You know what it’s like when you get back from your summer holiday. You have the inbox from hell, your laundry schedule is a nightmare, you’ve put on a few pounds, and you receive the harrowing news that a loud bell will chime slightly less often.
Well, Theresa May is currently experiencing this bummer of a homecoming. Imagine it: Philip’s taking out the bins, she’s putting the third load on (carefully separating shirt dresses from leathers), she switches on Radio 4 and is suddenly struck by the cruel realisation that Big Ben’s bongs will fall silent for a few years.
It takes a while for the full extent of the atrocity to sink in. A big old clock will have to be fixed. For a bit. Its bell will not chime. But sometimes it will.
God, is there no end to this pain.
“It can’t be right,” she thinks.
Meanwhile, the President of the United States Donald Trump is busy excusing a literal Nazi rally which is so violent someone was killed. Instead of condemning the fascists, Trump insisted there was violence on both sides – causing resignations and disgust in his own administration and outrage across the world.
At first, May’s spokesperson commented that “what the President says is a matter for him” and condemned the far right, and then the PM continued in the same vein – denouncing the fascists but not directing any criticism at the President himself:
“I see no equivalence between those who profound fascists views and those who oppose them.
“I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them.”
Unlike May, other politicians here – including senior Tories – immediately explicitly criticised Trump. The Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Trump had “turned his face to the world to defend Nazis, fascists and racists. For shame”, while justice minister Sam Gyimah said the President has lost “moral authority”.
So our Right Honourable leader, the head of Her Majesty’s Government, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, made another statement:
“Of course we want to ensure people’s safety at work but it can’t be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years.
“And I hope that the speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years.”
Nailed it. The years ahead hang in the balance, and it was her duty to speak up.