“It was Trumpesque.” So said Ian Blackford, for the Scottish Nationalists, of the Prime Minister’s unfortunate address to the nation last Wednesday night.
But Theresa May is no Donald Trump. The President is a gifted populist. He feels quite at ease expressing the resentments felt by a large section of the American people against Washington, for those resentments gnaw away at him too.
The Prime Minister is painfully respectable. She would be useless on reality TV and out of place in a down-market pub. Saloon-bar onslaughts on the political class are not her thing.
Which is one reason why the Wednesday night broadcast went down so badly. It did not even ring true.
Her real complaint against her fellow MPs is that they are not as dutiful and diligent and conscientious as she is. They break manifesto commitments – a very shocking thing in her eyes.
They fail to accept, as any person imbued with a proper Anglican respect for compromise ought to accept, that her deal is the best one we are going to get, and is therefore the only responsible way to proceed.
One could hear this in her voice today. She spoke in the manner of a school teacher who is reaching the limits of her patience. She touched in her statement on the Wednesday night debacle, but tried to justify herself by saying how frustrated she felt “at our collective failure to take a decision”.
She went on to recognise that other MPs feel frustrated too. It was not much of an olive branch. Many MPs do want to agree with her, and back her motion as the least bad course of action, but she is not making it easy for them to come round.
One instead had the sense that relations between the PM and Parliament are close to what is known in the divorce courts as irretrievable breakdown.
It is too late for counselling to help mend this broken relationship. She just cannot understand why MPs find her so tiresome, and they just cannot accept that she is not there to listen to them: she simply wants them to do as they are told.
Nigel Dodds, parliamentary leader of the Democratic Unionists, sounded extremely vexed with her. He wanted to know why proper preparations had not been made for leaving on 29th March, and asked her what difference another fortnight would make.
He got no proper answer. In the period until l left the Chamber to write this sketch, no one got a proper answer from her about anything.
Sir William Cash and Owen Paterson got no proper answers, and she does not know how to lighten an exchange with some self-deprecating remark.
She wouldn’t even say when the meaningful vote will be held. Hilary Benn, from the Labour benches, wondered whether, if her deal does not go through, she would prefer no deal or a longer extension.
She replied that she “would hope to be able” to hold a third vote on her deal.
It is rather wonderful that May is not Trumpesque. She is not cheap in that way. She has high standards of conduct.
But she also has an idea of orthodoxy, of the right way forward, and is affronted when MPs will not share it. She is not a parliamentarian, at home in a great and boisterous debate and able to harness the tides of feeling in the House, but a woman of government who wants everything settled.
There was something rather moving about watching her, so thin, brave and unpersuasive at the Despatch Box this afternoon. She looked alone with her conscientiousness. No wonder the House wants to try something else.