Kevin Maguire: Labour's love is lost as the mood changes in Westminster
Tory MPs have been cheered by Theresa May's PMQs performances - and Labour's latest show of disunity.
See-saw politics shifting at a queasy pace suddenly has Tory MPs feeling up and Labour down. The atmosphere on the Commons terrace has changed in a fortnight and might revert back over the next two weeks before Parliament shuts for the summer.
The dizzying fragility of emotions reflects the uncertainty, fear and hope bequeathed by one of the most remarkable election results in the modern era. Yet shell-shocked Conservatives are recovering a little composure after June's majority-losing bitterest of victories with spirits rising not just in glasses clinked on sunny evenings.
I've yet to find a Tory who thinks Theresa May should be allowed to fight another election so it remains when, not if, she's evicted from Downing Street.
But the Conservatives unmistakably feel the danger receding of an early election and total defeat since she shook the magic money tree for a juicy £1-billion bribe to fall into the laps of Northern Ireland's 10 Democratic Unionist votes.
Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke, a member of the Westminster party's influential 1922 executive, articulated the reviving outlook of a growing band of Tory backbenchers. “You can physically feel the mood's changed since the Queen's Speech,” says Shelbrooke. “It's down to two fundamentals: Theresa May's strong performances at Prime Minister's Questions and Chuka Umunna proving Labour's split at the first set of votes. The Conservative Party always unites when it scents Labour blood in the water.”
I'd challenge the strength of May's PMQs outings though she's cheered her ranks and at the moment that's more important to a shaken Premier than the public perception.
Labour resentment at Umunna, one of its own exposing deep divisions on Europe with his strongly pro-Single Market amendment to the Queen's Speech, unites the party from Left to Right via the Centre. His move is widely derided as a kamikaze mission for forcing 49 Labour MPs to rebel so soon, many reluctantly compelled to traipse into the division lobby after promising constituents to champion the Remain cause, with the ploy angrily denounced as suicide politics when the stand mustered a mere 101 MPs and precipitated a frontbench resignation and dismissals.
Chuck in the spectre of deselection already panicking a number of Labour figures elected a month ago and the realities of opposition are the fizz-level is definitely declining after the heady euphoria of a sweet defeat regarded as a victory.
The new electoral arithmetic allows Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to share credit for a string of humiliating Tory U-turns as winter fuel allowances, free school meals and foxes are saved.
May's still hounded and Corbyn cool, the Labour leader guaranteed a hero's welcome at tomorrow's brass bands and banners Durham Miners' Gala. But the only certainty in British politics is uncertainty and finding the Tories difficult to dislodge could result in Labour turning in on itself.
Conservatives looking on the bright side of life are a Commons defeat or a May-hem moment from feeling glum again and Labour's in a manifestly superior position since June 8. That see-saw will need oiling. It'll be up and down regularly. Probably for years.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor(politics) of the Daily Mirror.
Picture by: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire/PA Images