Theresa May’s tenacity is awe-inspiring. She looks white with tiredness, but is still there. Her ability to stay at the crease is worthy of her hero, Geoffrey Boycott.
The last time I wrote something like that, I received a pained but authoritative email from Richard Tomlinson, author of Amazing Grace: The Man Who was W.G.
Tomlinson pointed out that Boycott was “in everyone’s opinion apart from his own the worst Yorkshire captain since the Second World War”.
Many people say Theresa May is the worst Prime Minister since Lord North, or at least since Anthony Eden.
But it is too early to tell. We do not know how her prime ministership will end.
Sir William Cash (Con, Stone) accused her of “abject surrender” in Brussels last night, and demanded: “Will she resign?”
“I think he knows the answer to that,” the Prime Minister replied.
She received quite a lot of support from her own side. Sir Oliver Heald (Con, North East Hertfordshire) encouraged her to “keep going”.
Sarah Newton (Con, Truro and Falmouth) told her to “ignore the bullies on our backbenches”.
And at the end of almost two hours, Charles Walker (Con, Broxbourne) urged her to get some rest over Easter, and to tell the Chief Whip to “have a few solid 12-hour sleeps as well”.
Mark Francois (Con. Rayleigh and Wickford), like Cash an irreconcilable critic of her deal, informed her that “perseverance is a virtue but sheer obstinacy is not”.
A wave of laughter broke over Francois. For the sheer obstinacy with which he has opposed her deal has equalled the sheer obstinacy with which she has promoted it.
It is not clear how the deadlock is going to be broken. But there were some encouraging words from the Opposition benches for the Prime Minister.
Admittedly, most of the people uttering the encouragement demanded, as the price of voting for her deal, a second referendum. But her studied moderation, her good manners, and her difficulties with Cash, Francois, Steve Baker and others, are starting to produce a degree of sympathy for her, and a sense that getting her deal through might be less bad than holding European elections in which the two main parties do extremely badly and the disreputable extremists have a field day.
Tomlinson points out that Boycott “was dropped by England for slow scoring after making his highest-ever Test match score – 246 v India in 1967.”
May knows she going to be dropped by the Conservatives, but if she can get her deal through, she too will have made her highest ever score, and will have done it by being as brave and dull as her hero.
Before going in to the Chamber, I read a report that “Tory strife” has reached “boiling point”. That was not how it felt during these lukewarm proceedings. The irreconcilables were outnumbered by weary MPs who just want this stage of Brexit to be over.
I shall risk a prediction. Although watching her is as unbearable as watching Boycott on a slow day, her deal will go through.