Another minister has resigned and more will probably follow, so where do we go from here?
The Tories too weak to govern (let alone negotiate), and Labour so diminished they thought 262 seats a victory. These parties on their own simply cannot provide the UK with an effective government.
It seems to us there are three genuine divisions in this House of Commons. Brexiters vs the rest; Socialists vs the rest; and Separatists vs the rest. These three movements thrive on division. They repeatedly state that their opponents are all the same: red Tories; Remoaners; the Westminster parties.
And yet where would each of them be without their supposed enemies?
Brexiters without the rest of the Tory Party are impotent. Oh, we don’t say that Brexit could just be ditched. The referendum result must be observed, but that can sensibly be done by negotiating a Soft Brexit and offering a second referendum on the result. Leave softly or stay cautiously. That is the real choice the vast majority of the British population thought they were making during the referendum. It is only by their hijacking of the Tory Party (or rather the Tory Party’s failed hijack of Brexit) that the possibility of a Hard Brexit ever arose.
Socialists without the Labour Party are equally powerless. Their current leadership position merely reflects an ill-considered quirk of Labour Party rules. Without control of the Labour Party they would have no chance of influencing policy at all. And even with it, they only managed 262 seats.
The Nationalists haven’t hijacked a party, they’ve hijacked a country. A country which has made it clear it does not want to leave the UK. It is only the fact that Unionists are divided between Labour and Tory that lets the Nationalists in.
Whatever use the old political parties once had, whatever use they still might have, it cannot be avoided that they are each currently giving a platform to one of their mutual enemies.
The answer is for the old party system to be (temporarily) put to one side. Until the Brexit crisis has been dealt with, we need a government of national unity. Brexiters, Socialists and Nationalists can support it, or try to form an Opposition among themselves.
A government of national unity is anyway the only sensible response to the Brexit vote. Whatever the final Brexit arrangement, we will need it to represent a consensus. There is no advantage to our relationship with the EU being fought over every 5 years. We need, if not to get back to normality, then to create a new normality. We cannot afford a Tory Brexit, followed by a Labour Brexit, followed by renewed EU membership, followed by another Brexit. The issue must be settled convincingly.
The question for MPs today is clear. Are you ready to put the national interest above the old tribal divisions? If you care about the United Kingdom you must stop playing at politics, and boldly seize the initiative by coming together. You need to settle on a Prime Minister who can command support across the Commons. Is that really so hard? Your real enemies say you are all the same, but only to keep you divided, only to make you support positions you know to be wrong. They know that if you joined together, they’d be pushed back to the margins where they belong.
If MPs can’t agree on one of their own to lead them, they should look to the Lords. In a national crisis the people will accept a Prime Minister who sits above day-to-day politics. In some ways that might even be better, as it would make it clear that this government will be a short-term measure, not designed to stand for future election. We won’t presume to suggest names or what party (if any) the Prime Minister should come from. It seems to us there are plenty of credible candidates.
This will happen because it makes real what the people have already voted for. Five year Parliaments plus the maths of this Commons make it inevitable.
The question for us is how bad does the crisis have to get before our MPs rescue the country?