The tentative truce over sexual harassment allegations in Westminster ended dramatically this lunchtime in PMQs. Following an exchange of platitudes with the Labour leader and SNP Westminster leader on working cross party on new rules and procedures, the Prime Minister then took a question from Labour backbench MP, Lisa Nandy. It did not end well. It did not look good. It may be a portent of things to come from Mrs May.
The question referred to three previous attempts Lisa Nandy had made to raise the issue of sexual abuse by people within Westminster and the way the Whips Office handled them – by using them as leverage not as a way of tackling poor behaviour and wrong doing – with Mrs May – when she was Home Secretary. It was a pointed question; it did not sound good for Mrs May. It was not answered well by Mrs May. She went on and on and on and said nothing at all. Waffle, waffle, waffle. What made it worse was the Mrs May appeared not to remember their previous interactions on the subject – despite them taking place in Parliament.
As I wrote yesterday on Twitter in relation to the Leader of the House’s statement on these allegations, if it transpires that Mrs May has been receiving updates the Whips on poor behaviour – some of it very, very serious – from Tory MPs in what has been called the “ins and outs” meetings – something she appears to be denying – this will reflect extremely badly on her. It will say that whilst she may have been appalled by some of the things she heard she hasn’t done anything about it.
Mrs May has shown an unfortunate tendency for being reactive not proactive; for finding it hard to think on her feet; and to appear flat-footed, tone deaf and slow to grasp the public mood on emerging issues. She is sadly showing these signs again this week. Her default position is set to platitude. Under pressure – as she was in the House today in response to Lisa Nando’s question – she reverts to type – she becomes the Maybot and it is a very, very bad look. After couple of quiet weeks where not much has gone wrong the full, ugly weakness of her position as Prime Minister is exposed again this week; in office but not in power; on the back foot, fending away shots pitched bowling; struggling to get a grip on events. Constantly shaped by them.
Photo taken from BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09dh9fz/daily-politics-01112017