With the stroke a blue gel pen, Andrea Leadsom stepped up the pressure on Theresa May to resign. The Commons leader quit from her frontbench post last night, after a notable absence from PMQs and before she was due to announce parliamentary business in the chamber today (including the despised withdrawal agreement bill). The news followed intense speculation that the PM herself was close to bowing out, as lobby journalists had crowded around the committee room in which Tory backbenchers were deciding whether to hold another confidence vote in May.
This move could ensure the early departure of the stubborn No10 squatter, but would require a rule change. Ultimately, to the disappointment of frustrated Tory MPs and excited hacks, the PM refused to go willingly. But it is understood that if she doesn’t inform Sir Graham Brady of her resignation at their meeting on Friday, the results of a secret ballot on the rule change will be revealed. It’s all very dramatic and Etonian. The Westminster bubble thrives on this stuff, forgetting all too easily that we are supposed to have a functioning government, not a provider of entertainment acting as a posh replacement for Jeremy Kyle.
Today, voters will go to the polls for the European elections. Not many voters, however. These are usually low-turnout elections, and despite this one being treated as a quasi-referendum that is unlikely to change – non-voters and disapproving abstainers will outweigh the number of protest voters motivated by the chance to have their say on Brexit. We should be careful, then, in our interpretation of the results when they are announced on Sunday evening (after all member states have voted).
We must remember that European elections have always been dominated by protest votes. A general election won’t be treated in the same way, instead attracting a broader range of voters, more caution and less emphasis on Brexit. We must also think again before saying that votes for the Brexit Party give the far right a broader mandate – a statement that people on the left are likely to regret next week.
Remember to vote and help get out the vote, even if you can only do a bit of door-knocking after work this evening. Before you look up your nearest campaigning event and tell everyone you’ve voted, read elections chief Andrew Gwynne’s new piece for LabourList. Then watch this fantastic video of Laura Pidcock sticking it to a Tory frontbencher and reminding everyone what really matters in politics. Good luck to all Labour MEP candidates. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.