My favourite Alan Rickman performance is his turn as the snarling, flouncing, delightfully villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. It really has everything; the hair, the voice, the outfits, the wickedly delivered threats. Sadly, it’s the last of these that Theresa May has decided to emulate: “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!”
While May can’t have the European Research Group rounded up and sent to the headsman – no matter how much she might wish it were so – her bid to sell her deal to her party is going so well that Conservative whips are already threatening to cancel Christmas if she doesn’t get her way.
Even Liam Fox is playing attack dog, telling MPs that they will have to face up to tough choices and back the PM. But with 100 MPs from her own party publicly speaking out against her deal and the Labour party set to oppose it, it’s difficult to see a path through the Commons for the deal.
Part of the problem is that MPs simply don’t believe May when she says it’s her deal or no deal. Labour’s Yvette Cooper publicly called the prime minister out on this, saying that she simply doesn’t believe May would go through with a no deal Brexit. MPs are fully aware that there are always other options, or at least they should be if they read this briefing email on a regular basis.
An even bigger part of the problem is that May’s deal simply isn’t very good. While May and her allies are attempting to sell the deal to the country, all they seem to be doing is highlighting its many flaws. The process is not entirely unlike a game of whack-a-mole. David Lidington, for instance, was dispatched to Scotland to argue that the deal wouldn’t undermine the union because the rest of the UK would voluntarily ‘remain aligned’ with Northern Ireland.
Mole squashed, but up pops the obvious next question. If we’re going to ‘remain aligned’ with the single market, how exactly are we taking back control?
As stage-managed media blitzes go, it’s a curious one which seems to spend most of its time explaining all the ways in which the deal is a shambolic humiliation for Britain. It’s no wonder then that May is insisting any televised debate be between herself and her fellow Brexiter Jeremy Corbyn. The difference between the two is, after all, mostly branding. Allowing Boris Johnson onto the stage to make the case for the charms of a no deal Brexit would be disastrous.
Allowing a campaigner for a People’s Vote into the mix would be even worse. After all, the only sales pitch she has is that there’s no way out; why give the lie to that, too?
Photo credit: I took this one. Well done me.