In­valid in­put: May­bot re­jects tough top­ics

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -

It’s not easy to com­mu­ni­cate with some­one who has few so­cial skills. Which means any PMQs in­volv­ing Theresa May is al­ways go­ing to be an up­hill strug­gle: all the more so when it’s a 45-minute ex­er­cise in dam­age lim­i­ta­tion to stave off for an­other week any thoughts her back­benchers may be har­bour­ing of get­ting rid of her. In re­cent weeks, the May­bot has traded merely in in­co­her­ent sound­bites. For her last PMQs be­fore the party con­fer­ence re­cess, she upped the ante by re­fus­ing even to recog­nise the va­lid­ity of any dif­fi­cult ques­tions.

The writ­ing was on the wall right from the start with Lib Dem Layla Mo­ran ask­ing when the PM was go­ing to ad­mit Brexit was go­ing to be a lot more dif­fi­cult than she had imag­ined.

“You’re just wrong,” the May­bot said. Mo­ran had com­mit­ted a clas­sic cat­e­gory er­ror. Brexit was go­ing to be a storm­ing tri­umph be­cause … be­cause … be­cause it just was. No fur­ther ex­pla­na­tions were re­quired or given.

When Jeremy Cor­byn got to his feet, the May­bot went into full unau­tho­rised ac­cess mode. The Labour leader was wrong. The UN re­port he had quoted high­light­ing grave and sys­tem­atic vi­o­la­tions in the gov­ern­ment’s treat­ment of the dis­abled didn’t ex­ist. It was fake news! She had done more for the dis­abled than any­one in his­tory. Send her the weak and down­trod­den and she would cut their ben­e­fits and find them a job which paid next to noth­ing.

Cor­byn chose to run through a few more items from the Tory back cat­a­logue of fail­ure. Where to start? Stu­dent debt. That would do.

“Wrong,” the May­bot de­clared. “We are go­ing to …” What was she go­ing to do? A look of panic crossed her face as her in­ter­nal sys­tems froze.

She was go­ing to do some­thing be­cause the Tories were the party that kept their prom­ises on do­ing some­thing. Un­like Labour. “The right hon­ourable gen­tle­man promised work­ers that he would pro­tect their rights and on Mon­day he let them down,” she said with what she hoped was a flour­ish.

Even her own back­benchers woke up at that point. They had been un­der the im­pres­sion that the whole pur­pose of the EU with­drawal bill had been to give the gov­ern­ment lee­way to do ex­actly as it pleased. They hadn’t re­alised that the land grab had been to­tally driven by their leader’s de­sire to make sure work­ers’ rights were pro­tected. If they’d known that, they might have voted against the bill.

Still they were where they were. And the May­bot was where she was. PMQs might have been the best part of an hour of their lives no one would ever get back, but she had sur­vived an­other week on bor­rowed time.

Seven days grace is about as good as it gets for her these days.

Brexit was go­ing to be a storm­ing tri­umph be­cause … be­cause … be­cause it just was

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