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How is Theresa May still standing?

It has to have been the worst week in her dismal career, but somehow Theresa May is still Prime Minister. In a culture where politicians and others in leadership positions frequently fall on their swords and resign at the slightest controversy, May remains steadfast and is still in her post.

It would be impressive if she wasn’t such a disaster. This week, her postponed ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit came before Parliament and lost so decisively that it seemed impossible that May could continue to head up the government. There was a majority of 230 people who voted against her Bill, and newsreaders searched records to find the last time a sitting government lost to such a majority. They discovered that it had never happened before to that degree. Never.

And yet May is still living in number 10 Downing Street. She reacted to the Brexit loss by inviting the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, to bring a vote of confidence in the government the following day, which they duly did. The subsequent confidence debate went on for many hours, with May listening to members of her party praising her and members of every other party slating her entire history, philosophy and future. The vote took place and she won. Her party and the DUP, who she had offered £1 billion to to back her after she lost the last General Election, all voted in support of her and their numbers were higher than Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the SNP and other smaller parties and independents, even all together.

The irony is that the Tories who voted yesterday to say that they supported Theresa May and her government were the same Tories who, just one day earlier, had voted against her Brexit bill (because it didn’t go far enough, in most cases), and had done everything they could to destroy confidence in the woman. Their hypocrisy was stark against the backdrop of a government losing control and a country getting increasingly scared about what is to come, and what our future will be.

The Brexit vote was strange in that respect. It was widely predicted that May would lose and the Bill would not be passed, but the idea that she would lose so spectacularly was not predicted by anybody. And yet, when the news channels cut to the demonstrators outside, both hard Brexiteers and pro-Remainers were united in their joy that it had not got through. The Brexit bill was not appealing to either side, and May had truly screwed it up.

For the Leavers, the Bill was weak. For the Remainers, it went far too far.

This leaves us – and Theresa May – with a predicament. She has invited the leaders of the other parties to commune with her to come up with a way forward. This could be promising, and I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she had invited such co-operation in the first place rather than storming ahead with an approach that pleased nobody.

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to take part unless May will rule out the possibility of a No Deal Brexit, and I have sympathy with this position. A No Deal Brexit has to be ruled out if anybody but the richest and more privileged are to not suffer heavily.

However, as May refuses to rule this out, this leaves Corbyn without a voice in the proceedings when he could be in the room, making his point more clearly about No Deal and the disastrous consequences that that could have.

The heavy hitters who campaigned for Brexit in the first place have all but disappeared. Boris Johnson shows his face to TV cameras to say how bad the plans are, but refuses to take any obvious responsibility for being one of the people who got us into this position in the first place. David Cameron (twat), who was pro-Remain but called the needless referendum in the first place has been holed up in the Mediterranean and finally showed his face this week to say that he did not regret calling the referendum but he did regret the trouble it had caused. As if those two were not the same thing. Dominic Raab, who negotiated the current deal and then stood down because he could not support the deal he himself had orchestrated is also invisible in the whole mess. Nigel Farage pops up in plenty of TV appearances but is worse than useless and the less said about him, the better.

God only knows what will happen next, but there is a sense of absolute chaos in UK politics at the moment. We look ridiculous to the entire world, and the Brexit catastrophe is still pending. Quite how Theresa May is still in her position as Prime Minister is a mystery, but somebody has to lead us through the next few months and make some popular decisions that their colleagues and their constituents can live with.

Photo: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916


Philippa Willitts

Philippa Willitts is a British freelance writer who specialises in writing about disability, women's issues, social media and tech. She also enjoys covering politics and LGBT-related topics. She has written for the Guardian, the Independent, New Statesman, Channel 4 News, Access Magazine, xoJane and many more publications. She can be found on Twitter @PhilippaWrites.