A disastrous conference speech, a leadership coup, and the seemingly never-ending ‘Boris’ problem, the Prime Minister needed to re-assert her authority when she addressed Parliament after conference season this week and would have hoped the rest of the week went as smooth as possible. As perhaps expected in politics, things didn’t quite go to plan and instead the Government’s hand in the Brexit negotiations seem even weaker, Theresa May is facing pressure from a number of her MPs to U-turn on Universal Credit changes, and she had to tell Britain it has a race problem.
On Brexit, Theresa May told Parliament, that the ball is now in the EU’s court after announcing concessions in her Florence speech. The European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas responded saying, “this is not exactly a ball game” but “the ball is entirely in the UK court.” The stalemate, pettiness and confusion continue.
More confusion came about over Brexit when it was revealed that the Government has been planning for a ‘no deal’ situation, but, the Chancellor won't spend any money preparing for it. The PM promised to allocate £250m to help with no-deal-Brexit preparations, however, Philip Hammond vowed to prevent needless spending.
Theresa May refused to answer whether she would vote for Brexit in a new referendum in her LBC interview on Tuesday evening, but Jeremy Corbyn was unable to call her out on it at PMQs as he has been ambiguous on his position all along, and many suspect he might have supported Leave. It seems both the leaders of the two main parties are not being honest on their positions in arguably the most historic and important negotiations of our time.
A Conservative rebellion has grown on the rollout of Universal Credit, with apparently more than 25 MPs calling for it to be paused. The rebellion has come about because a number of MPs are being contacted by constituents who are being included in the roll-out of the benefit who will be left without any benefit money for weeks. If Labour forces a vote, the rebellion would risk the Conservatives’ majority on the issue. A decision on the roll-out is expected in the next few weeks.
The Government’s long-awaited race audit was published on Tuesday. Theresa May said public services must “explain or change” any disparities. The report revealed that unemployment among black, Asian and minority ethnic people is nearly double that of white Britons, and that white British pupils on free school meals perform the worst at key stage two, with just 32% reaching the expected level, amongst other findings.
The Government attempted to reassert its domestic agenda through the publication of the Clean Growth Strategy. This framework implements £2.5bn of public spending to decarbonise the economy throughout the 2020, with a renewed focus on household heat. Draft legislation was also introduced to honour the Conservative manifesto commitment of a price cap for consumer energy bills. Ofgem have been quick to point out that such a cap would not be ready in time for this winter, while Labour have been quick to credit Ed Miliband for the original genesis of this policy.
Meanwhile, the SNP annual conference came to an end this week. The ‘I’ word was avoided as much as possible and Nicola Sturgeon suggested she could stay in power for another 10 years.
There is some good news though this week, the NHS pay cap is to be scrapped next year and Donald Trump’s already delayed state visit has been downgraded.
Perhaps next week will prove more promising for the Government, but with a growing Conservative rebellion on a highly publicised issue and a frustrated party and electorate over the way Brexit negotiations are going, things may be going from bad to worse.