There is an air of death hanging over this Parliament. Yesterday I was able to ask a question in topical questions without winning the ballot to be be able to do so, because there was no one else wanting to ask anything. The Immigration debate was very thinly attended, despite the importance of the subject to our constituents. The business collapsed well before 10pm owing to a lack of speakers.
I date the general depression and lassitude to the attack on the Speaker. As I explained endlessly on this site, the Speaker was safe all the time Labour MPs supported him. Suddenly that comfortable majority and that solidarity and supportive briefing vanished. Labour decided the game was up, and withdrew their support. Labour does not seem to have a popular candidate of its own to be the replacement. Many Labour MPs think it would be wrong to have a third Labour Speaker in a row.
Now the rot is spreading to the government itself. Some Ministers feel their own interests would be best served by resigning. It is difficult to see what the purpose of the government is, and obvious that most of them are no longer comfortable within the government they have to support. Their backbenchers either do not turn up, or if they do are likely to ask awkward questions and express their displeasure at what Ministers are doing. There is an atmosphere of authority draining away, of people going through the motions, of a government drifiting.
Can a reshuffle make the difference? Probably not. If the PM chooses the wrong people for the top jobs again, it will intensify the resentments and the unhappiness. If he appoints only loyalists he will encourage a them and us mentality and may give his critics more life and courage. If he goes for a more balanced Ministry he may stabilise things a bit more, but he also needs to turn the opinion polls and give the new Ministers a sense of purpose.
Will they change Leaders? If the rebels are to do so they need to show more cohesion and purpose than they are showing at the moment. They need to identify a single candidate who is brave enough to do it. They cannot afford a long drawn out Leadership election with several candidates. They need to show resolve, and organise a better coup than the aborted one of last year. At the moment that all looks unlikely, but this is a very fast moving story.