Craig Tracey, since 2015 Conservative MP for North Warwickshire, used the first question of the day to urge the Prime Minister to grasp an “opportunity” and “make a success of it”. Here is his question in full, delivered in a mild, almost apologetic tone of voice:
“I fully agree with the Prime Minister when she’s repeatedly said that we need to both honour the result of the referendum and our manifesto commitments, which mean leaving the customs union and single market, so does my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that if the best way to do that, rather than deliver a diluted deal which is unrecognisable to many of us who voted to leave, is to go under WTO rules, we should grasp that opportunity and believe in the ability of the British people and a Conservative Government to make a success of it.”
Theresa May responded: “I believe that a Conservative Government will make a success of whatever the situation is in relation to Brexit.”
Oh dear. The Prime Minister who has been dealing with the matter since July 2016 cannot tell us what the situation is in relation to Brexit. She added that she still believes it is best to leave in an orderly way with a deal.
A more underwhelming performance, lifeless, stilted, tired, impervious to the feelings of her listeners and unable to raise anyone’s spirits, would be hard to imagine. And this is the person who is travelling to Brussels to negotiate on our behalf.
If she cannot speak with conviction in the Commons, how can one imagine she will do so when she meets European leaders?
No wonder a considerable number of MPs on both sides of the House declined to attend PMQs. There was nothing to learn here, and it was painful to listen to this dutiful, uncommunicative, humiliated Prime Minister.
No Tory backbencher had a go at her in the way that half a dozen of them did last week. They will not kick her when she is just off to Brussels.
But the glum faces of her colleagues on the front bench reinforced the feeling that it is time to let someone else have a go at negotiating Brexit.
Jeremy Corbyn complained that child poverty is worse in Swindon and Stoke-on-Trent than it is in Surrey. He is getting ready for a general election.