Liz Bates sketch: Stuttering PM turns back into the Maybot after Brexit vote earns her a brief reprieve

Theresa May speaks at Prime Minister's Questions. Picture: PA
Theresa May speaks at Prime Minister's Questions. Picture: PA

As the Prime Minister entered Parliament for her weekly question session today her party was riding high on a rare Commons success.

A casual observer looking in on the fresh show of unity on the Tory benches would have been wondering what historic political advancement had been achieved - peace in the Middle East, an end to child poverty, a free owl for every citizen? Nope.

The previous night Theresa May’s hard won Brexit deal had been given another kicking by MPs, and she had been ordered back to Brussels to beg for backstop concessions that EU leaders have repeatedly and categorically ruled out. But in these abnormal times that is what passes for success.

Unfortunately for her newly bolstered troops though, what we know about Mrs May is she is great when backed into a corner. Push her to the very edge and she will produce a rousing performance.

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Give her a brief reprieve, however, and she re-adopts the characteristics that earned her the nickname, the Maybot. And that is exactly what she did at this week’s Prime Minister’s questions.

In a jerky, stuttering and confused display she rattled through her tried and tested refrains, seemingly oblivious to the reality of the Brexit doom closing in around her and unable to build on the glimmer of good will creeping tentatively across her backbenches.

There was, she said, a range of alternatives on the table that could replace the backstop. According to EU leaders, there aren’t. MPs, she said, had rejected a no-deal Brexit. According to the parliamentary calendar, they haven’t.

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And she was, she said, looking forward to meeting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to discuss a way forward. Judging by their irritable PMQs exchange, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t.

Mr Corbyn, on unusually sparky form himself, remarked after one particularly opaque answer: “None of that was very clear to me, I don’t know about anybody else.” For once, I agree with Jeremy.