Theresa May has reduced the bottom of the barrel to a single atom
We will not see these times again, and thank goodness for that
It’s possible, just possible, that we’ll miss these times when they’re gone. It has been suggested that Wednesday lunchtime’s instalment of the May vs Corbyn show will be one of the very last. When she loses the fourth vote on her Brexit deal in three weeks’ time, as she inevitably will, she will surely have to quit. That’s what people are saying in Westminster, even if others are saying the direct opposite and nobody can possibly know.
But when she does go, I would like to think it is not for any of these reasons, but merely because there is no bottom of the barrel left to scrape. They have, between the two of them, reduced the unscraped surface to the thickness of a single atom.
Take today. Brexit, being the elephant not so much in the room as placing its hunkers down on their throats, scarcely got a mention. Instead, Jeremy Corbyn decided to raise the rising levels of inequality in the UK, as referenced in a recent report by a Nobel prize winning economist.
And what was Theresa May’s response, to these allegations of inequality? “The richest 1 per cent are paying more in income tax than they were in any year under a Labour government.”
Oh right. Well, that’s that settled then. I’m afraid you’re wrong Jeremy. Inequality definitely isn’t rising because the richest 1 per cent are paying more income tax than they ever have before. Sorry, what’s that? You mean, that’s literally the definition of inequality?
The richest 1 per cent are paying more income tax than they ever have before, because they are earning whole orders of magnitude more than they ever have before, while at the other end of the scale, real wages have not risen in a decade.
But, alas, it was Jeremy Corbyn’s turn to speak next. And, as ever, Theresa May’s answer was even more absurd than he ever dared to imagine beforehand, and so he glanced down at his papers to read out his next lengthy question, the utterly preposterous answer he’d just been given left to float away like a forgotten dream on a Saturday morning lie-in.
So many other men and women have fought this weekly contest before. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, William Hague, David Lloyd George. Even, yes, even Iain Duncan Smith. The idea that a) any of them would have dared to counter a question about rising inequality with the precise definition of rising inequality and that b) any of them would, in turn, not even have noticed, is absurd.
But these are the times in which we live. At some point, perhaps some point very soon, they will come to an end. In some ways, no doubt, they will get much much worse. But in others, there is simply nowhere left for them to descend. It is, truly, the dusty bin. It cannot possibly get any lower.