I wonder if our politicians feel the same back-to-school blues at the end of recess as I always did at the end of the summer holidays. Do they have crisp, new suits that just aren’t comfy yet? Clean new notebooks and pens stuffed into their bags that they will write the date neatly at the top of each page for a week or two? Do they vow to try a bit harder this year?
Westminster MPs returned to the Houses of Parliament in early September, with the Assembly following last week. I always hated going back to school after the holidays, even though I liked school and I can imagine that this is even more the case for our politicians. Normal service resumes, meaning early mornings, late nights and long days, alongside weeks away from home and some of the hardest work our UK government’s has had to deal with looming threateningly.
In many ways politicians are returning to the same situation that they left; both the Assembly and Westminster are a bit unsettled and the politicians probably aren’t all that sure what their work is going to look like over the next few months. Not much has really changed over the summer recess in this respect, but with the party conferences occurring over the next few weeks, I would anticipate some big announcements being made at these. There is unrest within the main parties and it does feel like they may be approaching breaking point. Perhaps change is in the air and something is going to happen. The antisemitism row that has occupied Labour minds in recent months has continued throughout summer and is still provoking conversation and causing problems for Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. It seems to be dragging on longer than usual this time, which makes me wonder if it will reach boiling point this time and lead to a change at the top. This seems more likely given that conference poses an ideal opportunity for stepping down, or for critics to mount formal challenges. This also stands for the Conservatives, where a similar situation of unrest within MPs simmers.
The disputes within the Conservatives are more focused on May’s handling of Brexit and the current lack of any sort of semblance of a deal. On the one side, Brexiteers are concerned that she will compromise on the things they voted for, whilst on the other Remainers worry about a no-deal outcome. With this unrest between Conservative MPs brewing, there’s no telling what might happen at the Conservative conference this year. Disagreements between Boris Johnson and Theresa May have been rife and very public, but whether these disputes will develop into something more concrete is hard to know but certainly a possibility. This being said, the first Prime Minister’s Questions back in session was fairly uneventful as far as PMQs goes and was vastly overshadowed by a statement on the Salisbury poisonings. The calm before the storm or perhaps any looming leadership challenges aren’t quite as imminent as they have seemed over the summer.
With the Assembly now returned from recess, I would expect Plaid, Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Labour to be fairly tied up by their respective leadership elections over the next few weeks (and months) and as I have discussed in a previous post – we could be looking at a very different Assembly come January.