Amber Rudd will soon be back. As she rose to a huge cheer from the Conservatives, looking as if she had enjoyed a good night’s sleep, it was clear she had never really gone away.
Here was no former Home Secretary brooding angrily on the backbenches, thirsting for revenge, but a loyal member of the Tory team, ready to take whatever post may in due course be offered to her.
She congratulated her successor, Sajid Javid, who was sitting two rows in front of her, next to Theresa May. The Prime Minister responded by paying tribute to Rudd.
The sense of the Tory team sticking together was intensified by a number of insultingly sycophantic questions from other Conservatives – insulting, that is, to those of us who have to listen to this stuff.
Peter Bone chose the course of ludicrous exaggeration which comes so naturally to him. After observing that in 331 days she will lead us out of the EU, he invited her to come to Wellingborough, in his constituency, in 332 days, “where she will be carried shoulder high” and he will show her the spot where “a statue to the Brexit queen will be erected”.
The subtext was that she has got to keep her part of the bargain – Brexit had better mean Brexit – but Tory MPs also seemed to be showing they understand that unless they all hang together, they will, most assuredly, all hang separately.
In such harmonious circumstances, one looks to the Leader of the Opposition to place the Prime Minister under some sort of pressure and keep her on her toes.
And here one should congratulate Jeremy Corbyn for mentioning the economy, a subject he usually avoids. He remarked that the Government used to talk about “a long-term economic plan”, but now we have “the worst economic growth figures for five years”.
How curious that we used to mock David Cameron for going on and on about Oltep, who sounded like an obscure but emerging central European intellectual, but is also this column’s abbreviation for “Our Long-Term Economic Plan”.
Dear old Oltep. Where is he now? Can’t he come back to London from the Viennese coffee house where he sits brooding over a forgotten paper by one of the Austrian economists? We never thought we would miss him, but he has left a void in the Conservative message which the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have failed to fill.
The problem with Corbyn’s intervention was that he also touched on the Windrush affair, the NHS, the schools budget, the police budget, the Brexit negotiations and the council elections.
Corbyn is a gadfly who darts all over the place and sticks with nothing. He makes May look strong and stable, which is quite an achievement.