May's plea to Corbyn makes her look daft, but the Tories have no choice

The party needs a new narrative in which its reliance on other MPs is a feature, rather than a bug.

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Is Theresa May's plea to Jeremy Corbyn to help her out cleverer than it looks? It could hardly be stupider than it seems. (I'm here all week, etc.)

Presented with an empty net, Corbyn didn't miss in the House yesterday, offering to send the PM a copy of the Labour manifesto and calling for an early election. The Independent's Tom Peck dubs the speech “the ramblings of a mad woman, for whom reality lurks far beyond the distant horizon”, and the reaction among Conservative backbenchers isn't much better.

There are three objections going around: the first political – they don't want to build a consensus with Corbyn – the second tactical. Labour will, of course, put amendments down on every bill going to pile the pressure on the government – and now the PM has given them a justification for doing so. They're not bringing amendments just to make May's life difficult. She asked them to!

The third is of course simply that it makes May look disingenuous and daft. She called the election because she had had quite enough of MPs coming forward with their own ideas about how Britain should be governed – and that's just her own MPs – not because she wanted to sit down for long chats about the future of the UK with Jeremy Corbyn. Looking like a liar is, sadly, baked into the cake as far as public perceptions of politicians go. Looking daft is a bigger worry.

All of which has shortened May's time at the top still further. But, although the execution leaves a lot to be desired, May's successor is going to have to do something similar. If they want their time in office to be anything other than clockwatching until Corbyn takes over, they need a new narrative, one which makes the increased reliance on other parties and their vulnerability to defeat in the Commons a feature, rather than a bug. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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