To put a cherry on the top of this awful year, Theresa May wouldn't rule out giving Nigel Farage a peerage at PMQs

George Kerevan asked if May could 'confirm or deny' whisperings he’d heard about Farage being elevated to a lordship at PMQs – and the Prime Minister’s smiling response was the most interesting thing that has left her mouth for quite some time

Anna Rhodes
Wednesday 16 November 2016 15:51 GMT
Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London
Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London (PA)

PMQs was a sorry sight to behold today. Among the posturing, shouting and “No, you’re a worse party leader” jibes, there was minimal content. Discussion of US-UK relationships after the election of Donald Trump? Nope. Discussion of the recent – and damning – UN report on the UK’s treatment of the disabled (or lack thereof)? Not a word. Discussion of anything apart from the leaked “Brexit memo”, which actually doesn’t even have anything to do with the Government? Nada.

And then an MP from the SNP took to the stand and questioned Theresa May on whether she was in official discussions about giving Nigel Farage a peerage. George Kerevan simply asked if May could “confirm or deny” whisperings he’d heard about Farage being elevated to a lordship – and the Prime Minister’s smiling response – “All I can say to the honourable gentleman, I’m afraid, is that such matters are never normally discussed in public” – was the most interesting thing that has left her mouth for quite some time.

This raises two issues: one is Theresa May’s Cold War-era level of secrecy which doesn’t just apply to peerships but also to the entirety of her government’s Brexit negotiations; the other is the fact that she refuses to confirm or deny that she will appoint Farage to the House of Lords after he has failed to ever win a democratic election (except, ironically enough, to the European Parliament) and has spent years railing against the “Westminster elite”. Apparently he’s set to become exactly what he’s built a public platform on despising.

In a time when Donald Trump is live-tweeting his Apprentice-style appointments to the US government, Theresa May is refusing to divulge information on, well, anything at all. One would have thought the Government would have cottoned on to the fact that the more secretive you are, the more alienated voters will feel – as they haven’t the foggiest what is being done “in their name”. Hillary Clinton’s obsessive secrecy over her emails cost her a lot in the US election – and yet our Prime Minister just about divulges whether or not she ate a sandwich for lunch without being able to “confirm or deny” the contents of said sandwich.

Theresa May refuses to rule out Nigel Farage peerage

Trump’s allure comes from his openness and apparent willingness, however false, to connect with the electorate. We wonder why people move towards the far right when May has her mouth taped shut on everything, Boris Johnson can’t construct a sentence without contradicting himself, and Labour say they want to use “moral pressure” in the Brexit negotiations (which is what, exactly?)

While all of this is occurring, Nigel Farage is out there. He is on TV, openly discussing his relationship with Trump, Brexit and just about everything else he can think of. He’s in Trump Tower, getting snapped next to Trump and his supporters. Fox News dubbed him the “UK Opposition Leader” – while he’s out there purporting to represent the UK, May is locked in a Churchill-style bunker, communicating, one can only assume, telepathically with her staff.

The more “establishment” she behaves, the more appealing Nigel Farage looks – and the more people will want him involved in US-UK relations. He’s met Trump since his election, he’s doing the rounds – he’s looked more knowledgeable and on-the-ball than May in the last couple of weeks.

May’s silence, and her strange smiling answer about the possibility of a Trump peerage, is causing uncertainty – she would do well to look across the pond and acknowledge that while Donald Trump is odious and we shouldn’t imitate anything he says, she should work to keep her electorate from becoming admirers of his tactics.

The more she hides, the more ammunition it is giving Nigel Farage to mobilise his support and to muscle his way into government. It is frightening enough to have the far-right controlling the White House – I’m sure we would all rather not see them start populating the House of Lords as well.

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