PM’s speech was bid to hold the fractured Tories together

Morning View
Morning View

Theresa May made a spirited effort yesterday to show that she was still up to the job of being premiere of the UK.

Mrs May’s decision to dance on to the stage to Abba was a recognition of her much derided dancing style on a recent visit to Africa.

The premiere’s playful echoing of Boris Johnson’s crude “f*** business” jibe was a pointed rebuke to his comment.

And her vow to end austerity and her championing of the NHS and more homes being built to combat the housing shortage in England were all part of a shameless bid to reclaim some of the compassion vote from Jeremy Corbyn.

This was the speech of someone battling to stay in 10 Downing Street. It was always going to be so.

Last year’s triple disaster in her conference address — a coughing fit, an interruption from a prankster, and collapsing signage on the set behind her — were such that there was serious talk at the time that her leadership would not survive the setback. But she did, in part due to her resilience but in larger part because most Tory MPs know that any leadership contest could lead to civil war and the fall of the government.

Yesterday’s speech was also that of someone who might not be able to get anything through the House of Commons — a soft Brexit, a hard one, or no deal.

Meanwhile, the sharks are circling over Northern Ireland: Leo Varadkar today will meet the EU leaders Donald Tusk, and Michel Barnier. There has been no sign of compromise in their bid for a border in the Irish Sea and ongoing worrying speculation about a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

Arlene Foster was right yesterday on Radio Four’s flagship Today programme to make clear unionist opposition to an internal UK border, which would be a disaster for the Union.

Unionists would foolish to spurn all compromise: Chequers, for example, would have reduced the need for checks anywhere. But any compromise should be UK wide.