Politicians are united in their sorrow in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, but they have been restricted in how they can respond to it by the fact that Parliament is not yet in session. The State Opening of Parliament will take place next Wednesday, so MPs could only discuss the blaze today in Westminster Hall, while cautious Commons officials – unsure of the filming protocol – only allowed some of their speeches to be broadcast on TV. Theresa May ordered a full public inquiry into the fire after paying a private visit to emergency service teams on the ground. The Prime Minister said that this move was needed to ensure that “ this terrible tragedy is properly investigated”. However, her low-key visit to Grenfell Tower meant that Jeremy Corbyn easily stole the spotlight by visiting survivors on camera. The Labour leader was seen hugging one resident, and was told by another that “the country needs you”.
Meanwhile, Mrs May is fighting to get her Government going. Her talks with the Democratic Unionist Party are “progressing well”, a No 10 source said, “and there is broad agreement on the principles of the Queen’s Speech”. The delay means that the occasion will fall in the middle of Royal Ascot Week, which Tory MPs are aware is likely to irk her Majesty.
The political climate has worsened for Mrs May, with the polls showing that she is now personally more unpopular among the public than Jeremy Corbyn, but Sir Anthony Seldon suggests her fortunes could improve. “She has rarely looked comfortable since arriving at Number 10 in July 2016 and her self-confidence drained. But she remains a figure of real integrity and good judgement, and more genuinely humble in origins and personality than Corbyn,” he writes. “She could yet steer the country well through the difficult waters ahead as a figure who can lead in the national interest. May Mark II might prove the most successful period of her premiership.”
The Tories have yet to finalise their deal with the DUP, so why have they named the date on which they’ll unveil their supposedly DUP-backed programme? This could be a sign of bravado by ministers, suggesting that they are ready to get on with governing as a minority administration without a deal if talks fail. However, Downing Street seems to be keen to secure the DUP’s support, as Whitehall sources now blame the delay on “nitpicking” by Philip Hammond and the Treasury. Tory MP Laurence Robertson, former chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, argues that the Tories’ deal with the DUP – far from destabilising the peace process – could lead to “significant benefits”.
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