By John McTernan
Britain is headed for the European Union with no idea of what comes next; Theresa May, the prime minister, calls a snap election to ask the nation who should govern, and is promptly told "not you."
When she comes to the UN General Assembly, the annual jamboree for world leaders, she is relegated to the second day of speeches and finds herself addressing a nearly empty hall, 24 hours after Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron have had their moment in the spotlight.
Although, given the calamitous turn of events at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester Wednesday, we should probably be grateful that no one was there to see her speak at the United Nations.
Prime Minister May delivered not so much a speech as a painful metaphor for the state of Britain and the state of her leadership.
With her party in turmoil after she frittered away the Tory majority in Parliament, it was a chance to head off rivals — such as Boris Johnson, her foreign secretary – who smell blood and are circling like sharks.
But after today, it's not sharks anymore. Now the vultures are hovering.
Theresa May's problem is that the events fit with the dominant narrative of her as a failing Prime Minister, stumbling on in power from one calamity to the next.
Let me take a moment to set the scene. The party leader's speech is one of the big set pieces of the year. For the Prime Minister, it is right up there with the Queen's Speech, when the government sets out its legislative agenda. (The address is so important that a mere commoner cannot be entrusted with it — for good reason, as it turns out.)
For May, the Conservative Party Conference speech Wednesday was even more important. It was a chance to set the tone as lawmakers return to Parliament after their summer vacation. If ever she needed to deliver a commanding performance, this was the time.
But her voice refused to play ball. An insistent cough sabotaged her every effort, resisting gulps of water and reducing her words to a feeble croak. Never mind the pain to her larynx, this was painful on the ears.
It got worse as she tried to build to a killer line about the United Kingdom moving forward in the world: "It's the Conservative Party that has a vision of an open, global self-confident Britain …" She paused, distracted as a lone figure approached the podium.
"Boris asked me to give you…." he said, trying to hand the Prime Minister a P45 — the letter issued when an employee leaves their job.