Express & Star comment: One hell of a mess for everyone
Say what you like about Theresa May, and a lot of people do, she has been a beacon of dignity in the whole Brexit... well, choose your own word.
She has on occasion been humiliated and treated with appalling disrespect by the EU. And then on her return to the House of Commons with a pitifully thin list of concessions from Brussels she has been mocked and ridiculed.
Her great plan, a deal which has been two years in the making and the product of great endeavour on her part, was booted into orbit by MPs.
She has not ducked and dived to avoid the flak. Facing her opponents on the opposition benches, and with her back to her opponents on the Tory benches, she has taken the hits, and answered the questions, or not answered them as the case may be, but has at least stood up to be counted.
It did not need to be like this, and maybe there is an element in the background in which Mrs May accepts it is at least partly her fault. She did not need to call that general election in which she lost her overall majority, immensely complicating the process.
More than once, her job has been on the line. The same is not true for those with whom she has been negotiating in Europe. They are safe in their jobs whatever the outcome. Had Mrs May told the EU to go to hell, there would be immediate calls for her resignation as not being fit for high office.
Donald Tusk talks of there being a special place in hell for Brexiteers, and he is bomb-proof. Had another Donald – Donald Trump – used similar language, there would have no doubt been an outcry among politicians to condemn him.
The scale of Britain’s and Mrs May’s problems are thrown into stark relief by the fact that there are British MPs who, with Tusk, forget their usual platitudes about the need to raise the tone of public debate, and argue that his remarks raising the spectre of eternal damnation are just saying it “as it is.”
But one of the unhappy legacies of the referendum is an increasingly unpleasant and antagonistic attitude – on both sides of the debate. It is this polarisation of opinion that continues to divide our country. Whatever happens in the coming weeks, healing those divisions will be one of the greatest challenges faced by our political leaders.