This week in politics: Resignations, reshuffles and rivalries
The week that was
Confounding near-universal expectation, the Conservative Party failed to gain a working majority in the 2017 General Election, winning 318 seats, while paradoxically increasing its share of the vote to 43 per cent. On Friday morning, a humbled Theresa May announced that she had visited Buckingham Palace and would be forming a minority government, to be bolstered by the support of the Democratic Unionist Party in a confidence and supply agreement. While much of an agreement is reportedly in place, the tragedy which struck Grenfell Tower on Wednesday meant that no formal agreement will be announced until next week. A limited cabinet reshuffle took place across the weekend, notable for the rehiring of May’s former bête noire Michael Gove as DEFRA Secretary.
In another blow to conventional wisdom, Jeremy Corbyn managed to increase his party’s Commons presence by 30 seats including some notable gains in Scotland and South East England. A bullish Corbyn entered the House of Commons for the election of the speaker to a standing ovation from his whole party. Corbyn’s new found authority was evident with his cabinet reshuffle, which made virtually no changes, with the exception of last year’s leadership challenger Owen Smith moving to shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.
Elsewhere, the Scottish National Party’s hopes of independence in the near future were dashed by a poor election result, losing seats to the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems. Notable scalps included Alex Salmond and SNP leader in the Commons Angus Robertson. The Liberal Democrats too failed to make the impact they had hoped; Party leader Tim Farron resigned on Thursday, stating that he could no longer reconcile his Christianity with the views required of a leader of a modern liberal party.
On the benches
Swear or affirm?
This week saw MPs return to Westminster to dispense with a few formalities before the pomp and pageantry of the Queen’s Speech next week. After the speaker was elected back into position, MPs went through the official process of swearing in, pledging allegiance to Her Majesty in a variety of ways. Gaelic, Cornish, Welsh and Urdu were just four of the languages used by MPs. A combination of the microphones in the Commons being switched on and the swearing in queue steadily building meant we were treated to a few interesting topics of conversation including the price of fuel, which religious text was the most ancient and one MP canvassing for votes for a select committee chairmanship.
‘A least someone got a landslide’
Theresa May was at least able to laugh at her inability to secure a Parliamentary majority this week, showing some rarely-seen self-deprecation. May joked ‘at least someone got a landslide’ as she congratulated John Bercow on being re-elected Speaker, a joke appreciated on both sides of the Commons.
Not normally known for his sense of humour, Jeremy Corbyn surprised many in the House during the Speakers’ Election when he reeled off jokes, at the expense of the Prime Minister and Father of the House, Ken Clarke. He started by congratulating Clarke on his career in Parliament and told the House of the time he saw Clarke in the tea room, eating a bacon sandwich, drinking super-strength lager and smoking a cigar, whilst taking a break from a debate on healthy living. Corbyn then went on to congratulate the Prime Minister on her re-election, noting that he was looking forward to the Queen’s Speech once the ‘coalition of chaos’ of the Tories and the DUP had agreed their deal.
Mother of the House
While the shock election result has left the Prime Minister unable to appoint the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, May was able to make one first for gender equality in the Commons this week – officially appointing the longest serving female MP, Harriet Harman, as the Mother of the House.
Good week/Bad week
Good week for: Lord Buckethead. The intergalactic space lord has been a regular candidate in Prime Ministers’ seats at elections, having run against Margaret Thatcher and John Major. But the third incarnation of Buckethead, and his brand of ‘strong, but not entirely stable’ leadership, seems to have captured the public imagination. After polling an impressive 249 votes in Maidenhead, Buckethead picked up the Guardian’s award for ‘best policy’ with his pledge to bring back Ceefax and even crossed the pond to appear on the Last Week Tonight Show with John Oliver.
Bad week for: Jilted ex-Tory MPs who unexpectedly lost their seats in the election last week. The Westminster whingers have taken their grievances online, with Guido reporting that they have set up a WhatsApp group to console each other about losing their seats. Complaints included the dire Tory campaign and Theresa May’s failure to mention them in her post-election speech, with many having still not received a phone call from the Prime Minister.
Tweet of the week
Jim Waterson, this week, drew much lacking attention to long rivalry between David Drew and Neil Carmichael for the Parliamentary seat of Stroud….
‘I can’t negotiate with myself’– Lead EU negotiator Michel Barnier applies pressure on Britain following the inconclusive election results
‘Of course the door remains open, always open until the Brexit negotiations come to an end’ – French President Emmanuel Macron hinting that the UK can stay in the EU if it changes its mind
‘…Like Alice in Wonderland, not all the doors are the same. It will be a brand new door, with a new Europe, a Europe without rebates, without complexity, with real powers and with unity.’ – Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator gives his view of Macron’s ‘open door’