Jeremy Corbyn began, as he often does, with a good question: “Given the Prime Minister did not once mention Chequers either in her conference speech or in her statement to Parliament on Monday, does this mean the Chequers plan is now dead?”
Theresa May replied: “The answer is No.”
Corbyn pointed out that Penny Mordaunt and Esther McVey “have both refused to say they back the Chequers plan”, but then wandered off down other byways and lost momentum, as he generally does.
So we were left with the Prime Minister’s assurance that Chequers is still alive. The despondent faces of her Cabinet colleagues suggested they are already in mourning, though for quite what, it would be difficult to say. Even David Lidington, her right-hand man at Number Ten, who often seems perkier than his colleagues, looked gloomy today, as did David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has aged, and the Chief Whip, Julian Smith, appears to have lost some of his hair, possibly by tearing it out himself.
No wonder a considerable number of MPs had stayed away from PMQs, for one felt at the end that nothing had been gained, and that the Prime Minister has no desire whatever to take anyone into her confidence, or to say one word more than she must on the great issue of Brexit, where the more specific she is, the more likely she is to upset people.
Teresa Pearce (Lab, Erith and Thamesmead) provoked gasps when she asked what a constituent who has been sexually harassed at work can do “when her employer is this House”?
That was a good, pointed question, which May met, as usual, by making the right noises in a sombre tone. She herself is white with tiredness, and has deep rings under her eyes, but is still functioning.