MPs don’t seem to have been seen in the chamber for months, but politicking remains sky-high at home and abroad.
The week started with the PM in bullish mood, saying it was either “my deal or no deal” to the Europeans. By the end of the week it was clear that they agreed with her sentiments, but perhaps in not the way she hoped.
With Merkel and Macron now suggesting they hold the Chequers deal in the same regard as her own party, it’s hard to see where she goes from here. Some more supportive noises emerged away from the headlines, but with March 2019 approaching, a hard Brexit looks an increasingly likely prospect.
Domestically things weren’t all that easier. The government announced another review into why the railways don’t work quite as well as they should. After the Brown, McNulty and Shaw Reviews, we now have former BA chief executive Keith Williams entering the fray.
While the Williams Review was greeted with a degree of cynicism, as most of these things are, it does seem this time the government is desperate to do something to sort out what has become a running sore. But whether it just highlights public discontent further remains to be seen.
There were some good news stories, if you looked closely enough. The UK and France have agreed to end the ‘scallop wars’ off the Cornish coast and £2bn more is being committed to social housing. Given the wider context they sat in, however, they didn’t achieve the cut-through that Downing Street would have hoped for.
So where next for our fearless politicos? Just the small matter of party conferences. The Lib Dems have had theirs, but it’s unclear if anyone was watching. When the key takeaway is a mispronounced word you know it’s probably been a bit flat.
Labour and Tories look like they’ll be more interesting. Corbyn is now reportedly facing the same leadership pressures as the PM, with a cleave emerging between him and comrade McDonnell. Now they’ve taken control over the Labour party machine, it seems all that they’ve got left to fight is each other.
And what will the PM need to bring to the table to get through another conference? Aside from cough syrup, some leeway from her MPs would be nice. That seems unlikely however, so watch out for angry activists calling for her head. If you can spot them through the lobbyist hordes, that is.
Whatever the case, both May and Corbyn will be looking forward to getting back to Westminster, facing each other across the ballot box instead of their own colleagues. Whether either will be doing the same this time next year remains to be seen.
George Robinson, Associate Partner