Outlook bleak. That is the doleful forecast around Westminster over the plight of Theresa May’s Brexit plan — and indeed for her own future as Prime Minister.
With yet another ministerial resignation at the end of last week, the prospects for its success seem to be dwindling as each day passes.
And the arithmetic for her getting the plan through Parliament on December 11 continues to stack up ominously against her, yet she refuses all efforts and blandishments for her to either withdraw it, or rework it drastically.
Have the Tory whips let her down? They should have seen right from the start, it is argued, that the Chequers plan was probably doomed to failure. It is almost certainly too late now for those whips to indulge in offering perks or threatening metaphorical arm-twisting to those Tories, in considerable numbers who have indicated they will vote against the plan.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary, has warned that he will set in motion procedures for contempt of Parliament proceedings against the government if ministers continue to refuse to make public the legal advice over Brexit.
You would think that things could hardly get worse for the Prime Minister. Yet she stubbornly sticks to her guns. But she could surprise us all on December 11. She might just sneak home.
Stranger things have happened.
• When the then Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the incipient Ukip as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly”, I thought he was going over the top.
I was wrong. If anything, when you consider what is going on now, he was understating the case.
No wonder former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is close to spitting blood over the present leader Gerard Batten’s decision to appoint the far-right activist Tommy Robinson as his advisor.
Farage warns that this move could help to transform Ukip into the BNP. And he has called on Batten to resign as leader. Farage also says that he himself will quit Ukip if there are marches ahead with Batten and Tommy Robinson at the forefront.
At one stage, it seemed that Ukip might be a comfortable new home for Tories, dissatisfied with their own party. And indeed, a number of them did join Ukip, but they have mostly filtered back, while Ukip seems to be heading for oblivion.
Farage is the only Ukip member most people have heard of. He has kept the party on the map. His departure would almost certainly spell curtains for the ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’.
• There are all sorts of reasons why the ludicrously overcrowded House of Lords should be slimmed down to manageable proportions. It comprises no fewer than 800-plus members, many of whom do not bother to attend at all unless the whips order them to do so.
One reason to advocate a drastic cull of the bloated membership, is that the supply of their lordships’ robes appears to be running dry. On big occasions — like the state opening of Parliament — when robes are de rigueur, some peers can be seen dashing around to find out which of their colleagues are dying and unable to attend so they can beg or borrow their attire for the day — not a very dignified way to go about it.
On one occasion, it is said, the veteran broadcaster Joan Bakwell was reduced to going to a theatrical costumier to seek out something suitable which might resemble the official attire.
The costumier was, reportedly, thankfully able to fish something out from his repertoire of costumes. That was why, according to one witness, her ladyship entered the chamber on that day looking more like a character in a crowd scene in a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, than a legislator in the House of Lords.
• Baroness Trumpington’s death leaves a gaping hole in the heart of British politics.
While others immersed themselves in analysis and gravitas, often boring the pants off fellow members of the House of Lords with their verbosity, Jean Trumpington was always ready with a quip — or even shock tactics, which invariably introduced a welcome breeze to an otherwise stifling political situation.
Once when distributing prizes at a school speech day, she was so bored by the homilies that dominated this tedious occasion, that she jumped fully clothed into the school swimming pool — to the delight of the pupils and alarm of the teachers. She said her husband did not speak to her for some time after that.
My abiding memory of her is belting out Chattanooga Choo Choo, wearing a vast floppy red hat, at a parliamentary concert.
Once she was asked why she had chosen Trumpington — a village in her area of Cambridgeshire — as her title when she was made a peeress. She explained: “The alternative would have been Six Mile Bottom.”
What a girl!