people without incident. Not enough preparation had been undertaken; the promises made could not be fulfilled quickly.
She had, moreover, acted without consulting party or country. Just as Mrs Thatcher had her poll tax, so Mrs Merkel had her refugee policy. The voters and party were bound to have their say sooner or later. In Mrs Merkel’s case it was a disastrous showing in state elections that sealed her fate. Mutti did not have all the answers after all. She was just a politician like any other, capable of decisions good and bad.
After the week she has had, Mrs May might feel uniquely burdened, but a quick look across Europe shows her fellow leaders are living through their own interesting times. French President Emmanuel Macron has taken the extraordinary step of sealing off tourist attractions in Paris this weekend for fear of further attacks by anti-government rioters.
In Italy, the government is refusing EU demands to live within its means. How long can it be before Italians, like the Greeks before them, take to the streets?
In Hungary and Poland, populist parties become ever bolder. All over Europe, the old mainstream party order is coming under strain. Voters are looking to the margins, left and right, for answers. All is far from well in the kingdom of the EU. The PM and the Chancellor are old school democrats who put duty first. They have both tried to rise above the fray: Mrs May taking her case for a withdrawal deal to the country in the hope this will persuade MPS to back her in next Tuesday’s vote; Mrs Merkel stepping down from the party leadership she has held since 2000, trusting this will be enough to satisfy her critics.
Two women, united by a single desire to remain in power. For both, being at the top can never have seemed lonelier.