She thundered into the sports hall in Maidenhead like a woman badly in need of a holiday.
Snowdonia’s nice, Prime Minister. Bit of fresh air. Clear the head. Think about the big questions. What have I done? What the hell have I done? That sort of thing.
On the stage next to the newly perma-grimacing Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, there was a man in a cape with a 4ft plastic bucket on his head. He calls himself Lord Buckethead.
How on earth did he get in? This is a provincial sports hall. He’s not a Tory activist waving a placard. This isn’t how it’s meant to work.
Well. It turns out, then, that if you seal yourself in to privately booked function rooms all round the country and shout out the same rhetorical statements to the same gaggle of loyal fans, you can’t hear the answers the rest of the country is shouting back.
“Give me the backing to lead Britain!”
Naaah, you’re alright.
“Give me the authority to speak for Britain!”
Just don’t fancy it actually.
“Strengthen my hand as I fight for Britain!”
Erm, how can we put this? No?
“Give me your backing and I will deliver for Britain.”
Don’t want to, and no you won’t.
Another quiet night on the politics front then. I imagine you went to bed early. Who can blame you? The country smashed itself to smithereens again, by the way, but you’ll have been expecting that. Nothing to see here.
It came at the usual time of 1.30am, I can report, that now almost reassuring feeling; the blood evacuating the face, the stomach hitting the floor. That’s the familiar hour at which the UK likes to leave the European Union and Donald Trump likes to win presidential elections, so why shouldn’t this be the time that the betting markets put Jeremy Corbyn as favourite to be prime minister?
It wasn’t that big a deal really. Two minutes later, the chap who might well be the next actual, full-on Marxist Chancellor of the Exchequer was idly chatting about the prospect with Richard Osman and David Mitchell on a big sofa on Channel 4. Why wouldn’t he be?
At 3.37am it was much as it had been at 10pm, with the nation’s political class still scuttling about from TV studio to TV studio to make clear they didn’t have a clue what was going on or what was going to happen.
David Dimbleby didn’t have a clue what was going on. Jeremy Paxman didn’t have a clue what was going on. Jeremy Vine power-slid his way over his giant map of the UK to illustrate through the medium of contemporary dance that he, too, didn’t have a clue what was going on.
George Osborne smiled a demonic smile that confirmed that he, too, didn’t have a clue what was going on. Ed Balls – whose recent on-air teabagging of a Russian ballroom dance champion remains the sanest thing to happen in politics for some time – didn’t have a clue what was going on.
On the big screens in the newsrooms the usual faces came and went. Sir Michael Fallon didn’t have a clue what was going on. Emily Thornberry didn’t have a clue what was going on. At one point, Liam Fox didn’t have a clue what was going on, though in his defence he hasn’t been exposed to daylight in seven weeks.
For about an hour and a half, the future of the nation, at its most perilous hour, seemed to hinge on whether Sinn Fein MPs might be persuaded to break with tradition and come and take their seats in the Parliament they still consider their oppressor.
It’ll wear off at some point, won’t it? This new drug they’ve got us all on, down here in our little cage. If we’re reaching the peak of the trip, surely it’ll be when Gerry Adams comes to London to wave Prime Minister Corbyn off on the Eurostar to Brussels for the big negotiations.
Though the whole night was one horrifying hyper-extended Portillo moment, there were other Portillo moments within it. The country, perhaps, said no to hard Brexit, but they said no to Nick Clegg in the process. Tim Farron needed a recount to hang on to his seat. Arch Remainer Anna Soubry, remained by the narrowest of margins.
If Theresa May is indeed toast, she who might yet wield the butter, Amber Rudd held on by a whisker in Hastings.
In Scotland, the second referendum question came exactly to an end at 4.19am. Alex Salmond gone. The party’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson had gone an hour earlier.
A week ago, the joke was Scotland was a one party state within a one party state. They’re not laughing at that one anymore.
At 5am, the talk was of a “busy day in Westminster” on Friday. In the meantime, the words the Prime Minister somehow croaked out at 3.36am were as portentous as ever.
“Whatever the results are,” she said. “The Conservative Party will ensure stability, so we can all as one country go forward together.”
More Conservative stability it is then. Another election by October. I’d get an early night if I were you.
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