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been less than clear about where he and his party stands, says that he is open to doing so.

At this point, I have really no idea what May’s end game is. It is becoming clear that even those closest to her are not sure either. She may believe that the very threat of a no-deal Brexit would be so horrifying that parliament would hold its nose and vote for her deal in the coming week. If so, that is a massive throw of the dice. And if that fails, her Plan B may just consist of holding on to her office by avoiding blame and yesterday’s attack on the MPs may be the initial salvo in that next battle.


  1. Dunc says

    I’m no big respecter of the dignity of Parliament, but the tone of her statement yesterday was shocking. I half expected her to call for the army to stage a coup on her behalf.

  2. fentex says

    She’s in an impossible situation -- there is nothing she can do.

    The facts are it’s either No Brexit or No Deal.

    No other deal is possible as there is no majority in parliament for one even if it were possible to magic out of thin air, and with her parties majority held only by virtue of the DUP who are actively insisting on a literally impossible resolution (both that Brexit creates a firm border within Eire, and that no acceptable deal can do that).

    She cannot resolve this.

  3. Owlmirror says

    And if that fails, her Plan B may just consist of holding on to her office by avoiding blame and yesterday’s attack on the MPs may be the initial salvo in that next battle.

    The sense I get is that May’s ultimate fate is to be destined to be thrown under a bus no matter what happens, and she knows this, so she’s gritting her teeth and trying to do a little pre-emptive bus-under-throwing herself.

  4. ColeYote says

    I still can’t believe the argument for not having another referendum is “it would hurt people’s confidence in the political system.” A re-do vote would be the LEAST damaging thing about this entire process!

  5. file thirteen says

    I think that speech may (no pun intended) be the final nail in the coffin. So much for my previous predictions. Now, when mv3 (“meaningful vote 3”) fails, as it doubtlessly will, surely May will resign.

    And the Titanic steams on, unmanned, into perilous seas.

  6. Rich Woods says

    @Pierce #3:

    Hey, Brits — wanna swap national leaders?

    No thanks. Trump really would make things worse. He’d probably start a trade war with the EU even before the UK had left. And demand money to build a wall in the middle of the English Channel.

  7. Holms says

    Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been less than clear about where he and his party stands, says that he is open to doing so.

    It’s about fucking time that he finally admitted this. Too late to make a difference most likely, but this whole thing could have had additional clarity from the outset if he had actually been for staying from the outset. For one thing, he’d have garnered considerably more support and hence power if he had said so from the start.

    At this point, I have really no idea what May’s end game is.

    Oh Mano, this is the easiest thing in the world to answer. She doesn’t have one. You were giving her too much credit in considering even momentarily that she might have a plan.

  8. blf says

    I’m now referring to the UK as the N.Korea of Europe (NKofE)† — a secretive nuclear-armed dysfunctional private estate, run for and by a small paranoid cabal, unable and unwilling to care for or about the population, whilst feasting and boasting… — and its current Dear Leader as the chancellor. The chancellor’s rant, it was pointed out, is reminiscent of a well-known scene in Downfall.

    In today’s Grauniad, Rafael Behr opines (The EU knows it, so do our own MPs — Theresa May is finished ):

    European leaders have known for some time that the prime minister wasn’t up to the Brexit job. This week she’s proved it

    The EU has no time for Theresa May, which doesn’t mean there is no flexibility in the Brexit timetable. Continental leaders have granted an article 50 extension, but not the one requested by the prime minister. She had pitched for a new departure date of 30 June. She was given 39 days fewer, until 22 May. And that date only stands if parliament ratifies the deal.

    If May flunks another meaningful vote, the extension gets shorter — 12 April is the new cliff-edge that comes into view. That date marks the point at which Britain would have to start organising European parliament elections, should it want another even longer extension. A national change of heart on the whole Brexit business would still be welcome in Brussels but it is not expected, and the priority is to escort a troublesome ex-member off the premises with a minimum of disruption before those MEP ballots get under way.

    Does May like this plan? It doesn’t matter. She wasn’t in the room where it happened. The summit conclusions were handed down to the petitioning nation as it paced around an antechamber. This is the power relationship between a “third country” and the EU. Britain had better get used to it.

    The terms of the extension are not drafted for the prime minister’s benefit. They contain a message from the EU direct to the House of Commons. In crude terms: piss or get off the pot. If you want to leave with a deal, vote for the damned deal. If you are foolish enough to leave without a deal, do not blame us. Have a couple more weeks to think about it. But if you want something else, a referendum or a softer Brexit, work it out soon. And then send someone who isn’t Theresa May to talk to us about it.


    Broadly, the EU has provided Parliament with time for another chance for it to do its job and “take control” from the chancellor. Since Parliament itself is riven and deadlocked, it’s less-than-clear what that might accomplish, albeit one good sign is the current petition to revoke Article 50 now has over three million signatures (and is still climbing rapidly). The chancellor has indicated she isn’t paying any attention to that, but Parliament is obliged to do so (albeit not, insofaras I know, in a timely manner).

    The situation is changing by-the-hour; apparently there are now indications the chancellor is being(? has been?) bounced into allowing “indicative votes” to see what, if anything, Parliament might agree to, apparently including: chancellor’s deal, Article 50 revocation, second referendum (on what?), chancellor’s deal with customs union, several variants…, or no-deal.

      † I’ve just learned ex-PM Gordon Brown warned, in 2015, the UK would become the NKofE if it left the EU, Leaving EU would make UK the N Korea of Europe, warns Gordon Brown.

  9. mnb0 says

    “she was not at fault for the current mess and put it all on the members of parliament”
    She may be right -- I don’t really care. If she’s sincere and means it she should retire.
    Of course the same principle applies to the parliamant. Very early new elections seem to be the only way out of this mess.

  10. Ray says

    One thing struck me when going through all the internet analyses -- the conclusion of some (yeah, I know, doesn’t mean much actually) that it’s curious that May was a Remainer, but is now in charge of the Leaving. But perhaps it all makes sense -- maybe she want to make such a huge mess of pretending to organize the Leave, but actually is working to sabotage it, that when she finally says, “Fuck it, I tried, I’m giving up!” people will believe it and never realize that she has actually achieved her goal of forcing the Stay option.

  11. Mano Singham says


    It is an ingenious theory but it may be giving May to much credit for strategic thinking. In analyzing the actions of political leaders, one should never rule out the simpler options of stupidity and incompetence.

  12. polishsalami says

    She may not have Twitter meltdowns, but May is every bit as reckless & authoritarian as Trump. The problem is that every possible replacement is a buffoon or a dreary incompetent.

  13. file thirteen says

    Amongst all the signs of an approaching unavoidable disaster, one hopeful thing is that May has herself opened the door a crack towards that once unthinkable possibility: a second referendum. By repeatedly bringing up her own deal to vote on, the argument that “the people made up their mind and it would be undemocratic to ask them again” loses strength. Parliament twice decided to reject May’s deal; if they can be presented with it yet again, why cannot the people be given a chance to change their minds also? Together with the petition and the demonstrations growing strength, sanity could still prevail.

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