British PM Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, old adversaries, gingerly weigh an odd couple partnership

BRITAIN : Prime Minister May and Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, were preparing to try something truly risky — to set their party loyalties to the side and try to devise a plan together, in a last-ditch effort to save Britain from a chaotic exit from the European Union.

Cross-party cooperation goes so profoundly against the grain, in Britain’s old, tribal Parliament, that Wednesday had a slightly unreal feeling as if the laws of physics had been suspended.

May and Corbyn circled each other gingerly during Wednesday’s question time, glancing one by one over issues that divided them — unemployment, the minimum wage, the cost of television licenses — but they were phoning it in. Neither mentioned the one thing that mattered: Brexit, and their coming talks.

It fell to May’s own party members, trained to fear and mistrust Corbyn, to nail her to the wall. 

Prime Minister, if it comes to the point where we have to balance the risk of a no-deal Brexit versus the risk of letting the country down and ushering in a Marxist, anti-Semite-led government, what does she think at that point is the lowest risk?” asked Caroline Johnson, a Conservative who had, up until now, displayed staunch loyalty.

She was referring to accusations that under Corbyn, the Labour party has failed to tackle anti-Semitism within its ranks.

Lee Rowley, another Conservative lawmaker, reminded the prime minister of words she had spoken last week, when she said Corbyn was “the biggest threat to our standing in the world, to our defence and to the economy.”

“In her judgment,” he continued, “what now qualifies him for involvement in Brexit?”

The rumblings from Tory Brexiteers were ominous all day. Two ministers resigned in protest over the talks between May and Corbyn, one sputtering his outrage that “you and your cabinet have decided that a deal — cooked up with a Marxist who has never once in his political life put British interests first — is better than no deal.”